2014 Tour de France

Tour de France 2014

It’s official we can see the map for real, watch the excellent video montages and crucially learn more about the roads between the start and finish towns.

The grand départ had long been announced and with Thomas Vergouwen’s detective work had mapped out much of the route already. You wonder why ASO don’t try to get ahead of this and make a media event of releasing a few select stage details in the months prior.

Le Big Start
The British start had been known for some time, three stages that should suit the sprinters but the opening weekend contains some hills and tricky roads lined by stone walls, one mistake and some won’t even make it to France. The crowd will be a big factor, many came out in 2007 for the London start, even more for the 2012 Olympic road race.

Cobbled and Crashes
Back to France and the rest of the opening week looks set to suit the sprinters too but with the infamous pavé from Paris-Roubaix but that’s the point, the pavé don’t belong to Paris-Roubaix, they are part of Le Nord and the Tour has the right to visit too. Stage 5 to Arenberg is similar to 2010 when the cobbles shook up the overall classification and in hindsight gave Andy Schleck most of his winning margin over the now-vanished Denis Menchov… and where Fränk Schleck crashed out.

Only this time there are more cobbles including the Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pévèle sections although in part and avoiding some fo the most brutal components. With the narrow roads in Britain and pavé, the first week will be even more stressful than usual with the fear of crashes.

The opening week will look further back, a war memorial theme given the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1914-1918 war. The race will pass along the front line of many battles from the last century. Getting the balance right will matter as the Tour is a summer festival rather than a solemn procession. But it’s part of the Tour’s heritage, year after year the race founder Henri Desgrange defiantly sent the race to the German border with the symbolic passage over the Ballon d’Alsace.

En Vosges
It’s back to the Ballon d’Alsace, it’s now firmly in France since borders were redrawn after the war. All changes as the race reaches the Vosges mountains for a three day weekend.

Two heavy stages for puncheurs but it’s Stage 10 on 14 July Bastille Day that’s a real mountain stage, several climbs precede the mini-summit finish on the Planche des Belles Filles. It means a 10 day wait to discover the GC contenders but it’s not enough to create big time gaps.

A rest day awaits and then the race heads south via Oyonnax and St Etienne, two post-industrial towns that could do with some of the Tour’s summery cheer.

One night in the Alps
A rest day and then the second week sees the race head towards the Alps but only for a short visit. Friday visits Chamrousse, a ski station at the end of the Belledone range.

Tour de France Stage 13

The Col de Palaquit is new for the Tour and it’s steep and irregular, the kind of Alpine climb ideal to split things up a bit before the descent which is back on familiar roads off the Col de Porte. There are two roads to Chamrousse and it looks like they’re taking the harder one. It’s steep with 10% sections at the start before easing although still hard work. A summit finish but it steadies out.

Risoul climb

Next up we get the stage Risoul. It’s new to the Tour but comes after the classic climbs of the Lautaret and the Izoard. Risoul has been used before in the Dauphiné and other races. It’s regulière with a wide road and predictable gradients but steep in places. Want a clue? Nairo Quintana won two stages of the Tour de l’Avenir when it finished here in 2010. And that’s it for the Alps.

The Pyrenees
Two transition stages rush the race to the Pyrenees and avoid the often windy coastline. Three stages in the Pyrenees await. Stage 16 takes the race over two climbs to finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon, the longest stage of the race at 237km. Then comes a pair of mountain stages with summit finishes, interestingly each are very short.

Stage 17 to Pla d’Adet is just 125km long. It was first used 40 years ago and has a steep start, 10km at over 8%; Hautacam is longer at 14km but a more gentle 7% but irregular and comes after the Tourmalet. This will be the route of the 2014 Etape du Tour.

Final Time Trial
Stage 20 brings the only time trial so you wonder if the likes of Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara will haul themselves around France for three weeks just for this. You have to go back to 1953 for the last time the Tour had just one time trial. At 54km it’s long but it still means the 2014 Tour will have the shortest amount of time trial kilometres in living memory. Bergerac to Périgueux is a nice place to visit, with rolling terrain past fields of sunflowers and tobacco.

All that’s left is the Champs Elysées, a classic finish in the afternoon that we’ll have to get used to after last year’s nocturne.

