Tour de France: Stage-by-stage guide

The 2015 Tour de France begins in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday, 4 July.

Time trials, expected high winds, cobbles and six-summit finishes, including one atop l’Alpe d’Huez in the penultimate stage, will feature in the 102nd edition of cycling’s most prestigious three-week race, which climaxes in Paris on 26 July.

A total of 198 riders from 22 teams will start the race with Britain’s 2013 winner
Chris Froome,

defending champion
Vincenzo Nibali

of Italy, Spain’s two-time Tour victor
Alberto Contador

and
Nairo Quintana

of Colombia among the favourites.

Team Sky’s
Geraint Thomas,

one of a record-equalling 10 Britons in the race, gives us the lowdown on each stage…

Saturday, 4 July – stage 1: Individual time trial: Utrecht – Utrecht, 13.8km (8.57 miles)

Tour de France stage one

Geraint’s view:

“The 2015 Tour de France begins with an individual time-trial. It’s a short but twisty circuit, so that will favour a punchier rider. Germany’s time-trial champion Tony Martin has that raw power but I think the course might suit Dutchman Tom Dumoulin a bit better. Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara will be there too, and his form looked to be improving at the recent Tour de Suisse.

Geraint’s one to watch: Tom Dumoulin

(Giant-Alpecin) should have the right combination of power and technique to claim the victory and race leader’s yellow jersey on home turf.

Sunday, 5 July – stage 2: Utrecht – Zelande, 166km (103.14 miles)

Tour de France stage two profile

Geraint’s view: ”

This will probably be the most stressful day of the whole year’s racing. It’s along the coast and if there are a lot of crosswinds, that could split the race into groups. The teams with riders aiming for the yellow jersey will be trying to keep their guys at the front of the peloton so they don’t lose time.

“It’s going to be crazy. You just have to ride like a team and make sure you are there at the end. Coming into the finish there could be 10, 30 or 100 guys. Anything could happen really, but it will still be a sprinter who wins the day.

Geraint’s one to watch: ”

Teams that are strong in the crosswinds, like
Mark Cavendish’s

Etixx- Quick Step will look to light it up for their sprinters, while Team Lotto NL Jumbo, being Dutch, will want to perform well on home roads.”

Monday, 6 July – stage 3: Antwerp – Huy, 159.5km (99.1 miles)

Tour de France stage three profile

Geraint’s view:

“My job will be all about getting Chris Froome into a good position at the last climb, the Mur de Huy, which you may know from the Spring Classic La Fleche Wallonne race, but after then you never know. The final stretch has gradients of 19% but at just 1km long there’s not much to it, it’s just about getting to the top fastest.

“Our focus is on Froomey but if I can be up among the top 15 leaders after a good opening week’s racing, that will give us an extra card to play tactically later on in the race, too.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“The finish will be best suited to a punchy rider like Spain’s
Alejandro Valverde

or
Joaquim Rodriguez

but I’ve been working on my climbing and if I’m in a good position I will put my head down and just go for it.”

Tuesday, 7 July – stage 4: Seraing – Cambrai, 223.5km (138.8 miles)

Tour de France stage four profile

Geraint’s view:

“Last year Team Sky didn’t have the best of days on the cobbles, when Froome was forced to abandon, but personally I did pretty well. It’s definitely a stressful day, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to it again.

“If it’s dry it won’t be as bad, but if it rains like last year there could be big time gaps again. It’s certainly a big day for the teams with riders competing for the overall victory.

“Everybody will be stressing about that and you’ve just got to concentrate on being in a good position at the front. The only problem is that’s what 180 other riders want to do. It’s all about fighting for position for when most of the cobbled sections start in the final 50km or so.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“It’s difficult to look beyond the riders who do well in the one-day Spring Classics, which feature cobbled sections. Look out for
Valverde

and
Cancellara

.”

Wednesday, 8 July – stage 5: Arras – Amiens, 189.5km (117.7 miles)

Tour de France stage five profile

Geraint’s view:

“Barring anything really crazy happening, today will certainly be one for the sprinters. There will be a lot of teams looking to set it up for a bunch sprint, especially if they’ve not had the chance for one so far. In terms of contenders there’s obviously the pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Alexander Kristoff and Nacer Bouhanni. There is Slovakia’s Peter Sagan too, who is looking to defend the green points jersey.

