From Dusseldorf to Paris

Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome celebrate Tour de France victory in 2016

Chris Froome will once again be helped fellow Briton Geraint Thomas in his quest to win the Tour de France

Britain’s Chris Froome will look to win a fourth Tour de France title and third in a row when this year’s race starts on Saturday.

The three-week 3,540km (2,200 miles) race starts in Germany with a 14km individual time trial and ventures through Belgium and Luxembourg before heading into France.

The route takes the 198 riders down the eastern side of France to the Jura mountains in the opening week before a rest-day transfer across to the Dordogne in the west.

Two days in the Pyrenees mountains will dominate the second week, while the third week is all about the Alps and what race organisers will hope is a decisive 22.5km individual time trial on the penultimate stage.

Former British cyclist Rob Hayles, who will be BBC Radio 5 live’s expert summariser, offers his guide to each of the 21 stages…

Saturday, 1 July – Stage 1: Dusseldorf, 14km (8.7 miles) individual time trial

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Rob’s guide: The race returns to Germany for the first time since West Berlin hosted in 1987 when the wall was still standing. It starts with an almost pan-flat time trial that predominantly follows the river Rhine. There are a few twists and turns but nothing overly technical, although the rain that is forecast for Saturday could bring its own problems. You can’t win the Tour on stage one but you could certainly lose it. Caution may be the order of the day for the big favourites for the overall title.

One to watch: Tony Martin. The German is a four-time world time trial champion and with home support he has every chance of taking the first yellow jersey of this year’s race.

Sunday, 2 July – Stage 2: Dusseldorf – Liege, 203.5km (126.5 miles)

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Rob’s guide: That early category four hill will probably help a breakaway escape up the road but the sprinters will want to have their say in Liege so expect the race to all come back together for a bunch finale.

One to watch: Mark Cavendish. This will give both us and his rivals an idea as to whether he is over the glandular fever that has blighted his season.

Monday, 3 July – Stage 3: Verviers – Longwy, 212.5km (132 miles)

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Rob’s guide: Three stages in and a third different winner is likely. Gone are the days of the opening week being all about the sprinters. This stage has a Tour de Yorkshire feel to it with lots of short climbs that will suit the types of riders who enjoy the spring one-day classics such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege. A breakaway will form but the puncheurs will have their day. Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin of the Quick-Step Floors team may fancy this one.

One to watch: Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian was born in Verviers and his solitary Tour stage win came on a similar finish in 2011.

Tuesday, 4 July – Stage 4: Mondorf-les-Bains – Vittel, 207.5km (129 miles)

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Rob’s guide: A second day for the sprinters, although race organisers are warning there may be crosswinds, which, as we’ve seen before, can decimate the peloton and wreck the chances of the contenders for the overall title if they are not paying attention.

One to watch: Marcel Kittel. The German sprinter goes into the race just two stage wins behind his rival Andre Greipel. If he won stage two, this is the chance to draw level.

Wednesday, 5 July – Stage 5: Vittel – La Planche des Belles Filles, 160.5km (100 miles)

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Rob’s guide: This is just the third time the race will visit La Planche des Belles Filles but the ski resort is already creating its own legend within the race. Chris Froome won his first Tour stage here in 2012, while Vincenzo Nibali extended his lead on his way to victory in 2014. Expect the general classification contenders to test each other on a climb that features gradients of 20%. We are only five stages in but the race has already given us every opportunity to see every type of rider. And the general classification riders will have been challenged.

One to watch: Nairo Quintana. The diminutive Colombian may have some seconds to make up after the time trial on day one and this will give an indication of how much the Giro d’Italia in May took out of him.

Thursday, 6 July – Stage 6: Vesoul – Troyes, 216km (134.2 miles)

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Rob’s guide: After a mountain-top finish, this is a relatively benign day but it will be interesting to see if La Planche des Belles Filles has sapped any energy from the sprinters because they will be expected to contest the finish on the wide boulevards of Troyes.

One to watch: Nacer Bouhanni. If there have been no French winners in the opening five stages, pressure will be mounting.

Friday, 7 July – Stage 7: Troyes – Nuits-Saint-Georges, 213.5km (132.7 miles)

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Rob’s guide: Another chance for the sprinters before the race goes seriously uphill for a couple of days. Expect the usual formula of a breakaway involving riders from the lesser teams chasing exposure for their sponsors, with the teams of the sprinters controlling the peloton’s pace, trying to time the perfect capture in the closing kilometres while setting up their man for glory. This is the fourth stage over 200km and that means by the end of the first week there will be a lot of kilometres in the legs.

One to watch: Andre Greipel. The ‘Gorilla’ may well have already added to his 11 Tour stage wins by today but if not, the German will want to be beating his chest over the finish line.

