Pogacar and Copenhagen are buzzing before the opening of the Tour de France

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Copenhagen (AFP) – Fans and riders alike were buzzing with excitement as the Tour de France Grand Départ arrived on Friday, while worldwide more than a billion viewers are also expected to tune in over the 21 days.

When 23-year-old young champion Tadej Pogacar said he was delighted with the Danish public and couldn’t wait to get started, the sentiment was widely shared.

The sport’s biggest race attracts up to 15 million roadside fans a year and the three-day opening in cycling-obsessed Denmark at the 109th edition will provide the same festive atmosphere so dear to the French.

“I’m ready personally and my team is ready too, and you can’t help but be pleased with the kind of reception we’ve had here,” said UAE Team Emirates leader Pogacar.

Belgian powerhouse Wout Van Aert, winner of a time trial, a sprint and a mountain stage in the 2021 Tour, was also in turmoil after two editions impacted by the Covid-19.

“I was surprised by the number of people on the sides of the road. After two years, we can finally have a Grand Départ with a huge crowd,” he said.

The first of 21 stages is a short, fast, technically and psychologically challenging 13.2km individual time trial around Copenhagen city centre.

Competitors compete on specialized bikes for the time trial that would be too dangerous for a casual cyclist.

They also sport custom-made aero suits that cost up to 4,000 euros ($4,161).

Ganna the favorite

Frenchman Jeremy Lecroq will be the first runner down the start ramp at 4:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT) outside the Tivoli theme park and next to Copenhagen Central Station with its Gothic wooden railings and tiled interior.

The 176 riders embark one minute apart with Marc Soler of the United Arab Emirates the last to leave at 6:55 p.m. (4:55 p.m. GMT).

The Danes came out in force to attend the unveiling ceremony of the Tour Thomas SAMSONAFP

Ineos world time trial champion Filippo Ganna accepted his favorite tag to win the opener and thus don the race leader’s jersey.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try to put that in my museum,” said the Italian.

Saturday’s second stage covers 202.5km from Roskilde to Nyborg along green roads adjacent to fjords and ends with a 20km crossing of the Great Belt Bridge.

The last day of Sunday in Denmark is a 182 km race from Vejl to Sonderborg.

The Tour de France caravan is transferred to France next Monday for a dangerous week with old cobbled mining roads.

The race then heads through the Alps, including an epic ascent of the legendary Alpe d’Huez, and into the Pyrenees where the equally fearsome Hautacam peak awaits.

If those mountains weren’t enough to produce a winner, the 40.7km individual time trial ending in Rocamadour on the penultimate stage should do the trick.

While Pogacar is the better driver, the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma seems to be the strongest team, and the mighty Ineos have promised to race aggressively to reclaim the title.

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