The 2015 Tour de France

2015 Tour de France route map
The route for the 2015 Tour de France is out. As usual a lot leaks out before, sleuths the stages and yesterday race organiser ASO accidentally put a PDF online with the route yesterday. But it’s still a comforting ritual, a projection to the other side of winter.

This is a chance to see the map for real and to get more info on the route such as the intermediate climbs, the amount of time trialling and novelties such as the return of time bonuses. Plus race organisers can sell us a story, a theme for 2015.

Don’t call it a prologue, the opening time trial has been known for ages but assumes more relevance as the only solo TT in the race.

The Mur de Huy features. Famous for its steep climb the hardest part could be the 10km approach as teams fight for position to place their leader. Time bonuses are back but only for the opening week.

The Tour returns to the pavé. Too soon? Perhaps if the fear factor wears off but the ratings soared last year. With so many climbs this is a rare chance to flick the mountain goats out of the way.

Christian Prudhomme
Christian Prudhomme, scourge of disc wheel manufacturers

The race crosses the north of France for the usual high tension sprint finishes and a punchy uphill finish on the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb where Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador dueled in 2011. The time gaps will be small but it promises another finish for all comers, classics riders vs the yellow jersey contenders.

The team trial comes relatively late in the race, after the crash-fest opening week. A UCI rule says a TTT must happen in the first third of the race but ASO will ask for a derogation. The sensible rule ensures all teams start on a reasonably equal basis and this might not be the case next July. The first rest day ends 10 day run, apparently the longest it’s ever taken for the Tour to reach the mountains, meaning a long nervous period of crashes, crosswinds and changing race leadership.

Pierre St Martin is the first summit finish, a brutal shift of gears after a week of churning a big gear. The road to the ski station has been used once before, in 2007, but in reverse, a descent. It’s a tough climb with a very awkward middle section with 8km at 8-10%. Ignore the average gradients, the slope rears like a bucking bronco (15% in places) but calms down to the final 6-7km. Hard but it could allow riders to regroup. The Pyrenees get three stages with another summit finish on the awkward Plateau de Beille which will have many setting their stopwatches to compare with times past.

A visit to Rodez looks unremarkable but it’s a nod to race sponsor RAGT, a crop seed company, that is based there. The race returns to Mende and the climb of the Croix-Neuve. Not a summit finish but anyone with a gap over the top can expect to keep it to the line.

The race heads for the Alps and more summit fever. Note the distances, 161km, 185km, 138km and 110km. In the past this would feel wimpy but these short stages are designed to encourage action. It’s all hard and features the Lacets de Montvernier for the first time. The final stage in the Alps is a contrated affair and a copy of the 2011 route where Pierre Rolland sacked Contador and Samuel Sanchez.

Tour de France stage 20 alps d'huez

  • 9 flat stages
  • 3 hilly stages
  • 7 mountain stages including 5 summit finishes
  • 1 14km individual time trial
  • 1 28km team time trial

Route Verdict
A vertical Tour de France made for television. The route is packed withnratings best hits like cobbles, early uphill skirmishes and a series of summit finishes.

Early time bonuses will ensure the yellow jersey changes shoulders during the first week instead of belonging to the Utrecht TT winner. The longer the race goes on the more it should settle into a pattern. About as many kilometres are allocated to the pavé as a solo time trial. With so little time trialling the mountains will be judge and jury.

Nairo Quintana Semnoz Tour de France

Who will win?
With over 250 days to go any crystal ball is cloudy. Antoine Blondin wrote the Tour de France is “first and foremost a geography lesson” so knowing the terrain helps to see what’s coming. But only partially, we cannot imagine the weather, tactics and so on.

On geography alone 2015 is for the climbers. Never have there been so few time trial kilometres, at least in the modern era. Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador are the obvious picks. Quintana is still eligible for the white jersey next summer but if time is on his side this is likely to be his best chance in a long time.

Vincenzo Nibali can be happy with the route given a time trial is probably his weakest area. Chris Froome’s saying on his website he might not ride, rude or just honest uncertainty?

Tour de France podium 2014

Le Tour parfait?
L’Equipe got Romain Bardet and Thibault Pinot to draw their ideal routes for a feature in today’s paper. But remember the Tour route is often decided 12-18 months in advance: the 2015 route isn’t a reaction to domestic success last summer. But it’s very suitable to Pinot and Bardet, even if Pinot is maturing as a time trial rider.

Bis repetita?
Summit finishes can be audience blockbusters but with so many next year some viewers might feel they’re watching a repeat episode. A mountain pass means reduced speed, removing the single most important tactical element of road racing: drafting. Reduced to a contest of power-to-weight ratios the results are often identical if not similar. The risk is the third week becomes a parade confirming a hierarchy already established in the Pyrenees, especially as there’s no time trial after the Alps to tilt the balance back.