Chris Froome Tour de France Ventoux

Who will win?
It’s over 250 days until the race starts so the crystal ball is a bit cloudy. But what can stop Chris Froome? The cobbles might scare him but he’s got a strong team to pace him and from then on the summit finishes and final time trial will suit him. Nairo Quintana gets better every year and if the final time trial is less to his advantage, he can’t hope for more given it’s in the final week and the 2014 race has the fewest amount of kilometres since 1930-something if you add up the total TT count of prologues, team time trials and solo TTs.

We’ll also see Vincenzo Nibali in action, he targeted the Giro this year and now has the Tour in his sights for 2014. Crunch time for Alberto Contador, perhaps he’ll need to get some early season success to prove a point before July? Rui Costa will be of interest too, you know him for his one day wins but he’s won the Tour de Suisse twice on the trot.

Tactically the Vosges could be interesting, the kind of terrain where it’s harder for a team to control a bunch. But that’s up to the riders. We got excited in 2009 with a stage from Vittel to Colmar only for the main GC riders to huddle together all today. The same for the Pyrenees, the short distances are reminiscent of the high speed stage to the Semnoz.

Tour de France 101 Verdict
The five summit finishes outweigh the long time trial but there’s more to it than this. A British start and the war memorial theme will be different and surviving the first week intact will be an achievement, the pavé are controversial, imagine if it rains.

The Vosges offer a fun introduction to the mountains. The summit finishes vary, the Planche des Belles Filles is short and of the two Alpine finishes, Risoul should be more selective but it’s still a big wide road. Note the absence of big name climbs. No Alpe d’Huez or Galibier, although the race crosses the Col d’Izoard as the high point and there’s the dependable Tourmalet. The Pyrenees start with a long stage but finish with two mountain concentrates which will be great to watch from start to finish.

You can pick out several sprint finishes already and Peter Sagan will find more competition from the pure sprinters this time although to his advantage the points could be diluted amongst Mark Cavendish, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and more leaving the Slovak with a good chance.

As ever the best thing with the Tour is its enormity, the daily soap opera of stories and subplots so as much as we can project from today’s presentation, who knows what July will bring?

Stage 1: Leeds > Harrogate
Stage 2: York > Sheffield
Stage 3: Cambridge > London
Stage 4: Le Touquet Paris-Plage > Lille
Stage 5: Ypres > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
Stage 6: Arras > Reims
Stage 7: Epernay > Nancy
Stage 8: Tomblaine > Gérardmer
Stage 9: Gérardmer > Mulhouse
Stage 10: Mulhouse > Planche des Belles Filles
Rest day in Besançon
Stage 11: Besançon > Oyonnax
Stage 12: Bourg-en-Bresse > Saint-Etienne
Stage 13: Saint-Etienne > Chamrousse
Stage 14: Grenoble > Risoul
Stage 15: Tallard > Nîmes
Rest day in Carcassonne
Stage 16: Carcassonne > Bagnères-de-Luchon
Stage 17: Saint-Gaudens > St-Lary-Soulan (Pla d’Adet)
Stage 18: Pau > Hautacam
Stage 19: Maubourguet val d’Adour > Bergerac
Stage 20: Bergerac > Périgueux (TT)
Stage 21: Evry > Paris

65 thoughts on “2014 Tour de France”

  1. Great preview! Some interesting twists on what we’re used to: only one time trial and not a prologue or TTT in sight. The reduced focus on the Alps seems to be a plan to keep the race simmering over until the final reshuffle in the Pyrenees and that solitary time trial.

    I’d have thought they’d keep the late finish in Paris so as to loop round the Arc again, but maybe they can still do that?

  2. Nice to see the cobbles there but maybe I’ll change my mind if it takes out Nairo Quintana from the race and Froome has no challengers.

    What was the theme of the presentation?

    • Agreed about the cobbles, the fear of the cobbles is one thing but if someone wipes out and brings down a GC contender then everyone loses.

      The theme was “internationalisation”, there was a nod to the 1914-1918 war but it’s about starting in Britain and visiting other countries, it won’t be a tour of the battlefields even if this will, I’m sure, be part of the first week.

  3. I believe that this is a good and balanced route and based on 2013 form Froome looks bound to pick up no. 2…. he will just need to hang on until the TT and attack the others there..

    If TREK manages to turn things around for Andy, then there will be quite a show on. He will gain some good time on the other contenders on the cobbles as I think that Cancellara will not miss out on a possible TdF win on cobbles. Sky has a good classics team and should be able to protect Froome, while I cannot remember a movistar jersey when watching a cobbled race…

    • Stannard and Thomas are OK, but nothing special. Anyway they are capable of protecting Froome on the cobbles. But I wouldn’t say Sky has a good classics team, since they only had a 2nd a 4th and two 6th places this year in all classics. They only won once with Flecha in the Omloop in 2010.

