SAN DIEGO, July 1, 2015 — One of the world’s greatest athletic competitions, the Tour de France, opens its 2015 edition on Saturday. The 102nd Tour will add some twists that will please many of its fans and climbers.
Continuing its inclusive approach to the race, the tour will begin outside France for the second year in a row, and for its sixth time from the Netherlands, in Utrecht. Over the course of 23 days until the finish in Paris on July 27, the world’s elite professional bike riders will cover a total distance of 3,366 kilometers, or 2,091 miles, a shorter route than last year’s tour but with more climbing miles. It is approximately the distance driving by car from Phoenix to Charlotte, N.C.
Each year the race follows a different course in 21 stages. Several stages this year will cover new ground, including the opening stages in Holland. The tour will then travel through Belgium before entering France. With the mixing of ingredients like any good French recipe, 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 only six flat stages versus nine last year, all loaded in the first third of the race save the finish in Paris. One will hit stretches of cobblestones. There are also six hilly stages, seven exceptionally difficult mountain climbs with high-altitude finishes, one individual and one team time trial. It is a course that favors the strong climbers with good teams. That means riders like former tour winners Vicenzo Nibali, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, and second-place finisher Nairo Quintana.
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 – Utrecht to Utrecht (13.8k)
This urban prologue course in Holland will allow the time trial riders to shine and perhaps put a few seconds in the bank against the later mountain stages. Everyone gets to loosen his legs and shake off the nerves.
Stage 2 | Sunday: Utrecht to Zelande (166K)
The tour stays in the Netherlands and for the first time offers a finish on an island in the Zeeland Delta. The peleton will need to take care that offshore winds don’t blow GC contenders off course. The bold spinters will get their first chance for victory today.
Stage 3 | Monday: Anvers to Huy (159.5k)
The tour travels into Belgium via the Antwerp harbor, the site of the 1920 Olympic Games. It offers several small climbs that will allow the strong mountain riders to emerge for the first time and show what they’ve got.
Stage 4 | Tuesday: Seraing to Cambrai (223.5k)
The tour returns to French soil. Riders will confront a series of cobblestone sections familiar from the Paris-Roubaix race. The familiarity will not breed contempt, as riders must take care not to let an accident take them out of contention in the first week. It is also the longest stage of the race, an early test of stamina all around.
Stage 5 | July 8: Arras Communaute Urbaine to Amiens Metropole (189.5k)
This flat stage will take the peloton through the Somme region and site of several decisive World War I battles. The only battle today will be among sprinters for supremacy and a stage jersey.
Stage 6 | July 9: Abbeville to Le Havre (191.5k)
This stage will provide some of the tour’s most beautiful scenery along the Normandy coastline, but the riders won’t be able to enjoy it as they fight to stay within striking distance. A breakaway could succeed today.
Stage 7 | July 10: Livarot to Fougeres (190.5k)
Another beautiful stage today as the peloton travels through Brittany, another day for the sprinters before the tour turns to the mountains.
Stage 8 | July 11: Rennes to Mur-de-Bretagne (181.5K)
The overall contenders will need to make their presence known on today’s stage. The final category 3 climb in the last two miles of the race could start putting distance between the leaders and the rest of the field. This is not a stage where anyone can afford to lose seconds.
Stage 9 | July 12: Vannes to Plumeles (28K)
After a week of riding, the leaders will count on their teammates in the challenging team time trial, where everyone on the team gets the same time as the fifth rider over the line. They must work together and strive not to lose any ground today. A rest day comes tomorrow, so it’s time to leave it all the course today.
Rest Day 1, July 13
Stage 10 | July 14: Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin (167K)
After the rest day, the competitors get a major change of scene, from Brittany to the Pyrenees. It is the first climbing stage, and the final ascent is a demanding “beyond category” climb up the Col de Soudet before the finish at a new location for the tour, La Pierre-Saint-Martin. The early favorite to win needs to make a statement here.
Stage 11 | July 15: Pau-Cauterets to Vallee de Saint-Savin (188k)
The tour returns to one of its classic summits, the Col du Tourmalet, where champions are made, three-quarters of the way through the stage.
Stage 12 | July 16: Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille (195k)
Another epic ride is in store today as the yellow jersey contenders face two Category 1 climbs before the final grind up the fearsome Plateau de Beille for a summit finish that should leave the leaders with nothing left in the tank. Some riders will struggle merely to finish within the time limits today.
Stage 13 | July 17: Muret to Rodez (198.5k)
The peloton gets a bit of relief as this long stage descends from the Pyrenees into the Tarn Valley, ending in Rodez near the Spanish border. But no one can afford to coast through this stage.
Stage 14 | July 18: Rodez to Mende (178.5k)
Contenders will do battle on three climbs near the end of the stage, which should create some serious drama. General classification riders will have to push themselves on the final climb, over a 10 percent incline for nearly two miles on the Cote de la Croix Neuve at the finish.
Stage 15 | July 19: Mende to Valence (183k)
This stage brings the peloton down into the Rhone Valley. Sprinters with any gas left in the tank will contend at the finish line if a breakaway doesn’t succeed today.
Stage 16 | July 20: Bourg-de-Peage to Gap (201k) ‘
Sprinters who haven’t won a stage and still aspire to pull on the stage victory jersey have one final chance today before Paris. The course isn’t completely flat, with two Category 2 climbs in the second half. Teams will need to work for their sprinters to give them a chance on the long straight descending finish.
Rest Day 2, July 21
Stage 17 | July 22: Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup (161k)
After a rest day, the contenders for the yellow jersey will fight for time gaps over five climbs, including the intense Col d’Allos on the first of four stages through the Alps. There could be changes at the top of the leaderboard after today’s stage.
Stage 18 | July 23: Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (186.5k)
No relief today for anyone, especially the overall leaders, who must navigate a difficult stage with seven categorized climbs including the beyond catgory Col de Glandon just 40 kilometers from the finish, then navigate a tricky descent through Montvernier to the finish. It’s testing and treacherous.
Stage 19 | July 24: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire (138k)
How badly do you want to win the 2015 Tour? Four more tough climbs today will test the resolve of the contenders, including the Col de la Croix de Fer and the final climb up La Tourssuire. It is a shorter stage but every mile is brutally tough.
Stage 20 | July 25: Modane Valfrejus to Alpe d’Huez (110.5k)
What Indianapolis is to motor sports and Churchill Downs is to horse racing, Alpe d’Huez is for grand tour cyclists. Never has the tour visited Alpe d’Huez so late in the race, and the yellow jersey could be won or lost today on the final climb up its slopes. Count on drama to prevail!
Stage 21 | July 26: 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 best-conditioned athletes, through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Vive le tour!
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. 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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