Sprinters Jersey
The points competition is often won by a sprinter but there’s often confusion among a large share of the audience: why doesn’t the best sprinter wear the green jersey. Of course you know it’s because the can’t always take points every day. But a new points scale will reward the sprinters even more, tilting the competition towards the likes of Marcel Kittel and away from Peter Sagan. But the Slovak still remains the obvious contender.

121 thoughts on “The 2015 Tour de France”

  1. When I was a kid I used to love watching the mountain stages, with GC riders losing minutes on a single stage. I’ve always found watching time trialling as interesting as watching paint dry.

    But even I am beginning to find the grand tours excessively loaded towards climbers, watching the same handful of riders battle it out for a few seconds on what feels like every single stage. The Vuelta, for example, seems to have almost given up on time trials.

    It shows how unbalanced all the grand tours have become when the 2012 Tour was slated as being too biased to time trialists, when it only included 59 miles of individual time trialing. I know overall distances have come down, but the 1985 Tour (picked at random) had 96 miles of TTs, plus a prologue and a team time trial!

  2. Is this route a reaction to the 2012 and 2013 editions, where the eventual GC winners were dominant in TTs over their GC rivals, considering the lead in time that planning the route requires?

    I find it hard to accept that a rinse and repeat of MTFs is better entertainment for TV than a race where there is an uncertain outcome over varying terrain between riders with differing qualities.

    • Also, the mountain top finishes actually become more exciting when there is a late TT that could reverse any gains the climber makes.

      Given the small gaps between the leading contenders on most climbs now, a lead of a minute might as well be an hour if there is no time trial to offer the chance to even things up. One poorly timed crash could finish your Tour with little prospect of getting enough time back.

    • We’ll have to see what the future brings, whether ASO are working in cycles to bring varying routes and so 2016 reverts to a race with a course to suit time trial riders, à la 2012. Or whether the TV ratings and popularity of summit finishes sees the current trend perpetuated. Hopefully we get the variety. But ultimately we need several riders close on GC, it’s surely the relative contest that makes the race come alive?

  3. Wow, for a second I thought. I was looking at a Vuelta route. This is insane. 6 mountain top finishes and one ITT of 14 km!! Jeez. Even the Giro and the vuelta have at least one ITT of 30+ kilometers. This is crazy. I thought the tour was supposed to be the “balanced” grand tour, but next years giro will have a 60k ITT. Everything is backwards. This is literally going to be the best chance someone like Quintana or Pinot are ever going to have to win the tour. They must have been peeing themselves in excitement. On the other hand, I imagine TJVG isn’t too pleased…

  4. So if Froome opts for Giro-Vuelta, who would Sky have as a leader for the Tour? König, Porte, Henao, Roche?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find the race presentation actually a bit boring – or perhaps it’s the timing: I’m still digesting the past season, looking for a little R&R, and here comes the publicity caravan demanding my attention already. Well, at least I look forward to riding my bike the ~30km to the Grand Depart and stage 1 🙂

    • I wouldn’t bet on Froome’s missing the race yet. It was a statement on his website rather than official team press release or a Sky News exclusive, so his personal hesitancy rather than an agreed team policy I suspect.

        • froome would become a bit of a disappointment to sky if he would do that.
          last year many saw him as a future serial tdf-winner.
          gives not a very good picture if he backs down from the single most important cycling event of the year.

      • Agreed, and Dave Brailsford had to insist this year that it was “(his) decision alone” who raced and who didn’t. Froome stating he may not do the TdF appears to be a direct challenge to that authority.

    • Indeed, he must surely start. Especially if Bertie & Nibs will both have the Giro in their legs, a fresh Froome could compete across 6 MTF’s with success. It is a bit premature to think otherwise, considering how dominant he was in 2013.

      A good plan B could be Konig, who was climbing and time trialling well to 7th place in Tour 2014. If Froomey is absent, his move to SKY looks like a masterstroke.

  5. Only 14 km of individual time trials? Really? It’s a joke? I really don’t like this…. GC winmners should be versatile riders, not pure climbers.

  6. Neither Quintana or Contador are going to be happy on the cobbles (especially if it’s wet) so there could be time to made there by Nibali (doubt that it’ll make Froomedog happy either) and then it’s into the mountains and may the best man win. BUT the ITTs seem to have gone the other way from Indurain’s day when he could put 10 minutes into a climber and then just defend in the mountains. A good GT is a balanced GT and this is not balanced – weird when the Giro suddenly looks like it might have got the balance right. Almost certain to have 60km ITT next year I imagine.
    Quintana a likely favourite unless the cobbles get him. Bertie next, then Nibbles (too many mountain top finishes for him not to get attacked over and over again by the other two if he’s in yellow).
    If I were Froome, I’d look at the Giro-Vuelta very, very seriously and leave the Tour to Koenig (who looks a better bet for a top 10 than anyone else Sky has on its books).

    • IMO, the Giro has been a better race for some time. Not perfect, but better.