Saturday, 8 July – Stage 8: Dole – Station des rousses, 187.5km (116.5 miles)

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Rob’s guide: With Sunday’s ridiculously tough day to come, the general classification riders may opt to just keep tabs on each other, paving the way for a breakaway rider to have a day in the sun.

One to watch: Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman is riding in his 15th and final Tour de France. He finished fourth in 2011 and has lit up the race with his infectious enthusiasm, gurning face and aggressive riding style. He may not win today’s stage but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go for one last attack.

Sunday, 9 July – Stage 9: Nantua – Chambery, 181.5km (112.8 miles)

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Rob’s guide: With three of the six hors categorie climbs in this year’s race coming today, expect those riders chasing the polka dot ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey to be making an early break and anyone who is clear over the summit of Mont du Chat will have the advantage on a technical descent to Chambery. The general classification riders will be wary of any moves made among their group and while one of their number may not win the stage, they could pick up significant seconds on the run to the finish.

One to watch: Chris Froome. The defending champion has said that the winner of this year’s race will need to be aggressive. That doesn’t necessarily mean on the ascent. Froome showed he can descend with the best last year and will need to do so again if he harbours hopes of winning again.

Monday, 10 July – Rest day, Dordogne

Tuesday, 11 July – Stage 10: Perigueux – Bergerac, 178km (110.6 miles)

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Rob’s guide: The legs can be a little slow to get moving after a rest day so this benign stage should be the perfect hit out for everyone. The general classification will be taking shape and the riders chasing the yellow jersey will stay hidden in the peloton as the sprinters prepare to do battle in Bergerac.

One to watch: Dylan Groenewegen. The fast-rising Dutchman has won five races this year, including stage one at the Tour de Yorkshire and at 24 looks to have a bright future ahead of him.

Wednesday, 12 July – Stage 11: Eymet – Pau, 203.5km (126.4 miles)

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Rob’s guide: Another flat transitional stage moves the race to the foothills of the Pyrenees. The sprinters will again be chasing the stage win after the inevitable breakaway has toiled for hours out in front.

One to watch: Arnaud Demare. The Frenchman is in good form having won his national title and stage two and the points classification at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Thursday, 13 July – Stage 12: Pau – Peyragudes, 214.5km (133.3 miles)

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Rob’s guide: A steady start to the stage gives no clue as the brutality that awaits in the final 100km. Five categorised climbs and more than 3,000m of ascending should help shake up the general classification. The final kilometre features a 200m section with a 16% gradient. We could see some significant time gaps if anyone is not on their game.

One to watch: Richie Porte. The Australian has been in great form in 2017 and rightly justifies his tag among the favourites. He has had off days on the Tour in the past though and he cannot afford another one today.

Friday, 14 July – Stage 13: Saint-Girons – Foix, 101km (62.8 miles)

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Rob’s guide: An exciting day of fast racing is almost guaranteed with the race organisers throwing in a short, sharp mountain stage on Bastille Day. French riders are duty bound to go on the attack.

One to watch: Romain Bardet. He finished second behind Chris Froome last year so he won’t be allowed to break clear by the favourites for the title but he is an excellent descender and may eke out a few seconds on the ride into Foix.

Saturday, 15 July – Stage 14: Blagnac – Rodez, 181.5km (112.8 miles)

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Rob’s guide: This will be a tough stage on tiring legs with the road going predominantly uphill for the final 100km. A breakaway could succeed here but it’s more likely that a puncheur will prevail on the uphill drag to the finish as Chris Froome and his rivals enjoy a less hectic day.

One to watch: Peter Sagan. The Slovakian will undoubtedly already have lit up the race with his aggressive riding. He will certainly have marked this stage down as one that suits his prodigious sprinting and climbing talents.

Sunday, 16 July – Stage 15: Laissac-Severac l’Eglise – Le Puy-en-Velay, 189.5km (117.7 miles)

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Rob’s guide: Part of this stage will be contested at an altitude of more than 1,000m and the opening climb to the Aubrac plateau should provide the perfect platform for a breakaway. Whether it can stay away over the late first category climb is debatable. One thing is for sure, this is an intriguing stage that will be tough and unpredictable.

One to watch: Alejandro Valverde. He will be riding for Movistar team-mate Nairo Quintana but if the race situation allows, he may be allowed to chase a stage win.

Monday, 17 July – Rest day, Le Puy-en-Velay

Tuesday, 18 July – Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay – Romans-sur-Isere, 165km (102.5 miles)

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Rob’s guide: A welcome rest day will have come and gone too quickly for the riders. But at least the two categorised climbs should come early enough in the day to allow the sprinters to re-group and contest the finish in the Rhone Valley.