        • He certainly had a nightmare with crashes last spring – a mix of his own fault with positioning at times, and others taking out his wheel at other times. However, doesnt mean that every season from now on will have an exact repeat of last spring for him.

          G won Junior P-R in ’04 and he finished 2nd behind Hushovd on the cobbles stage of the ’10 Tour. Between G, Stannard and Eisel, they’re more than capable of shepherding Froome through the 15k of cobbles.

      • How does a 2,4,6,6 not translate to a good classics team? You take out Sagan and Cancellera and what team had better? And I am NOT a fan of Sky – but they are a team to be dealt with in most races.

        • I guess I wasn’t specific enough. Out of 12 races (Omloop, Strade B, MSR, Harelbeke, GW, RvF, P-R, AGR, FW, LBL, San Sebastian and Lombardia) I meant. They’re not bad, but I won’t say they are good either – you’re right: a team that the others should not forget about.
          Answering your question, obviously Katusha (even better than RLT or Cannondale), OPQS (although they are not very proud of their season, but still), and I would also mention BMC and Movistar, they all performed better in the classics.

  4. After personal experience of the Hautacam this year on a trans-Pyrennean epic, I rated it the hardest climb on that trip, beating Tourmalet, Aubisque, Marie Blanque, Porter d’Aspet etc. After the hard side of Tourmalet, that could well produce some real gaps

    • It’s similar to the 2008 stage between Pau and Hautacam although this time even shorter as it heads straight for the Tourmalet. Hautacam has a steep start and is very irregular, a perfect climb for Quintana, Betancur or even Elissonde.

  5. I’d say this course makes it Nibali’s best chance to win LeTour. I think one big chrono stage is enough, especially when the mountain finish stages don’t look to be enormously difficult. If I was French however I’d be incensed that Le Beeg Shew is avoiding so much of western France in 2014. Same with the 2014 Giro, I’d rather see these national tours spend most of their time in the home country instead of these money-grabbing adventures to those tiny, unimportant islands in the north. 🙂

    • I don’t want to be rude to the locals but the west of France is largely flat and boring. The TT will be scenic and it’s on lumpy roads but, unlike Italy, most of France’s mountains are on its borders. The Massif Central is almost too depopulated to bid/merit the race.

      • I followed the thing around from 1988 through 1998 with an organized tour group, so I’d bet I’ve probably been over 80% of the roads used by LeTour in it’s history. Flat and boring seems to be pretty OK for the first week of Le Beeg Shew in most recent editions so that excuse falls a bit, well… flat.
        I am NOT personally angry about it, but if I think a whole lot of folks in that huge area of France will not be happy their national tour will be so far away from them in 2014 while instead it goes a LONG way away, in what is pretty much a money-grab. Purely from a sporting perspective I can’t find much fault with the route, except perhaps the lack of a team chrono stage?

      • I dont know how broad your “west of France” definition is, but except the “Landes” region I dont see any area so flat that you cant have a vertically challenging parcours.
        In fact Brittany (which is a great part of this west of france) is the most active french region race-wise, and has no reputation of a “flat races” land. It’s more small and twisty roads, always up and down with possibilities to find 5-10mn climbs. Could suit a sprint day parcours as well as a rather chaotic one in my opinion.

        • The Mur de Bretagne was good with Contador, Evans and others in action but even if it’s a great region for cycling, it’s rarely selective… unless the Tour thinks about usning the “ribins” (tracks) like the Tro Bro Leon.

          • I completely agree, you won’t find any climb sufficiently selective on its own for pro riders. But as dutch and belgians do with their classics, the region could host a very difficult stage with a infinite succession of shother climbs. Look at the amateur/semi-pro Tour de Bretagne for example, won by the same rider than the Tour of Austria this year.

  6. Stage 5 is indeed intriguing. Some cobbled sections to spice things up and almost ensure some kind of breakaway win.

    For me though the addition of cobbles is exciting because of the potential dilemma’s it throws up in team selections. How many teams will throw in their cobbled classics guys in the hope of a TdF stage win at the expense of a climber or sprint train domestique? Will Boonen/Vanmarcke/Stybar etc feature at the expense of others and possibly affect teams plans? Surely OPQS will want to win stage 5 and if so how many helpers can they bring for Cavendish (and possibly Uran) if they load up on classics-men?