      This route isn’t going to work out so well for ratings as the top-5 will race “negative” on the climbs. Riders will be at a level of fitness and baring illness or misfortune, gravity sorts the podium out.

      I give ASO credit for trying new things almost every year. But, the shortening of the stages is making grand tours an entirely different kind of racing compared to past decades.

      • “This route isn’t going to work out so well for ratings as the top-5 will race “negative” on the climbs.”

        This is what I’m expecting too, negative riding and marking and all sorts, like this year’s Vuelta between the Spaniards. I hope it doesn’t prove to be the case but we shall see.

    • nibali was not seen as a cobbles man as well before this years tour. he took everyone by surprise., that was so great about it. Idoubt the same trick will work next year, the others will be more alert.

  7. Crunching some numbers and it’s interesting to see the decline of time trials over the last 30 years. Starting from 1986 (as 1985 was an outlier year with a massive 232km against the clock), you get the following figures as the average TT length per tour in those three decades (both individual and team time trials counted):

    1986 – 1995 – The LeMond/Indurain era: 188.29km average per Tour

    1996 – 2005 – The EPO era: 140.89km average per Tour

    2006 – 2015 – The current era: 82.48 average per Tour

    Over this period there was never less than 100km against the clock until 2008, and in both 1987 and 1992 there were over 200km of TT and TTTs. The figure falls to 70.58km average per Tour from 2011-15 (with 2012 doing much of the heavy lifting in this).

      • There was also a famous 153km TTT in the 1978 Tour that I’m sure we’ve all hear Paul Sherwen mention once or twice 🙂

        Seriously though, is it tin-hat territory to suggest that this looks like a route designed to play against the strength of genuine all rounders like Froome and Contador? Designed for a hypothetical French climber who can’t really TT? Another question, will Tony Martin bother showing up? That 60km TT in the Giro must look more tempting to a specialist like him….

        • I agree. Who knows if it was designed for them but this has to excite the likes of Pinot and Bardet who both lost a healthy chunk of GC time in the tour this year.

        • “will Tony Martin bother showing up? That 60km TT in the Giro must look more tempting to a specialist like him….”

          Definitely more tempting, though I am also looking forward to more of his efforts in the breakaway. Magnificent watch this year, the solo win.

    • i am 100% certain that Indurain was on EPO for all of his wins, and we also know that rasmussen who nearly won the 2007 tour was on epo too. I’m adfaid you need to include all those years in the EPO era.

    • Would be interesting to look at this in the context of the shortening (in terms of kms) of Grand Tours more generally, with things like the 100km mountain stages now. Has the TT kms gone down massively out of proportion to the overall length? Or is the ratio of change a little smaller than we might think?

      • Well 1987 was the last 4000km+ Tour, and over the last 15 years odd they’ve all been around 3500km so there has been both an actual and relative decline in TT kilometres.

        It would be interesting to see if this shift is also reflected in the other two Grand Tours.

    • Perhaps the ITT was more interesting in the mid-to-late 1980s because performance was less dependent on technology? Lemond’s win in 1989 changed all that, though. But, even in that year, Lemond and Fignon slugged it out in the mountains, rather than playing the numbers game.

    • Would be interesting to calculate total altitude gain over the years – is that possible?

      I think there’s perhaps something else to look out for – the three grand tours comporting with each other and pushing up the difficulty level while turing a bling eye to PEDs, and now gradually the distances and endurance difficulties will reduce, with a greater focus on shorter (bit still difficult) challenges.

  8. Ever since the debut of so-called “aero” handlebars I’ve thought flat chrono stages to be generally boring to watch, so no complaints from me, though this route strays from the rewards to the all-rounders that we’ve come to expect. But perhaps this is ASO’s idea to make LeTour not so dominating on the yearly calendar? I have no issues seeing the Giro move out of the “win this on the way to future Tour glory” category for many while the Vuelta might move out of the “last chance saloon” spot as well. For now I say CHAPEAU to ASO for this 2015 route.

  9. Am I misreading?
    I’m counting 9 ‘uphill’ finishes?

    Pierre Saint Martin
    Plateau de Beille
    Pra loup
    Alpe d’Huez

    Plus the TTT finishes uphill at Plumelec (Where Valverde won Stage 1 2008)

    Very Vueltaesque!

  10. As Chris James pointed out above, TTs are useful to get more of a show in the mountains too.
    Because, you know, in most climbs – among the pros, at least – drafting counts a lot.
    It’s power to weight ratio in the Zoncolan, but with more normal gradients the difference in watts granted by drafting is relevant enough to affect the pure p/w ratio balance of individual riders.
    So, if climbers don’t have a lot of time to gain/get back, they’d rather take cover and shoot out what they have in the last 1-2kms.
    All the same, interesting course… IMHO, mainly because of tricky stages that can be played cleverly & creatively, not so much because of the summit finishes.
    Anyway, the lack of TT is a big flaw, to my eyes.
    I guess that they hope that the script – and the hierarchies – defined by the classical summit finishes will be attacked and possibly reserved in the “open” stages. Not climbers vs. time-triallers, in 2015, but long-range attackers vs. one-shot climbers.

