Start location: Roskilde
Finish location: Nyborg
Start time: 11.15 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.11 BST
The prevailing wind across northern Europe blows from west to east. Areas of low pressure funnel the wind from the Atlantic Ocean into the Bay of Biscay in France, up the English Channel, across the continent and on to Scandinavia. At the time of writing, a few days before the 2022 Tour de France kicks off, the forecast is for these winds to be blowing through the opening weekend, moderately but insistently. There may also be rain, but this is cycling, and it’s the wind that is interesting to us.
Stage two, Roskilde to Nyborg, is one of the most unusual stages ever contested by the Tour. The race has crossed from island to mainland in France in the past - for example between Noirmoutier and the Vendée. There has even been a stage, in 2020, where the race started on one island - the Île d’Oléron - crossed to the mainland and finished on another island - the Île de Ré. In both cases the bridges linking land masses were just under three kilometres long, and came at opposite ends of the stage. This time, the Tour will encounter one of the most impressive feats of civil engineering in Europe, let alone Denmark, when it crosses from Zealand to Funen island via the Great Belt Bridge, which ends just a few kilometres from the finish in Nyborg.
The Great Belt Bridge is 18km long in total, consisting of two roughly equal segments - the East Bridge and West Bridge - which meet at the tiny island of Sprogø between Zealand and Funen. Though the highest natural point in Denmark is Møllehøj in Jutland, 170m above sea level, the two towers of the East Bridges stand at 254m altitude: it’s not possible to stand anywhere higher in Denmark.
Stage two doesn’t even reach anywhere near that height. There are a few fourth-category climbs in the first half of the stage, but the Côte d’Asnæs Indelukke, Côte d’Høve Stræde and Côte de Kårup Strandbakke are almost as hard to pronounce as they are to climb, and will likely just decide who wears the first polka-dot jersey of the Tour. But while the stage profile is roughly flatlining, the riders’ pulse monitors will be jagged highs and lows through the day.
Be prepared for spectacular helicopter television shots taken from out in the sea, level with the Great Belt Bridge’s roadway, of the peloton as it flies across the wide expanse of the strait. Be prepared, also, for the main action of the stage, the finishing sprint aside, to already have happened. One of the structural advantages the Great Belt Bridges have is that they travel east-north-east/west-south-west: the strongest winds run along its length, not across it. But that also means that a large part of the last 20km of the stage will likely be into a headwind.
However, it’s the bit that comes before which will make the peloton nervous. From the bonus sprint at Kalundborg with 75km to go until Frølunde, 50km later, the Tour parcours runs from north to south along the exposed western coast of Zealand, at approximately 90 degrees to the wind. There will still be 25km to race by the time this section is finished, but by that point the damage may have been done. If crosswinds split the bunch, chances are at least one contender could no longer be a contender.
Tour de France stage two map and profile
The low level climbing comes early in this long 202.km stage but there are ups and downs throughout today's profile. The danger area for GC contenders comes in the final 50km where crosswinds could affect the race.
Predictions and contenders
While the chance of crosswinds could catch out a number of GC contenders and a some of the sprinters, the stage still looks set to end with a bunch gallop to the line. How big that bunch is by the time the race reaches Nyborg is the key question.
The first sprint of the Tour de France is usually a finger in the air exercise, with the form of the top sprinters in attendance a relative unknown. The versatile Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) will be keen to get his green jersey campaign off the best possible start and considering his Classics credentials, seems the best suited to making it through any crosswinds safely.
Caleb Ewan has struggled in crosswinds in the past, so he and his Lotto-Soudal team will be extra wary of getting caught out. If he makes it to the finishing straight though, he is a strong favourite for victory.
He'll face competition from the inform Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), who both have teams strong enough to control the race, navigate crosswinds, and provide expert lead outs.
Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) is an outsider despite his past success at the Tour, having struggled through the recent Critérium du Dauphiné.
Home favourite Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafred) has shown his ability to mix it in the sprints despite not being a pure fast-man, but he has yet to convert that to a victory in a Grand Tour. The Dane will be particularly enthused to get a result here though and take a stage win on home soil.
Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) showed flashes of his former glory with a stage win at the Tour de Suisse in June, but remains an outside shot amongst this field despite his glittering palmarès.
Amongst the other contenders, Alberto Dainese (DSM) will hope to match his Giro d'Italia success and grab a stage here, while Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic), Max Walscheid (Cofidis), and Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), will all be in the mix provided they stay in the main bunch.
Rouleur predicts: Fabio Jakobsen to take the stage victory