Geraint’s one to watch:

“Norway’s
Kristoff

is the standout contender with
Cavendish.

Kristoff has won so many races this year, he’s really moved on to another level and is looking super strong.”

Thursday, 9 July – stage 6: Abbeville – Le Havre, 191.5km (118.9 miles)

Tour de France stage six profile

Geraint’s view:

“There’s a little uphill finish so it could be one for Sagan or Australia’s Michael Matthews rather than the pure sprinters. Maybe Valverde might get up there, too. It depends on what that little kick is like but certainly those riders’ teams will try to take the legs out of the pure sprinters like Cavendish and Kristoff.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“It’ll be set up nicely for
Sagan

or
Matthews

to take the stage.”

Friday, 10 July – stage 7: Livarot – Fougeres, 190.5km (118.3 miles)

Tour de France stage seven profile

Geraint’s view:

“Today will certainly be a bunch sprint. If Kristoff or Cavendish are still searching for their first-stage win they will be really motivated to win this one, as it’ll be their last chance for a while. It will be pretty chaotic I should think. It’s still the first week of the race and it’s still stressful.

“For Team Sky today will be all about keeping Froome up at the front. Our bigger guys like Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe, Bernhard Eisel and Christian Knees, will look to keep him out of trouble. These are the stages when they work hardest.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“Again, it has to come to down either
Kristoff

or
Cavendish.

Whoever wants it most.”

Saturday, 11 July – stage 8: Rennes – Mur de Bretagne, 181.5 km (112.7 miles)

Tour de France stage eight profile

Geraint’s view:

“We rode the Mur de Bretagne at the 2011 Tour when I was in the white jersey as best young rider. It was a real sting in the tale after a heavy day in the rain. It will certainly be a stressful finish and we could see a breakaway or a sprint.

“Even somebody like Alberto Contador might go for the win if they are feeling confident, because this year there is a time bonus of 10 seconds for stage wins.

“That’s a bit less important at a three-week race when you see time gaps of several minutes in the mountains, but it can have an effect on the morale of the team. It’s always nice to be on the front foot gaining time, instead of losing it.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“The stage profile seems to suggest a puncher like
Valverde

but maybe a confident
Contador

could spring a surprise.”

Sunday, 12 July – stage 9: Team time trial: Vannes – Plumelac, 28km (17.4 miles)

Tour de France stage nine profile

Geraint’s view:

“The tactics for a team time trial are simple: ride as fast you can and get the fifth guy over the line as quickly as possible because that is when the clock stops and all the riders in your team get credited with that time.

“It’s a bit different to a normal team time trial because the profile is quite lumpy, and after eight days of hard racing there’ll be a few teams who don’t start with nine riders but six or seven. When you have to finish with five that will make it harder again.

Geraint’s one to watch:

“I can’t see beyond the usual suspects like
Team Sky, Etixx – Quick-Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Astana and BMC.”

Monday, 13 July – rest day

Tuesday, 14 July – stage 10: Tarbes – La Pierre-Saint-Martin, 167km (103.8 miles)

Tour de France stage ten profile

Geraint’s view:

“Froome rode this stage after the Criterium du Dauphine and said it’s pretty tough. It certainly looks that way from the stage profile, and if Froomey says it’s a hard one, it really is. Sometimes after a rest day your legs can feel pretty weird – after racing full gas for nine days and then having a day without that high intensity you can feel pretty lethargic.

“There’s a flat start so a good chance for a breakaway to stay away, but on the final climb we’ll see the first real showdown between all the contenders for the yellow jersey.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“One of the top four contenders will win in the Pyrenees.
Froome, Contador, Quintana

and
Nibali

will all want to show what kind of legs they’ve got.

Wednesday, 15 July – stage 11: Pau – Cauterets, 188km (116.8 miles)

Tour de France

Geraint’s view:

“This stage in the Pyrenees certainly lends itself to a breakaway. None of the teams chasing the overall win will ride full gas for the entire stage because the last climb isn’t that hard. But it can still cause problems.