    • The drafting-while-climbing debate returns. I disagree, but there is no right answer. Without restarting the endless debate, it’s easiest to make both opinions right!

      Like others, for me TT’s are like watching paint dry. Maybe it’s all the aero stuff, I don’t know. I agree that they are excellent for re-sorting GC and add some good drama there. But, I don’t watch TT’s. I just wait for the results.

      • Not wanting to be argumentative, but the energy savings from drafting are simply related to speed, and are negligible only at the slowest speeds, as Gabriele says. Whereas pro riders climb at speeds up to 25-30 kph, depending on what we mean by “climb.” In addition to the aero there is the tactical advantage of following, since the follower knows exactly how much effort is required to stay on the wheel, and need not spend any effort beyond that. With the two effects combined there’s little doubt that following has real advantages on all but the steepest slopes.

        • ‘Simply related to speed’, but really this is speed through the air, so headwinds on mountains also make drafting relevant. IIRC on Alpe d’Huez in 2008 this was one of the reasons Cuddles was so defensive when Sastre attacked (the other of course being the Schlecks also being on CSC).

      • It’s difficult to watch on the telly as you’ve no real way of knowing the speeds involved without looking at the telemetry. In person, it’s surprisingly different – I caught the end of the Tour of Britain Time Trial this year and it was obvious to the naked eye just how much faster Wiggins was going compared to his rivals, which was a total surprise. I didn’t expect to be able to tell.

  11. I’m supportive of the points changes – putting more weight on the stage winner. Not that I’ve got a problem with Sagan getting Green without a stage win, but hopefully it will encourage the purer sprinters to really go for the jersey. Though that effect sounds like it will be offset by the number of tricky intermediate stages which might favour a more Sagan-style rider able to consistently pick up points along the way. I guess it depends whether you want the Green winner to be the fastest sprinter or the most consistent finisher. I suppose both have their merits, and the pure fastest guy will be known by number of stage wins and who won on the Champs.

    Has anyone been able to find out the points allocations for the KoM – any changes? Otherwise, given all the summit finishes, I presume it will continue to be a sideline that happens to be picked up by a GC rider, in the end, having provided only peripheral interest earlier in the race. Which always feels like a shame. Personally I’d like them to time the climbs and do it that way, so it really does go to the fastest mountain goat.

  12. I join the rest in believing that so little TT is wrong, denaturalizes the race, and doesn’t favour offensive racing in the mountains (if pure climbers don’t have to recover minutes, they will not try), strongly suspecting ASO of short-sightedly trying to favour an anyway quite improbable French victory. I also join others in believing the TdF is deserving to be snubbed by Froome and other riders, in favour of more balanced GTs (Le Tour shouldn’t be intouchable, and there should be competition with the other 2, even if ASO owns the Vuelta).
    But the fact that TTs seem to be so impopular should make us reflect . What is best for the show? Tri-bars or drops? Real time metrics (power, heartrate, speed, etc…) or lack of information, that gives more importance to the psychological battle a TT is supposed to be?

    • Cycling fans who come here will probably want all the data and geekery. Butmany cyclists struggle to understand or agree on wattages so giving this information to the the wider public who make up, say, 95% of the audience will confuse and maybe even put off some viewers.

      I think there are more ways to make a TT come alive with improved TV production techniques, a topic for another day.

      • I didn’t mean giving the public access to the information on the riders’ computers. On the contrary, I meant the possibility of not allowing riders to use computers or anything like that in TTs. It’s about changing the nature of present-day TTs, not about how they’re broadcast.

        • It was, Larry, it was. But I don’t think this is about “old school” vs “modern times”. The fact is that TTs are boring because it has become too easy to have linear performances. If riders only had their brain and their “feel” to regulate their efforts, we would see many more ups and downs during the stage, and many more surprises, so it could be as entertaining as a MTF (as it used to be). So if you deprive riders of data, TTs would not only reward power, technique and aerodynamics, but also the best minds and the bravest “hearts”.

          • It can seem that way and it’s often good marketing for some manufacturers but riders aren’t automatons staring at their powermeter. Even Chris Froome said he paced his Vuelta time trial all wrong, going too fast at then start. Get rid of the tech and it’d still be a TV show with riders pedalling alone which audiences can’t get such a thrill from compared to surprise attacks, mechanicals, crashes and all the other unpredictables (I know you can puncture in a TT, but there’s never a chase to get back on).

          • The Vuelta TT was very interesting, and just imagine if Froomey hadn’t had info on his wattage and heartrate. The point on thrill vs watching riders pedalling sounds similar to the debate between slow food and fast food, a matter of palate. I think it takes some time to learn to enjoy riders fighting not their rivals but primarily their own weakness, to sympathize with their effort, and get thrilled about the time they clock in relation with their expectations and GC needs. Here’s a classic one:

      • ITTs schould be technically much more difficult. narrow streets, chicanes, many corners, changes in gradient and/or surface. simple power-ITTs are indeed awfully boring.

