• Tour essentials... You don't need much to enjoy Le Tour. (EPA)Source: EPA
After Utrecht and Zélande, the third new stage city of this year's Grande Boucle has a population of just 2,230 inhabitants - so just imagine what will happen when Le Tour comes to town!
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10 Jul 2015 - 3:27 PM  UPDATED 10 Jul 2015 - 3:30 PM

Despite its size, it is not a complete unknown: the famous Livarot cheese has given rise to an annual fête du fromage, where the soft cheese made from cow's milk has a polarised following of devotees and critics, the latter mainly for its earthy pungency that has been likened to the smell of sh..., er, well, you what what. (Still, we happen to be smack-bang in the middle of the optimal tasting period for le fromage de Livarot, even if there is no optimal smelling period…)

More than 10 times Livarot's population, the commune of Fougères, on the the other hand, is not known for much these days, the medieval Château de Fougères aside, with traces of its shoemaking and glassmaking industry all but extinct.

Still, the Tour has visited this sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine department in Brittany in northwestern France twice before.

The first was in 1985, where eventual champion Bernard Hinault's L'Équipe cycliste La Vie Claire was so strong a collective, they bossed the 72 kilometre team time trial to place eight riders in the top 10 on GC by day's end.

By the finish in Paris on July 21, ‘Le Blaireau' and his American team-mate Greg LeMond finished 1-2; not dissimilar to that of the 2012 Tour where Team Sky finished first and second with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome - and where, in both cases, the second place-getter felt somewhat aggrieved for being held back by their directeurs-sportifs, when both were in a position to take the race lead. Nonetheless, both LeMond and Froome were rewarded for their loyalty the following year, and, as things turned out, they took full advantage of their newfound leadership to triumph in the 1986 and 2013 Tours de France, respectively.

More recently, on Stage 12 of the 2013 race from Fougères to Tours, Marcel Kittel took his third of four stages on July 11, beating Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan to the post and signalling a new sprinting era; one dominated by a man who blow-dries his hair and manicures his eyebrows.

The Dolph Lundgren/Ivan Drago lookalike has been far less successful this season (the seed a virus he picked up at the Tour Down Under) and has been on the back foot ever since. So much so, in fact, the ‘Kittelator' was left off Giant-Alpecin's Tour nine...

Can his team-mate John Degenkolb, palpably exasperated by his lack of success to date, pick up where Kittel left off?

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"After Normandy, the Tour enters Brittany with a first act that should honour the sprinters. But on the road to Fougères, like elsewhere, escapees can still count on favorable circumstances to keep hopes alive."

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"I think it's another day for the bunch sprinters. It's up-and-down all day, but those four teams (of the top sprinters - Cavendish, Greipel, Kristoff, Sagan) know they can battle out the final, so it's one for the pure sprinters.

"In this day and age, I think it's pretty hard for a break to succeed, just because the sprinters' teams are so onto it these days. They know they've only got so many chances, so while they're all fresh and obviously very motivated, they don't give breaks time (away) like they used to. No-one gives much more than three or four minutes these days.

"In light of this, our intention was to save our guys for later on in the race, when there's a little more wear in the peloton.

"Before the Tour began I was very happy with the team we assembled, and I thought we had many opportunities in the second week… Which has not been our story in the past: we've hit the ground running every year because we've had guys who could win in that first week and (as such) we've been pretty limited after the first rest day, in terms of what we've been able to achieve. This year's a little bit different, with the way the course profiles are and also because of the roster we've taken."

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