One to watch: Mark Cavendish. He won four stages last year, despite saying he was unsure of his form. This year, a bout of glandular fever floored the Manx Missile and he said he was only racing because it was the Tour de France. He started the race on 30 stage wins, four behind Eddy Merckx’s record…

Wednesday, 19 July – Stage 17: La Mure – Serre-Chevalier, 183km (112.8 miles)

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Rob’s guide: Two huge mountain passes dominate today’s stage and the Col du Telegraphe is no easy climb either. The Col du Galibier is back on the Tour route for a 33rd time and first since 2011. It is the roof of this year’s race and the rider who reaches the top first will be rewarded with the Souvenir Henri Desgrange in memory of the Tour’s founder. It will be a big day for the general classification contenders.

One to watch: Alberto Contador. The Spaniard has won the Tour twice before and geared up his entire season around this year’s race. Is he too old, at 34, to win a third? Expect him to delight fans with his attacks as he dances his way up the Galibier but will it be enough?

Thursday, 20 July – Stage 18: Briancon- Izoard, 179.5km (111.5 miles)

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Rob’s guide: A first finish at the summit of the Col d’Izoard promises to be sensational. There could well be two races going on. The one for the yellow jersey and, with double points on offer, the one for the King of the Mountains. This will be the 35th ascent of the legendary Alp and it could be crucial to determining the winner.

One to watch: Pierre Rolland. The Frenchman won the white jersey as best young rider in 2011 but hopes he would be the first home rider to win the race since Bernard Hinault in 1985 have long faded. He loves the high mountains though and at 30 years old knows opportunities to add to his two Tour stage wins are fast running out.

Friday, 21 July – Stage 19: Embrun – Salon-de-Provence, 222.5km (138.3 miles)

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Rob’s guide: The race tumbles out of the Alps and heads southwards towards the Mediterranean on the longest stage of the race. Will the sprinters be bold enough to ask their teams to ride for them in the hope of setting up a sprint finish? Or will everyone be too tired to care and allow a breakaway to succeed? Or will a puncheur use the Col du Pointu to ride clear? I reckon it could be the latter.

One to watch: Steven Cummings. The Briton has won stages in each of the last two Tours, could he make it a hat-trick?

Saturday, 22 July – Stage 20: Marseille, 22.5km (14 miles) individual time trial

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Rob’s guide: Race organisers will be hoping that Chris Froome needs to make up time on some on his rivals because if he arrives in Marseille with any kind of advantage, it is race over. A bit of a hill two-thirds of the way into the test is not stiff enough to create any significant gaps. If nothing else, it should provide good images for the television.

One to watch: Chris Froome. Will this be a lap of honour around Marseille for the Team Sky leader? If it is, don’t back against him extending his advantage and chalking up another stage win.

Sunday, 23 July – Stage 21: Montgeron – Paris Champs-Elysees, 103km (64 miles)

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Rob’s guide: And so to the now traditional early-evening dash round Paris. The jerseys will have been decided and champagne will have been sipped on the road in from Montgeron – where the Tour de France started in 1903. Tommy Voeckler may well be allowed a lap out front on his own in recognition of his efforts before the serious racing begins for a coveted stage win on the Champs Elysees.

One to watch: Andre Greipel. The German is chasing a third successive victory on the cobbles and it will be hard to back against him. His compatriot Marcel Kittel won the two before him though and will have a say. But if four-time winner in Paris Mark Cavendish has made it to Paris and needs one more stage to catch Eddy Merckx…

The jerseys

Yellow - the coveted maillot jaune is worn by the rider how has taken the least cumulative time to complete the race after each stage and thus the overall Tour winner. The winner receives 500,000 euros (£440,000).

Green - worn by the leader of the points classification. The maillot vert rewards consistently high finishes with points being awarded for intermediate sprint and end-of-stage placings. The winner receives 25,000 euros (£22,000).

Polka dot – the maillot a pois is worn by the ‘King of the Mountains’. Points are awarded on categorised climbs with the harder ascents offering more points. The winner receives 25,000 euros (£22,000).

White - the maillot blanc has been awarded every year since 1975 and is open to riders aged 25 and under. If a rider is leading any other classification, that jersey takes precedence. The winner receives 20,000 euros (£17,600).

Other prizes

Each stage winner receives 11,000 euros (£9,680).

There is a ‘most combative rider’ prize, selected each day by a jury of four cycling experts. The rider is denoted by a red number on the following stage and the race’s most combative rider – super-combatif – is decided after the final stage and awarded 20,000 euros.

There is also a 50,000 euro (£44,000) prize for the best team performance, which is calculated by adding up the times of the first three riders on each team.

Rob Hayles was talking to BBC Sport’s Peter Scrivener

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cycling/40415125

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