  13. I actually am very happy to see TTs reduced – at least for a while – I say give the straight climbers a chance in the tour and these days (cf. 2012, 2013) chances are the same guy will win yellow anyway. In 2012 Wiggins had such an advantage in the TTs that there was no way anyone attacking in the mountains (including I suspect Froome riding for himself) was going to have enough of a buffer that the end result wasn’t inevitable – and he was also the 2nd best climber in the race. With Hesjedal’s Giro win – it was great tension with swapping leads and time bonuses right up to end but an underlying sense of inevitability that small gains didn’t really matter much given his advantage in the TT over Purito.

    • I absolutely disagree. The 2012 route was excellent, and we saw more long-range attacking (by Evans and TJVG, by Nibali) than we are used to. They didn’t succeed because of Wiggo’s army. But there was no excess of TT, it was just Sky that was too strong. In fact, if Froome and Wiggo had ridden in two different teams, we would have had a total hell of a race, with Chris dropping Brad on every climb trying to get the 3 minutes he would lose in the TTs.
      As for the 2012 Giro, Purito just lost it himself. He knew he was inferior in TT and still didn’t attack from far on the Stelvio or on the Giau or anywhere actually. He didn’t even ensure collecting all the bonuses he could have had. Don’t blame the TT.

      • I think my issue is that as much as people say “it forces the climbers to attack in the mountains” how often does this occur? Andy in 2011 is the best example I can think of but they seem to be few and far between given similarity in climbing speeds these days (2012 attacks by evans and nibali seemed like exercises in futility at the time and could Froome really have put 3 minutes into Wiggins in 5 mountain stages?). When was the last time the tour wasn’t won by the strongest TTer out of the climbers? You can of course argue that that is the point but it seems (to me) that it has become too dominant a factor (despite the overall reductions) in the current peloton.

          • And if Froome hadn’t been last supporting guy for Wiggins, it would have been Mick Rogers who would have done just the same job (but without all the diva theatrics of Froome). Disagree that Froome would have put 5 mins into Wiggins on that stage.

  14. I agree with the repetitive component – by the end the strongest rider will be known, and every mountain top finish will just be further opportunity for them to extend their lead I feel. Fine to focus on climbing, but I think a short time trial to break up the mountaintop finishes would have made it more suspenseful… I haven’t looked at the parcours in detail yet however: are there different “types” of mountain top finishes at the end of the race? Or are they all going to be long power-to-weight ratio tests?

  15. I think that ASO’s “formula” followed for many years, gradually became boring.
    I’d like to see the cobbles of Belgium or northern France, used in the final week, and for more than one stage.
    Why not go to the big mountains in the first week?
    as for gifts of time bonuses – it’s just wrong. That strategy is about marketing not racing. If bikeriders want to get time, then earn it for real on the road.

    Obviously my thoughts, but I’ve got less interest in viewing some scrawny metronomic dunny brush on a bike, triumph in Paris.
    There’s more to bike races than mountains.

  16. Whilst we are on the subject of the tour – can I ask readers of the blog for help.
    I’m an event manager by trade and would like to work on the Le Tour – I do planning, operations, logistics and hospitality and speak French – can anyone steer me in the right direction, tried the ASO website a while back and will try again – but a bit of inside knowledge, contacts be greatly appreciated…
    back to the blog – be interesting to see the tt with no aerobars

  17. JRod must be looking at this wishing he was a few years younger!! Reminds me of that Vuelta a few years ago where the first week was short-steep pitches up to the town church or monumen

    • I was thinking of Chris Horner myself.

      Only 14 ITT mikles ? Wow !

      Not that I am a fan of the ITT, but it belongs in a GT. At least one stage of 30k or better.

      Don’t know what ASO was thinking when they moved the TTT to the back half of the race. What happens if a team is down to four riders ? Are they Dsq ? What if UCI says no ?

      And what is it with 160k of flat road followed by one climb ? What’s the point ?

      This looks like the climbers race the Vuekta has been aiming for.

        • Yeah, only two riders by the end of the Giro:
          – Brett Lancaster, DNS stage 7, broken arm
          – Cameron Meyer, DNS 8, stomach problems
          – Michael Matthews, DNS 11, due to a cuts and bruises
          – Luke Durbridge, DNF 11, broken collarbone
          – Pieter Weening, DNF 14, stomach problems
          – Mitch Docker, DNF 15, fever
          – Ivan Santaromita, DNS 18, fever

          I’m actually looking forward to the potential carnage of a later TTT; it’s not good as a general rule but as an occaisional shake up, why not?

  18. If I have this right, we get the downhill to Gap (TdF 2003, anyone?) to balance some of the w/kg bonanza.
    The Montvernier hairpins should be a heli-TV feast.

