Distance: 13.2km (ITT)
Start location: Copenhagen
Finish location: Copenhagen
Start time: 15.30 BST
Finish time (approx): 18.10 BST
The famous Københavner existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
The same could be said of the Tour de France. As the riders of the 2022 event wait on the start line and contemplate this first 13.2km effort of the race, they and we have no inkling of what will happen over the course of the next three weeks. It will only be in Paris that the seconds lost and gained in the Copenhagen time trial will make sense in terms of the whole story.
For some riders, the Tour is a horror story. For a select few, it is a fairy tale, so it’s apt that the stage one time trial in Copenhagen passes close by the city’s most famous landmark, the statue of the Little Mermaid, after 9.2 kilometres. In the fairytale written by Hans Christian Andersen, the Little Mermaid agrees with a witch to undergo a magical transformation so that her tail turns into a pair of legs, at the cost of her mesmerising voice, so a prince will fall in love with her. The spell which makes the transformation, the witch tells the mermaid, is a double-edged sword: it would result in the lightest and most supple of movements, but accompanied by terrible pains in her legs, as if needles or knives were piercing her. It’s a sensation that the cyclists of the Tour may, by the time they pass the statue four painful kilometres from the finish, identify with.
The Copenhagen Grand Départ, originally set to take place in 2021 but postponed for a year after scheduling complications, will be the 24th foreign start to the Tour and the first in Denmark. The race has never been so far north, and it’s such a long way to France - almost a thousand kilometres - that the Tour will start a day early in order to incorporate an extra travel day on its first Monday.
It’s relatively unusual now for a Tour to start with a time trial. The race kicked off with a short Prologue (or in a couple of cases a slightly longer time trial) every year between 1967 and 2007, but since then has alternated between flat road stages, punchy uphill finishes, Prologues and the occasional time trial.
If there is a standard length for an opening-day time trial these days, it’s about the 13.2km of the Copenhagen test. The Monaco opener in 2009 was 15.5km, Utrecht 2015 was 13.8km, Düsseldorf 2017 was 14km. Monaco was a hilly affair, but Utrecht and Düsseldorf were both flat. In Utrecht, the final GC podium all finished within a dozen seconds of each other; however in Düsseldorf, eventual winner Chris Froome put 51 seconds into the Paris runner-up Rigoberto Urán, who ended the race 54 seconds behind.
Copenhagen’s wide, flat parcours will likely be more Düsseldorf than Utrecht - Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), the two favourites, will hope to put at least 30 seconds into the climbers here.
Copenhagen could therefore turn out to be crucial. To adapt Kierkegaard’s famous phrase, the Tour will only be understood backwards, but it must be ridden forwards, as fast as possible, starting with the Copenhagen time trial.
Tour de France 2022 stage one map and profile
The Copenhagen circuit is a pan flat course is 13.2km long and features one intermediate time check at 6.6km. Though the course is punctuated by a number of turns, the wide roads should mean these won't prove too much trouble for the riders and we should see a very fast winning time.
Prediction and contenders
World champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) is the favourite for the stage and the race's first yellow jersey, although he will face some stiff competition from a host of talented time trial riders.
The ever prodigious Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is another clear contender, though the Belgian has only ever beaten Ganna once in an individual effort against the clock, and lost out to the Italian by two seconds in their most recent meeting at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Stefan Bissegger will be a contender for the first yellow of the Tour (Getty Images)
One man who has had a bit more luck in taking on Ganna is Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost). The Swiss has beaten Ganna three times in their six meetings, so will be in with a real shout of claiming the maillot jaune in Copenhagen. His compatriot and European champion Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) will also fancy his chances on this power course.
Former Danish champion Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) will be hopeful of taking a home victory, though he's an outsider considering the field assembled here.
Olympic champion and overall contender Primož Roglič could also do well, although this course is too short and flat for his time trial abilities. He, Tadej Pogačar, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) should all gain early time on the climbers in the GC if they're at top form.
Prediction: Filippo Ganna to take the opening stage win and yellow jersey.