Granville happens to be the location of fashion designer Christian Dior's childhood home. Speaking of France's leading shellfish port in his autobiography, he said: "Its life, its style owes everything to its situation and its architecture". Certainly, when the peloton line up at the holiday resort Monday morning for the third leg of Le Tour, the pure sprinters will have grand designs on what may be by day's end.
Aside from the Cat. 4 Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles some 25 kilometres in, there is little to bother the bunch on this 223.5km jaunt to Angers, a town that hosted the Tour's first prologue in 1967, won by José-Maria Errandonea of Spain. Five years later the city again played host to le Grand Depart du Tour and yet another prologue, which Eddy Merckx won en route to a fourth overall victory.
But in the context of today it is the Tour's last visit to Angers that is most relevant.
On the sixth stage of the 2004 edition Tom Boonen, riding his inaugural Grande Boucle, bested Stuart O'Grady and Erik Zabel to notch his first Tour scalp. "I made my move at 200 metres to go and it went great. I like hard sprints for power riders and this one was perfect for me today because I'm very strong," the Belgian upstart, without the slightest bit of modesty, said. But he was right: Boonen would also win the final stage in Paris and the next year, aged just 25, he would master the Flanders-Roubaix double, claim two more Tour stages, then take out the road world championships in Madrid.
Will today mark the first Tour victory for another rising Classics star and future maillot vert - or will Messieurs Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel be showing the young guns how it's done; an implicit reminder that its not yet time to pass the torch? In any case, the slight uphill finish should favour lighter sprinters like Cav' and Bryan Coquard.
Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says...
“There will be revenges to be taken for the beaten riders from the first day and hard work for their teams to make sure that after 220km, the peloton arrives bunched at the finish for a well organised sprint by the City Hall. For the finishers, winning after the likes of Freddy Maertens, Jan Raas or Tom Boonen deserves quite some effort.”