article written by le blog de l’Ardoisier, guest blog on live Orange blog for the Tour de France
The 99th Tour de France is set to begin in a few days, with the start being marked by a prologue through the streets of the city of Liège in Belgium. Then, the peloton will ride along roads across a country that is not as flat as we are led to believe, before finally entering France.
To get the summer off to a good start I recommend a tour of the Walloon region. Here are five good reasons to go to the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2012 in Liège.
1. because the prologue is wide open
In October 2011, during the official presentation of the Tour de France 2012, you would have imagined this 6km prologue being a two-way race between the Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin from Germany. However, these two time trial specialists now don’t seem to be in a position to run away with it as had been previously thought. After bad injuries at the start of the season, a new generation of riders has found a taste for victory in their absence. Now they have to dislodge them from their pedestals.
In the last two months, for example, the prologue of the Tour de Romandie was won by Geraint Thomas, 26. At the Giro d’Italia it was won by Taylor Phinney, 21; Luke Durbridge, 21, took victory at the Criterium du Dauphiné, and Peter Sagan, 22, came home in first place in the Tour de Suisse prologue.
And there’s no doubt that the two strong favorites for the Tour de France, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins and the Australian Cadel Evans, will also be intent on picking up vital seconds right from the prologue. These two ‘cycling machines’ will therefore be keen to put in a good performance on the streets of Liège.
May the best man win!
2. Because there’s the Avant-Tour
For the second year, cycling enthusiasts are invited to the Avant-Tour. It’s an area where you find everyone involved in the Tour while you wait for the action to begin, all for free. Over a three-day period the race’s sponsors and partners offer many activities – an introduction to BMX, bike repair stand, live TV broadcasts, autographs from riders, etc. This will also be the ideal place to take a look at the vehicles from the publicity caravan before everyone else.
3. To be there for the presentation of the teams
Each year the rider presentation seems better than the year before. After the epic show last year in Vendée, we’re looking forward to seeing what Liège will have come up with to provide a fitting welcome for the Tour de France’s 198 participants.
It has already been announced that the presentation of the teams for the 2012 Tour de France will take place in front of the Provincial Palace at Place Saint-Lambert on Thursday, June 28 from 6.30pm. The teams will be presented to the public in turn on a stage set up in front of the palace. After descending from the stage, they will parade around a circuit of Place Saint-Lambert accompanied by vehicles of the publicity caravan.
4. Because Belgium is a great country for cycling
It’s no secret that Belgians have a great sense of humor and are able to laugh at themselves. But when it comes to cycling or beer, it’s no time for joking around!
The Liège province is also known to be the home to two stars of cycling – Philippe Gilbert and the Côte de La Redoute, one of the major tests of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège cycling race.
If you come to a stage of the Tour de France in Liège you will see a wonderful meeting between the most prestigious race in the world and some of the most demanding fans you can find.
Top all that off with a beer (in moderation) and lots of good fun and you’ll be sure to have a great time!
5. Because it’s an opportunity to go to Liège…
…And to take the Thalys train, go for a walk along the Meuse, take the little tourist train or even visit the old town.