  19. New points distribution on “flat” stages: 50, 30, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 points for the first 15 riders completing the stage.
    Former points distribution: 45, 35, 30, 26, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 for the first 15 riders completing the stage.

    • Very happy about this, hopefully the Green Jersey is won by the best sprinter rather than the guy who just consistently finishes in the top 5. A tactician like Riis will probably have Sagan identify a handful of stages he can potentially win and aim for those, saving his legs for those rather than just following Kittel’s wheel and mechanically accumulating points while every other team rides against him like this year.

      • Still think Sagan will win if he wants to go for.
        Stages 3, 4, 8, 13, and 16 all look too hard for Kittel/Greipel/Cav but could see Sagan win.

        If he finishes Top 5-10 in the basic sprint stages then he should walk the Green again?

      • Proudhomme does what he thinks will make the fight for maillots open as long as possible. But he already tried to achieve that goal this year and what came out? Both Nibali and Sagan got into their jerseys pretty soon and no real threat emerged in later stages.
        But things change, two jersey favourites in one team (Contador and Sagan) can tip the scales, yellow will get full support. Another decision will have to be made between Kittel and Degenkolb.
        And if frustrated Froome really does the Giro & Vuelta, reducing le Tour TT kms will prove too much. That is surely not what monsieur le President wanted, jealously looking at this year’s Vuelta GC fights.

        • Is the scoring unchanged for the other stage types and the intermediate sprints?

          Based on that I had a look back at a few riders from last year and (based on my maths) Sagan would still win by a mile

          1. SAGAN 431 (Old Points) 381 (new Points)
          2. KRISTOFF 282 (Old Points) 255 (new Points)
          4. KITTEL 222 (Old Points) 238 (new Points)

          • Hmmm, that is is still quite a margin.

            Though psychology and 3-week tactics play a part as well – I wonder if Kittel was ever even contemplating Green last year, but might be tempted into the fight with the points change (maybe needs even more radical change, though)

  20. I am shocked at this course and even more shocked not seeing any indignation at the ever further belittling of our sport. Now even the Tour de France goes under!!!!!
    It is exactly as if tennis fans were forced to follow table-tennis , or soccer fans had to see futsal.

  21. Stage 2 (Utrecht > Zeeland) is probably making some people nervous; if not, it should be: crosswinds highly probable and passing over Dutch roads notoriously full of traffic furniture. Stage 6 (Abbeville > Le Havre) also looks like a candidate for crosswinds. And if that is the case, some riders will inevitably lose chunks of time (much like they might with more TT kms).

    A lot of riders must be licking their chops at thought of a 14km TT standing between them and the maillot jaune, but surely Tom Dumoulin has to be one of the big favourites. Kwiatkowski should have a chance too – has a World Champ ever won Stage 1? I guess Cadel was the last rider to swap rainbow for yellow in 2010, but midway for a day (with a broken elbow).

  22. I actually find the first week apealing, haha
    I expect the TT to be interesting because it turns out important for the ones GCs who are superior contra la monde.
    The Huy stage sounds lie a good stage to watch – after that hopefully some crosswinds attacks, crashes(I dont actullay wish fot that, but I recognize it as part of “the drama”) and fast and rainy sprints.
    from Inrngs decription the Mur de Bretagne sounds like cool stage aswell – and the bonus seconds, assuming the topGCs are fairly equal on the climbs – could we expect to see them charge bonus seconds the first week?

  23. I think that the word “derogation” is misused in the context of the UCI’s rule about TTTs being in the first third of the race. A derogation of the rule would mean that the rule would be abolished, at least in part.

    I believe that either of the terms “exception” or “dispensation” would be more accurate. These would imply that the change in how the rule is to be applied applied is limited to the specific circumstances for which change in application was granted.

    • How is the “first third of the race” defined?
      It doesn’t have to be decided by stage number (ie first 7 stages out of 21). Irish Peleton posted earlier that, if you used the total DISTANCE to be raced, then the TTT is in the first third .
      And you could argue that, as it comes before the first rest day, that also qualifies as the first third.

    • They pay good money for it and you can see the results thanks to the notoriety of the climb and the stream of riders going up from May to September.

      Worth noting the Maurienne Valley tourist authority is trying to make a big push for cyclists with several stages this year and more in the future. They’ve signed deals with The FDJ team and the French federation to have mountain training camps there and turn it into a summer sports destination.

  24. I’m slightly sceptical about this route to be honest… Feels a like it errs on the side of desperation at risk of ignoring more sensible, logical choices. My initial reaction was it felt quite gimmicky

    Cobbles two years in a row? It dilutes their importance to have them too frequently. It should be once every 3/4 years tops, or else it’ll lose its excitement. You’ve already got the novelty of the Muur, why do you need cobbles too?

    So little timetrialling seems shortsighted – again, more mountains doesn’t automatically mean more excitement. The Vuelta has already staked a sizeable claim in the gimmicky states by throwing in ludicrous amounts of summit finishes, does the Tour really need to follow suit?

