Just as temperatures start to soar and the prospect of just cycling for an hour feels like a challenge, over 200 uber-fit cyclists are making final preparations for this year’s Tour de France which starts on Saturday 4 July and finishes on Saturday 26 July.
Image by Cycling Tips
Utrecht, the capital of the Netherlands, will host the Grand Depart and Stage 2. The Tour then moves to Belgium for Stage 3, and Stage 4 will see the riders tackling a generous helping of cobbled portions as they head towards France. Over the next five stages the riders will work their way across Northern France, culminating in a team time trial on Sunday 12 July. Everyone then gets a well-earned rest day as they are transported south to the Pyrenees and the seven grueling days of hard climbs ahead.
Following another rest day on Tuesday 21 July, there are four more days of mountains, including Alpe d’Huez on the penultimate day of racing. This mountain is a real challenge, with riders facing a 13.8km ascent with 21 bends before reaching the finish at the summit. As is tradition, the Tour de France finishes in Paris with riders racing along the Champs Elysées on 26 July. In all, riders will tackle 21 stages over a distance of 3.360 kilometres, taking in seven mountain stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps, of which five include summit finishes. It’s going to be quite something!
So who should you be looking out for? Well, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of Astana will be looking to retain his title, and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is a real contender. Then, of course, there is Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who has won the Tour twice already and is looking in great shape having recently won the Giro.
Meanwhile, the field will include 10 Brits – the biggest British contingent since 1955 and a marked increase on last year’s four British riders. 2013 winner Chris Froome rides for Team Sky, along with Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. Mark Cavendish is riding for Etixx – Quick-Step and he’ll be hoping to do significantly better than last year when he crashed out of the race during the very first stage in Yorkshire. Alex Dowsett, who broke the UCI Hour Record just weeks before Bradley Wiggins then went even further, seems to be fighting fit after recovering from a broken collarbone. Steve Cummings rides for MTN-Ohubeka, and 21-year-old twins Adam and Simon Yates are riding for Orica GreenEdge – very talented cyclists and definitely names to watch out for in the future.
All in all, it promises to be a really exciting Tour and we’ll be glued to the TV as much as possible. Who will you be cheering on?!
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