Stage 1 of the 2012 Tour de France will not be a walk in the park, but it will be hard enough to keep the pure sprinters out of the mix at the finish. Those of us who are Mark Cavendish fans will likely have to wait for another day to see him start his bid for the green jersey. The course toys with the Ardennes region and at 198 kilometers, will be enough to leave a little hurt in green legs. The Phillipe Gilbert of 2011 would have made a light lunch of this stage. Will he be able to do it this year?
“This stage is no leg breaker, but it still is bumpy enough to dampen the hopes of pure sprinters. In other words, I do not think Cavendish will be among those fighting for the win. I hope I am wrong, but I think he will be dropped before reaching Seraing. The course is less demanding than in 1995, when Bruyneel and Indurain blew the race apart on the road to Liège, but it comes very close to the Ardennes and, at 198 km, the stage distance is nothing to sneeze at. In short, we wanted to preserve the peloton’s energy while setting the tone for the rest of the race. We will see…”
The Place Saint-Lambert will host the official departure of Stage 1 of the 2012 Tour de France, a place devastated on 13 December 2011 by an act of madness by a crazed gunman who took six innocent lives and injured over a hundred . The organisers wished to honour them while the Liégeois felt united in adversity: “They have always held their heads high” in the words of the sixteenth century Michel de l’Hospital, Francis I’s Chancellor, quote engraved on the walls of the city. Third largest city in the country and economic capital of Wallonia, Liège has turned the page from a heavy industrial past and invested resolutely in industries of the future like biotechnology, space and sustainable development. Thanks to its location in the heart of Europe, Liège, easily accessible by air (Bierset is the eighth European freight airport), land (at the core of six motorways and high speed railway lines) and water (its river port authority is the third in Europe), now also offers a multimodal logistics platform, LiègeTrilogiport.
Famous beyond its borders for the site of Val Saint-Lambert, a real gem for all stone, glass and crystal lovers, Seraing is characterized by its diverse landscapes composed of one third housing, one third forest and one third industries and businesses. It is now preparing to mark a great turning point in its history. Large-scale urban projects are now underway with, in the medium term, the creation of an urban boulevard. The boulevard, which will cross the city from east to west, will result in a reorganization of the space with the creation of new economic centres and the conversion of former industrial sites. At the same time, the city will continue to take care of its many treasures: the three castles of Jemeppe, the main Church and its baptismal fonts from the twelfth century, the site of Val Saint-Lambert and the Sérésien forests where 1,200 hectares are an excellent sports field. All these natural assets, initiatives and joint efforts have one objective: to successfully negotiate the great change that is underway in Seraing.