Welcome back for another edition of Les Eaux du Tour, the daily roundup of all the water you see in the background as the peloton makes its way across Western Europe!
This year’s Grand Départ takes place in Germany for the first time since 1987. The first stage of the 2017 Tour is an individual time trial in Düsseldorf on the banks of the Rhine. We actually stopped in the Rhine basin once last year, as we headed to Bern on the banks of the Aare in Switzerland, but then we were more interested in the great Swiss lakes than in the second longest river in Western Europe.
The Rhine flows out of Lake Toma in the Swiss canton of Graubünden as the Vorderrhein before joining the Hinterrhein at Reichenau to form the Alpine section of the river. This section flows through Lake Constance after which it becomes the High Rhine. This section flows west to Basel where it bends sharply north and becomes known as the Upper Rhine. This part of the river forms the border between French Alsace on the east bank and German Baden-Württemberg on the west. At Bingen, the river becomes the Middle Rhine, which is the Rhine of Romantic castles and the Rhinemaidens as it flows through the Rhine Gorge, carved into 400 million year old rock. In the former West German capital of Bonn, the river becomes the Lower Rhine, which flows through North Rhine-Westphalia, the industrial heartland of Germany, including Düsseldorf, the site of today’s stage. And finally the river enters the Netherlands where it flows out to the North Sea in the vast Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta.
Düsseldorf itself is located at the confluence of the Düssel river and the Rhine. Further up the Düssel, east of Düsseldorf, is the Neandertal, home of the type specimen of the Neanderthal. Düsseldorf itself is constructed on a delta consisting of four separate channels through which the Düssel empties into the Rhine. The two inner channels, called the Northern and Southern Düssel, largely flow underground through the city center and can be diverted during floods into the outer channels, the Kittelbach and the Brückerbach, which empty into the Rhine on the northern and southern sides of the city.
Geraint Thomas picks up the win after a solid time trial performance as the summer rains fed the Düssel. No signs of flooding from the rising Düssel channels, but some slick surfaces made the stage rather dangerous, taking Alejandro Valverde and Ion Izagirre out of the race.
To play us out of the as we head towards the Belgian city of Liège, here are some of Düsseldorf’s finest: