SAN DIEGO, June 21, 2014 – The Tour de France cycling race, one of the world’s greatest athletic competitions, begins its second century in 2014 with several firsts and surprises befitting this epic ride.
The 101st edition will roll out from the starting line for the very first time on British soil in London on Saturday, July 5. Over the course of 23 days until the finish in Paris on Sunday, July 27, the world’s elite professional bike riders will cover a total distance of 3,656 kilometers, or 2,272 miles. That’s the distance driving by car from El Centro, California, to Troy, Michigan; or between Oceanside, California and Washington DC as the crow flies.
Last year’s Tour winner, Chris Froome of Great Britain’s Team Sky, looks to be in fine form to repeat, but he has several serious challengers.
Riders trying to knock Froome off his perch include two time Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain riding for Saxo Tinkoff team; Alejandro Valvedere of Spain, team leader for Movistar; young star Rui Costa of Portugal, now riding for Lampre-Merida; and two Americans, Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp, the surprise winner of the Criterium de Dauphine in June, and 41-year-old Chris Horner, oldest ever winner of a Grand Tour when he won the Vuelta in Spain last year.
Each year the race follows a different course in 21 stages. Nine of the stages cover new ground, including the opening stages in the British Isles. It also travels through Belgium and Spain as well as France. With the mixing of ingredients like any good French recipe, this means the race has a different flavor every year and plays to different riding strengths as the flat stages combine with mountain stages, and as time-trial stages are added.
There are nine flat stages, five hilly stages, six mountain climbs with five high altitude finishes; and just one individual time trial. It is a course that favors the strong climbers with good teams. That means riders like Froome, Contador, Costa, and Horner.
Mountain climbs in the Tour de France are rated in categories signifying their relative difficulty, from a category four, or easiest climb, up through a category one, and an additional “beyond category” (“hors category” or HC) climb, meaning your legs will be screaming at the end.
Stage 1| Saturday, July 5: Leeds to Harrogate (190.5k)
No prologue for the second year in a row. This year’s Tour begins with a road stage. British sprinter Mark Cavandish would give anything to win in his home country in front of home town crowds. He may be too focused to enjoy the beautiful landscapes as he sprints for the finish of this flat stage.
Stage 2 | Sunday, July 6: York to Sheffield (201K)
This hilly stage through Yorkshire will warm up the legs of the climbers, and test the sprinters. A talented hybrid rider like Peter Sagan will try to win the stage, but it will be difficult for him. If the top riders want to signal their readiness early, it could be a hotly contested stage. No doubt Chris Froome on Team Sky riding at home would love the win.
Stage 3 | Monday, July 7: Cambridge to London (155k)
This tour will thrill fans as the peloton passes numerous landmarks in London before finishing opposite Buckingham Palace. It’s a short stage ending in a sprint. Will the Manx Missile Mark Cavandish salute Queen and country with a stage win?
Stage 4 | Tuesday, July 8: Le Tourquet-Paris-Plage to Lille Metropole (163.5k)
The Tour returns to French soil. The peloton will set a reaonable pace and it isn’t likely the leaders will challenge each other this early. But they will have to be vigilant and not let any rider considered a threat gain too much time. There is a lengthy stretch of cobblestones and riders will need to be careful not to blow a tire or make a mistakea t the wrong time.
Stage 5 | Wednesday, July 9: Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut (155.5k)
Even more cobblestones today on this famous classic Tour stage. It will be a treacherous ride that will test the focus and fitness of the leaders. The team mechanics need to be on their toes for crashes, blown tires, and who knows what else. Most riders will merely work to survive it.
Stage 6 | Thursday, July 10: Arras to Reims (194k)
The wind may be a factor on this stage which may affect the ability of riders to stage a breakaway attempt that holds off the peloton. If not, it will be a battle of the sprinters on the long final straight with a false flat. It’s tailor made for strong German sprinter Andre Griepel.
Stage 7 | Friday, July 11: Epernay to Nancy (234.5k)
There are two tough climbs on this stage, one of them just three miles from the finish with an eight percent grade. It should provide the leaders a chance to test each other and see their foes react to tactical maneurvers. They will try to get in each other’s heads today.
Stage 8 | Saturday, July 12: Tomblaine to Gerardmer La Mauselaine (161K)
The breakaway specialists should come out to play today, but they will have to build up a lengthy lead over the peloton to survive to the finish. There are several climbs with serious grades up to 15 percent. It’s possible for them to hang on, but they’ll need to play it smart and help each other.
Stage 9 | Sunday, July 13: Gerardme to Mulhouse (170K)
After more than a week of riding, competitors who need to gain time on the lead riders to have a chance of standing on the podium may go for broke today in a breakaway. The climbs in this stage are not steep, but they are lengthy. Both physical and mental stamina will be the deciding factor.
Stage 10 | Monday, July 14: Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles (161.5K)
Chris Froome won his first stage at the Tour de France here in 2012. There isn’t any reason he can’t do it again, especially with a rest day on the schedule tomorrow. There are seven mountain climbs, finishing with a 20 percent gradient on the final climb up La Planche des Belles Filles. You’ve got to be a beast to challenge this one.
Rest day, Tuesday, July 15: Besancon
Stage 11 | Wednesday, July 16: Besancon to Oyonnax (187.5k)
This stage featuring rolling hills and will warm up the legs of the peloton after the rest day. How it proceeds will depend on how closely bunches the GC riders are at this point. Otherwise it could be a day for the strong spinters, like Peter Sagan.
Stage 12 | Thursday, July 17: Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne (185.5k)
This is a transition stage as the Tour heads for the mountains. The sprinters will fight to cross the line and win this stage, but a breakaway attempt could foil their chances.
Stage 13 | Friday, July 18: Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse (197.5k)
All the climbing on this stage comes in the last quarter. The final climb may tempt the GC leaders to throw down and gain what time they can as a cushion going into the more challenging mountain stages to come.
Stage 14 | Saturday, July 19: Grenoble to Risoul (177k)
On this final stage in the Alps, riders will navigate two peaks, the Lautaret ant the Izoard before the summit finish in Risoul. Look for attacks on the GC leader here on the final summit climb to test their chances of taking the leader’s yellow jersey and breaking his resolve.
Stage 15 | Sunday, July 20: Tallard to Nimes (222k)
Coming down from the Alps, this is a lengthy transition stage to work off all that lactic acid and muscle fatigue. Unless there is a successful breakaway, the sprinters should get their chance to shine. But Mother Nature may have a say as she did last year, when the wind threw the peloton into disarray. Hair raising for the riders, exciting for the fans.
Rest day | Monday, July 21 Carcassonne
Stage 16 | Tuesday, July 22: Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon (237.5k)
This is the longest stage of the Tour, mercifully right after the second rest day. It important for the Tour’s GC leaders to hold off their challengers on today’s climbs. This is the stage where Andy Schleck of Luxembourg lost his yellow jersey on the 2010 Tour when the chain slipped on his bike and his foe Alberto Contador took advantage and attacked, rather than extend good sportsmanship and wait for him. An infamous legacy. Will bad karma make an appearnce?
Stage 17 | Wednesday, July 23: Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet (124.5k)
As a reward for surviving the Tour’s longest stage, riders have their shortest stage today. It’s not easy, with a summit finish. If riders get left behind due to challenges along the way, the elimination time could catch several laggers by surprise and take them out of the race, including several green jersey sprint champion contenders.
Stage 18 | Thursday, July 24: Pau to Hautacam (145.5k)
Competitors may be tempted to catch their breath on this stage before the final push toward Paris, but they need to focus and be certain they don’t lose time to anyone who poses a threat. This stage includes one of the most famous climbs of the Tour, the Col du Tourmalet. One of the mythic climbs of the Tour de France, the Tourmalet has been riden more often than any other mountain stage, more than 75 times since its first appearance in 1910. GC challengers may seize on this climb as one of their last opportunities to gain time on the leaders.
Stage 19 | Friday, July 25: Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac (208.5k)
A long flat stage, but with just two days left there is never a time to relax. Riders must avoid crashes and breakways that could threaten the top riders. It is the last chance for a breakaway rider to take a stage, and some will no doubt try it. Otherwise, the sprinters will come out to play. If the battle for the green jersey is close, it could be a free for all at the line.
Stage 20 | Saturday, July 26: Bergerac to Perigueux (54k)
The stakes have never been higher in the time trial, what riders call “The Race Of Truth.” The winner of this year’s Tour could be decided today. If Chris Froome is among leaders, he can lock up his victory today. If the true time trial specialists like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara are still in the Tour without showing too much wear and tear, it will be a stage for them.
Stage 21| Sunday, July 27: Evry to Paris Champs-Elysees (137.5k)
The traditional finale comes into the City of Lights and is essentially a coronation celebrating the achievement of the winner. But he does have to cross the finish line. As riders did last year, they will cycle all the way around the Arc de Triomphe.
So put the Champagne on ice, and get ready for an exciting month of competition provided by some of the world’s most well conditioned athletes, through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Vive le Tour!
Interactive map of the 2014 Tour de France route here.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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