“There might be a few guys cracking and they could lose minutes off the back, because the Col d’Aspin and the Tourmalet are two solid climbs, and with the long descent towards the finish it won’t be a straightforward day, that’s for sure.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

We’re likely to see a breakaway but it will have to be a rider suited to climbing, with the Aspin and the Tourmalet. Attacking French rider
Thomas Voeckler

may fancy it.

Thursday, 16 July – stage 12: Lannemezan – Plateau de Beille, 195km (121.1 miles)

Tour de France stage 12 profile

Geraint’s view:

“This is probably the hardest of the three Pyrenean stages, and coming third, everyone will be feeling the last couple of days. This will be a big showdown between the yellow jersey contenders. If anybody has lost a bit of time in the first week, possibly at the team time trial, they will really get stuck in on this stage to try and win back as much as they can.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

It’s a big classic Pyrenean stage and we will see
Nibali, Contador, Froome

and
Quintana

battling it out.

Friday, 17 July – stage 13: Muret – Rodez, 198.5km (123.3 miles)

Tour de France stage 13 profile

Geraint’s view:

“The stage profile suggests today should suit a breakaway winner, but they don’t seem to work too much these days. Riders like Sagan, Germany’s John Degenkolb and Mathews can quite easily win a day like this and their teams might look to light it up in their bid for the green points jersey.

“In the past there weren’t too many of those types of riders around – riders who can get over all those climbs quickly and still be able to sprint. They will want to get as many points as they can, when the pure sprinters like Cavendish or Greipel, can’t.”

Geraint’s one to watch:


Sagan, Degenkolb and Mathews

all have the legs to get over the climbs and still have the legs to compete for the stage win in a sprint.

Saturday, 18 July – stage 14: Rodez – Mende, 178.5km (111 miles)

Tour de France stage 14 profile

Geraint’s view:

“This should be another breakaway day as we continue heading towards the Alps. I don’t think the teams of Sagan or Matthews would ride to bring a break back, because it’s a really tough finish. It’s a 3km ascent at 10%, and you certainly know about it when you reach the bottom.

“For Team Sky, it’s all about making sure it’s the right riders in the breakaway. As long as there’s nobody who could compete for the overall lead you can let them go.

“It’s still a dangerous little finish though, and you could still see one of the yellow jersey contenders looking to chip off a bit of time with an attack.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

A day for the breakaway but the steep finish into Mende could see drama in the race for the yellow jersey, so keep an eye on
Froome, Contador, Nibali

and
Quintana.

Sunday, 19 July – stage 15: Mende – Valence, 183km (113.7 miles)

Tour de France stage 15 profile

Geraint’s view:

“This will be another stage where teams like Sagan’s Tinkoff-Saxo and Matthews’ Orica GreenEdge will look to distance the pure sprinters to set up the stage win for themselves.

But even if they do manage to open a gap on the major climb of the day, there’s still another 55km to the finish and it will be a tall order to keep riders like Cavendish and Greipel off the back. They will have enough team-mates around them to stand a good chance of getting back in contention.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

A day for the pure sprinters like
Cavendish

or
Grepiel?

Or a day for
Sagan

or
Matthews?

It could go either way.

Monday, 20 July – stage 16: Bourg de Peage – Gap, 201km (124.8 miles)

Tour de France stage 16 profile

Geraint’s view:

“This descent into Gap for the stage finish is very dodgy indeed. Riding at the 2003 Tour, Lance Armstrong had to go off the road and ride across a field to avoid Joseba Beloki, who had fallen off ahead of him. And the last time the Tour rode it, in 2013, Froome and Contador had to go off the road too.

“It’s stressful, because everybody knows there’s been problems in the past. It’ll certainly be nervous racing up the top before a big sprint down the descent, because this is where Nibali could go for a flyer to try and gain a bit of time. Contador too, again back in 2013, showed his skill on the descents, when he didn’t really have the legs for the climbs.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

“It’s a day for the breakaway. France’s Sylvan Chavanel might fancy it. Portugal’s former world champion Rui Costa won the last stage into Gap in 2013 so could do the same if he is out of the running for the general classification. With the descent into Gap being twisty the peloton will still be stressed and racing for the line. An action packed final.”

Tuesday, 21 July – rest day

Wednesday, 22 July – stage 17: Digne-les-bains – Pra Loup, 161km (100 miles)

Tour de France stage 17 profile

Geraint’s view:

“All the yellow jersey contenders will try to go as hard as they can on the final climb and into the finish. It can be pretty sketchy, and when you are riding for your team leader you don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. If an attack comes, the main thing is not panicking and sticking together.

“Usually, so long as whoever attacks is on his own, there’s no major drama. But if there’s a team-mate with him, or if he could catch up with the breakaway, then that can pose a real threat.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

France’s
Romain Bardet

won this exact same stage at the Criterium du Dauphine with a brilliant descent, but
Nibali

is equally gifted going downhill.

Thursday, 23 July – stage 18: Gap – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 186.5km (115.8 miles)

Tour de France stage 18 profile

Geraint’s view:

“This should be a day for the breakaway to succeed. I don’t think a lot will be happening in terms of the yellow jersey because everybody will be keeping an eye on each other before the final two days in the mountains, because even though they’re short, they have got some savage climbs. Everybody will want to keep as much in the tank as possible.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

Switzerland’s
Mathias Frank

is a decent climber and if his IAM Cycling team have not had a good Tour, he may go looking for a stage win.

Friday, 24 July – stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – La Toussuire 138km (85.7 miles)

Tour de France stage 19 profile

Geraint’s view:

“With a difficult climb straight from the off, whoever has the yellow jersey will not only have to watch out for the top-five riders but those just outside.

“There is always somebody in the top seven or eight who can still be pretty dangerous on a stage like this, even if they are four or five minutes down.

“It’s only 138km long, so it’s not a huge day in the mountains and you can ride hard. I think it will be full-gas racing from start to finish.

“There’s likely to be a big breakaway with more than 10 riders, Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team and Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team too could send a man up the road.

“And Team Sky might do the same. When it comes to the final climb, each of the big contenders could have a good carrot to chase, what with the time bonus for the stage win, and people to help them down the road. We should see a big showdown.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

France’s
Thibaut Pinot.

He was third overall last year, which shows he can get over the mountains. Much will depend on how far off the lead he is.

Saturday, 25 July – stage 20: Modane – Alpe d’Huez 100km (62.1 miles)

Tour de France stage 20 profile

Geraint’s view:

“I’ve ridden the Alpe d’Huez quite a few times and it certainly lives up to the legend. We rode it twice in the 2013 Tour, and it featured in the Criterium du Dauphine too.

“There was a

rock slide on the Galibier

and they’ve actually taken that out of the race now and we’ll be going over the Col de la Croix de Fer instead.

“On a solid day like this, somebody could have a bad day and end up losing the Tour, no matter what’s happened over the past three weeks.

“A lot could still happen and it will be an exciting day for the fans and stressful for the riders. It will be stressful for the sprinters like Mark Cavendish, too, because they will be looking to make the time cut.”

Geraint’s one to watch:

With the winner to be decided today, it could be a big shoot-out on the final climb. Will
Chris Froome

be trying to claw back time or defend a lead?

Sunday, 26 July – stage 21: Sevres- Paris 109.5km (68 miles)

Tour de France stage 21 profile

Geraint’s view:

“The Tour de France has been won on the final day before but whenever I’ve been there that’s never happened. It’s always been a procession until you hit the circuits on the Champs Elysees. But I can tell you, no matter how easy and relaxed it looks on the TV, it is hard. That circuit can definitely hurt you.

“Nothing usually changes in terms of who has the yellow jersey, but if there is a threat of rain that can always add that bit of stress that you don’t want on the final day. It’s all about the sprinters and them doing their thing really.

Geraint’s one to watch: Cavendish

has won four times in Paris but he will be especially motivated to win a fifth after missing out to Marcel Kittel in 2013 and crashing out on stage one last year.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/33299630

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