It's a short but sweet stay in Pays-Bas, for after today, July 5, the peloton bid the Netherlands adieu and move southwards to Belgique - though not before le peloton du Tour de France get wet, wild and windy, because for the first time in the race's 112-year history, with the stage finish in the heart of the Zeeland Delta, Le Tour goes offshore!
You remember this year's wind-ravaged Gent-Wevelgem don't you? Well, the same thing could happen today on Holland's west coast.
In the noughties, when EPO was as prevalent as a post-stage Coke, Alex Zülle pretty much lost the 1995 edition of the Tour on the third day when a 25 rider pile-up occurred on the two-mile causeway of the Passage du Gois. Although he did not fall, the Swiss rider's poor position saw him miss the split to the benefit of Lance Armstrong and his US Postal team, who, in windswept conditions, eked out a six-minute advantage by the finish in Saint-Nazaire.
In a deferential tip of the hat, as part of today's départ fictif, the peloton will head to the Maliebaan promenade and pass the house which bore the creation of the Nederlandse Vélocipèdisten Bond, the first cycling club in the Netherlands, founded in 1883...
Which happens to be the same year the oldest cycling club in Australia (actually, make that the Southern Hemisphere) was also born; Norwood Cycling Club founded by a group of penny-farthing enthusiasts, and beating Bathurst CC to the punch by a solitary year.
Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:
"For the first time, the Tour de France will experience offshore racing! The harbours and beach resorts of France have offered prestigious finishes by the sea. But only the Netherlands can allow to design a finish line 'in the sea', at the heart of the Zeeland Delta. This unlikely geographical situation will mainly alert the title contenders; risks of echelons are to be highly considered."
Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:
"I've done some races in that part of the world; it's always windy, and it can be very, very hectic. It looks like it's going to be a hot and windy day... it'll be a nervous start to the Tour de France. Racing in Holland is always full of tension because of the extra road furniture, and the final with the North Sea on your right-hand shoulder, it'll be a hectic day.
"We haven't reconned the finish but I've done races there. If you remember, Graeme Brown finished second to Wouter Weylandt at the 2010 Giro (on Stage 3, which finished in Middelburg); and there used to be a tour, the Delta Tour Zeeland, which I was DS at when Chris Sutton won (in 2008) and again with Tyler Farrar, who won a couple of times (2009/10).
"So I am well familar with the area. With any racing in Holland, you always have to be prepared for the unexpected."