    A long way to go but some interesting stories due to unfold in the run up to the race and it’ll be nice to see the classics being tied into the TdF build up in the way that stage races are (how does a result in one affect selection/chances for the other etc).

    • I can’t see teams sacrificing GC or sprint trains for one stage by including more Classics
      riders! More likely they will include cobbles-specific training in their preparation.
      As Brailford said: a Grand Tour cobble stage is very different to a one-day cobble Classic.
      I do wonder about the mechanics aspect though. Will the teams bring Classics-specific
      bikes in their trucks as well, you know, the Granfondo/SL4 Roubaix/KobH, etc or will
      they just include Paris-Roubaix wheels and tyres, as well as double-wrap bar tape?!

  7. The stages in the Vosges look interesting – continues Prudhomme’s taste for “medium” mountain stages.

    Also the short stage to Hautacam should be a cracker!

    And I for one am glad to see the cobbles back. The 2010 cobbled stage was the best of the whole race.

  8. Having ridden some of the roads around the grand depart, it’s a very under-appreciated area of the country that hopefully gets a tourism boost out of this. It will make good tourism TV as long as the route keeps the riders on the older, narrower roads. It could make very good racing too!

    I’m sure some readers here will be able to comment on the first and second stage details. Look forward to hearing all about it!

    • I was pleasantly surprised by the route through Yorkshire (closest point 4 miles from my home) and that it is not shying away from some of the smaller roads. As I drove up Wharfedale with my family at the weekend our main topics of conversation were what good TV tourism it will be (so long as the weather plays ball) and how narrow the roads are, at least for a nervous peloton on day 1. Unlike some other narrow roads there is no margin for error with dry stone walls marking the edge of the road in many places and all it would take is an over-zealous fan (or sheep) knocking the odd stone into the road… A stage for avoiding trouble I would say.

      I don’t know how nailed on the exact finish point is in Harrogate but the clearest map I’ve seen appears to suggest that there is a short kick up only a short distance from the finish. I’d pick Sagan over the pure sprinters.

      Oh yes, Yorkshire weather. If it’s good it will be fantastic but if it’s cold and the roads are wet, then Nibali will be smiling a lot more than Andy. The descents are not long by Alpine standards but they twist & are steep in places and those dry stone walls are never far away.

      Stage 2 looks interesting, especially as it approaches Sheffield. After some of the longer climbs in the region, the route turns off the main road and along much smaller roads with a few short but very steep climbs. Definitely a chance here for a few opportunist riders, although there may be enough road for it all to come back together on the run in to Sheffield.

      I for one can’t wait!

  9. I don’t think Quintana will be racing next year’s Tour, as it’s shaping up to be a real dogfight between Nibali and Froome and the firepower they will have at their disposal. Even though next year’s route is tilted toward the climbers, the lone TT on the second to last stage is long enough to severely diminish any time gains the Movistar climber will accrue.
    Movistar will put it all behind Valverde for the FINAL time while letting Quintana whet his beak in the Giro.

    • Quintana, Evans and Porte in the Giro would be a great race. However I would love him to stay in the tour. I’m surprised Contador is not rating much of a mention. This would suit his attacking style. It is good at least to see the Prudhomme is doing all he cn to make for interesting riding with no forgone conclusions (unlike 2012).

  10. One wonders why GC contenders don’t wear downhill or keirin-style pads to protect themselves from crashes on the flat first week (aside from the obvious conclusion that it would look retarded).

  11. Great preview, thanks.

    However, labeling the British stages “three stages that should suit the sprinters” , not so sure. The stage to Sheffield will be certainly no sprinters stage; it really is as hard as Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and with a steep climb 5 km for the finish it will be more a first chance for the GC favourites to test each other than for the sprinters. But even the first stage, which everyone seems to label as something for the pure sprinters, will surprise some. Three proper climbs in the Dales and winding roads after that: it’ll be a sprint but I’d put money on Sagan/Degenkolb rather than Cavendish/Kittel.

    • I’m with you. A lot of people are going to find it hard-going. Put it like this, Cav knows those roads and climbs – he rode them plenty during his time with the Academy – and he knows that his best chances early doors are stages 1 and 3. Stage 2 is going to be hard-going for a lot of the peloton. And as always the caution about just how grippy the British roads are compared to what the pros are used to elsewhere. It always catches out riders who come to ride in the UK for the first time at the Tour of Britain. Most apt description I heard recently was an ex-pro saying that its like riding on carpet.