    Maybe I’m just old-fashioned…

    • Cobbles, loose their excitement?

      I watch a cobbled race every year… same as most readers of this blog? Probably one of the few races that doesn’t loose its excitement.

      They also bring a different rider into GT’s…be good to see Vanmarcke ride the tour again and these riders may bring a different dynamic to the intermediate stages too.

      • I’d say the opposite, especially for Contador.

        Froome will be his biggest challenger, but without any real ITT he won’t have to win with much time in the mountains, he ‘just’ has to be better. He’s better on the punchy finishes and time bonuses will only make two of those even more important. He’ll probably have one of the best teams for the TTT, so that will help as well. More importantly it’s an easy version, not a single of the mountain stages are really hard (both distance and vertical) and it’s a short Tour overall. The only negative is the cobbles, but I doubt they are an advantage to Froome.

        • I agree with Netserk. What is more, as I noted above, there are many tricky stage which could prove very useful to try anyway a shot to victory, if in the last third of the race (or before) Contador should find himself quite behind in GC.
          In more general terms, the TT is the most “pure power” exercise, where a fresher rider will have an advantage without possibilities to counteract for the rivals. Whereas in mountain stages, for example, a team can decide to play hard from the beginning to have a “reduced watts” contest in the last climb, in which “fondo” may prevail over “forza”.

    • especially if Tinkov – Saxo committs to the Green Jersey as well..

      What happens if AC is up against Froome (who is not holding back for the TdF) in May.. will he manage to recover?

  25. What are the chances of the TTT having a big impact on the overall result? Is it possible that one of the contenders could find his team sufficiently weakened by first-week crashes that he loses by an irretrievable margin?

    Maybe Froome will shoot for the Giro and Vuelta but also plod around France in July in support of someone else, then ask Mr Tinkov for €1m…

  26. I’m not sure I’m in love with the changes to the green jersey competition for three reasons. First, I think stage winners already get enough glory. I have to imagine Kittel gained more attention from this year’s tdf than Sagan, despite Sagan being–at least for me–a more entertaining rider to watch. Second, and on a related note, I think Sagan’s dominance has more to do with the dearth of well-rounded riders than the overall structure of the points competition. How many riders can finish in the top 20 of a hilly classic, a cobbled classic, a tdf sprint, and a mountain stage? Probably only two or three (Sagan, Kwiat, and Gilbert come to mind), and yet these are the riders that add the greatest element of surprise to all of these races. Let’s reward them and incentivize more riders to follow in their “pedal-strokes”. Third, I have to imagine that by front-loading the points on sprint stages, the organizers are encouraging riders like Sagan to take more risks in the sprint finishes. Especially, after the crashes of last year’s tour, I want the organizers to put a lot more emphasis on rider safety, mitigating rather than intensifying risk.

    One final note. I think that this will be one of the best tdf’s for tv consumption in recent memory, but it will also be one of the worst for the riders. I would be willing to settle for a more boring but more humane race.

  27. The shortening stages of this and the other grand tours arguably mirrors long term societal changes. In a time before TV impressive daily distances added to the hype of newspaper reports, while today the first half of the race that is not on TV does not exist – no wonder organisers have been trimmimg it down. Furthermore, the public of a hundred years ago could more easily relate to long hours of physical toil.

      • I think we can but for many “in the street” 100km in the mountains sounds fearsome enough. The sport is becoming more and more driven by TV and action-packed stages win audiences and shorter stages can enable this.

        • But when people in the street hear that the grandfathers of today’s heros could do about 300km over mountains, on much worse bikes and roads, (that is, the basic truth) their perception of what they watch on TV changes a lot and for the worse.

      • Sorry for being nameless in the original post. My personal idea of a good day out is 200-250km of hills and mountains so I guess I can. But we no longer have the memory of how backbreaking and exhausting manual work used to be.

          • And yet that’s light work compared to what was common in mines, farms and even factories. The average worker was a tough fellow that fully expected his cycling hero to pedal three or four days non-stop on the boards, or to complete 450km road stages without a wimper. Our perception of what constitutes toil has changed deeply (as your example unwittingly demonstrated) and this is reflected in the peloton which, after all, is a workplace; it is reflected in the marketing and presentation of races, where endurance is gradually giving way to intensity; and it is reflected in a few other sports as well. The spirit of racing-as-hardship survives in the monuments but these are, by definition, exceptional. Stage races will become shorter and shorter, to the chagrin of those of us who love the odometer.

          • But Francisco…. That’s exactly the whole point!!!! Cycling as the very symbolisation and celebration of preterit toilings, as a glorious remembrance of how hard humans can work, to what limits they can push themselves, and how humbly. Riders that remind us of miners and peons, between factories or across some sunburnt vineyard, from dusk till dawn. As an “intensity” sport, cycling has nothing special, it can often even be quite dull. Much on the contrary to what ASO expects, I think 2015 will be the year when the TdF hits its bottom, and most fans, even occasional ones, realize how thin and shallow this sport has become, in comparison to what can really be expected when you remember cycling’s glorious days.

  28. Let’s not even pretend that Contador won’t be the favorite.

    Yes he’ll do the Giro. But the Giro next year can’t compare to the hellish Giro that he did in his last Giro-Tour attempt…

    Who is the last rider besides Contador to even attempt a Giro-Tour double?? Why are others so boring?

  29. This Points Rule change…I know its not fully disclosed yet but anyone know if the InterM points are changing too or have I missed something?

    When Thor won, I thought it was fair. Unfairly, the press highlighted one single stage as what made the difference or ‘why Cav lost’ but its more complicated than that. Thor not only finished 2nd on 3 stages but also won a stage, thats 4 great results against 6 stage wins. But Thor also gained points in 3 rolling stages where Cav missed the break/couldnt handle the hills. In addition to that he gained more intermediate points including that stage/lone break.

    Thor went out and won the Green Jersey.
    Cav won 6 stages of the tour…didnt win the green cuz he wasnt best overall.

    Definition of a Green jersey is being lost a bit on Sprinters.

      • Thats what I thought myself. Seems the points wont be for as many top finishers either, with them dropping so quickly to 20, otherwise there will be little difference in points per position after that.

        I do drift back to the days of Kelly when searching for a meaning or value to the Green Jersey. Its not a Sprinters Jersey, they get stage wins and to stand on the podium and be awarded with some local produce, like a cow or duck. Green Jersey leaders are a different beast. One that Cav, without coincidence, has now become. He can sprint, win stages, win inter sprints, get over hills with respect and possibly, maybe just, get away in breaks for the day.

        I do hope the changes bring some inspiration to Cav for him to not just win stages but do all the rest to win a Green Jersey – but I cant see these changes will do any of that. It will be a freight train finish to all flat stages despite the fact that a smart powerful rider will be able to again beat him, by using his brain. Sagan has that mind just as Thor did. Swap the points system back in 2009 for 2015 and Thor looses 44 points…less than a stage win. Can Cav win 6 again?

  30. Actually, just assumed Interpoints remain the same as current system which aware more positions and higher points…Thor looses by just 6 points!

  31. Not so long ago Froome was critisised for focusing on the tour only & ignoring the rest of the Calender. Now the guy actually want to do a Giro, Vaulta double and we get this. Probably a testimony to the flickering (in terms of what a rider needs to do to satisfy cycling fans who does not like him) and of persistent (in terms of fans attacking the rider they do not like) nature of the Internet audiance.

    On the other hand, I won’t dismiss Froome’s interview on his website. Sky & BS are either seriously consider the Giro Vuelta double as an option or had already decided on it. From the wording and writing style of the article, one can be pretty sure that it’s written by the same guy who normally pens Sky official report on their website; and Froome was with Sky when he did the interview. Wouldn’t surprise me if it’s part of Sky PR plan to make the actual official announcement less shocking.

    More importantly, it makes sense for both Froome & Sky. Froome would Become a more complete rider by having all Grand Tours under his belt. He would worth more to Sky as an asset (his salary is fixed for the current contract anyway) this way than simply being a Tour wining machine (especially given recent negative association related to consecutive multiple Tour wins courtesy of Armstrong).

    And if anything, 2015 is the perfect year to get Giro & Vuelta out of the system before comeback to focus on the Tour. The value of 2015 Tour has already been diminished by Contador & Nibali attempting Giro, Tour double. Even if Froome is to win the 2015 Tour, people will say it’s because AC & Nibali are tired following the Giro. Now that the Tour will have so little ITT, winning becomes much less certain. Why trying to win a Tour that is not to your favour and most certainly will have an asterisk to it?

    Moreover, he faces far less competition in Giro & Vuelta in 2015. Whilst AC & Nibali are doing the Giro, Tour is the real target for both with the Giro icing on the cake and one simply does not throw away the cake for the icing. If Froome pushes both to the limit, they’d be told by their manager to back off. Moreover, neither would go to the Giro at 100% form. That leaves Quintana, who is still weak in ITT and will certainly be Tour focused following the route announcement.

    The final issue is team support. Sky the company wants to extend in Italy whilst Sky the team is British as well as Italian. It is in the Sponsor’s business interest to win a sounded Giro. That leaves public opinion, which Sky seems to care less than winning and sponsor business objectives. And that is “us” cycling fans assuming general public would object. A successful publicity champion communicating the significance of Giro/Vuelta double can win the heart & mind of fans and provide a prolonged interest (comparing to betting everything on the Tour) in the team. From a pure sport prospective, Froome’s absence from the Tour would give room for their next-gen GC leader to shine.

    If Sky does apply their Tour script (stage recon, training races etc.) to Froome’s Giro/Vuelta double next year, there’s a pretty decent chance they will achieve that.

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