  12. I’m gobsmacked that this year Le Tour passed through the commune in which I now live in France. Next year we have a Grand Départ in my home county of Yorkshire! It’ll be an ‘interesting’ tour in ’14, that’s for sure! For all the public cameraderie, I wonder whether there’ll be a battle royale between Froom & Wiggo? And what to make of the chances of a sprinter topping the GC? Go Cav, it could be you!

  13. Thanks for the detail look at what we have coming.
    We are starting the slow simmer as the weather starts to cool
    No mention of a GC revised Sharp-Garmin?
    Dan Martin may like to give it a go, starting in the second stage.

    • I think Dan Martin’s going to line up for the Giro, given the Ireland start next year. Doesnt mean he might not ride the Tour, but if he’s team leader at the Giro, maybe supporting role/stage hunter at the Tour only. I reckon JV will back Talansky for the Tour next year.

      • what’s happened to Ryder? a one hit wonder? surely Garmin would give a GT team leadership role to the guy who’s actually done it over Martin/Talansky?

        • I have an English friend and he contends that a “proper Irish lad would want to bullocks the English by winning a stage in England” ?

          Any value to that?

  14. Froome is the greatest favorite, but the organizers have done everything “legal” to avoid the repeating of the scenario when Froome grabs the yellow soon and defends it till Champs Elysees. First 8-9 stages could see several different riders in yellow, the pavé (especially if it rains) could create some margins among top GC riders, mountain-top finishes could suit also Quintana, Nibali, Contador, Rodriguez (every commentator seems to forget other Colombians: Uran and Betancour) and the “Froome day” – the only TT was postponed to the last possibility. It may happen that Froome rides in yellow only in Paris – and I’m sure he would accept it 😉
    Concerning green jersey, I don’t see much space left for the pure sprinters. There are at least three of them, thus Kittel, Cav and Greipel can share the podiums of some 6 -7 flat stages but it will be sufficient for Sagan to finish say among the top 4 there and concentrate on the stages more appropriate for him (like 2., 7., maybe 8., etc.) , i. e. punchy and/or with short uphill finishes. Versatility should dominate specialization again.

      • Thank you for the link. Later I read the same opinion also on the czech site roadcycling.cz. Citing:
        “The organizers try to keep the race dramatic as long as possible by the route composition. That is why they put only one TT lately. So that Chris Froome builds a great margin only at the very end of the race.”

  15. I see Sky talking up that both Froome and Wiggo could line up in Leeds next July; perhaps they need an insurance as the latter doesn’t appear as daunted by the cobbles as Froome does, also less climbing next year than this?

    • I don’t think Froome is particularly daunted by the cobbles, compared to the other favourites. He’s done Paris-Roubaix before, and has a bit of a MTB background (which helps, as Hesjedal and Evans showed in 2010). He just said he’d rather not have them in the Tdf as it increases the risk of crashes and punctures.

      • In ’08 he rode G-W and – to my surprise when I looked it up – he also came 22nd at Scheldeprijs as part of the huge group behind Cav, that included Boonen. Not bad at all, particularly when you think how ramshackle an outfit Barloworld were…

  16. can anyone give me information on the actual roads that the tour will be taking in france ex. N7 . As I
    would like to follow part of the tour by car. I saw stage 10 St Malo finish this year which was quite easy travelling to by ferry.
    Many thanks
    Graham Lewis

    • The full route will be published in May. For some stages the routes are obvious, for a mountain stage once you know the passes climbed then the route can be traced quite easily, the same with the cobbled stages as you can guess the sections of ordinary road needed to link the pavé together. But for the more ordinary stages all of the route might not be fixed yet.

  17. Can someone please give us more info with regard to the final stage in Paris – the route for the day. We have read some info on various website, but still no specific route (that is before they enter the Camps Elysee) and the circle route that follows.

    Will really appreciate

      • Thanks very much – perhaps I should be more clear – apologies our first time in Paris for the final stage – I read that hey will enter the Champs Elysee from a different pont – not the same as last year – but does this mean that they will do the same “circle route”, that is along the Seine river, under the bridge at the Louvre, onto the Rue de Rivoli, around the Place de la Concorde, back onto the Champs Elyzsee – similar to last year and I presume years before.

        Really apprecaite very much.

        Best regards

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