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.

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Roads to Ride: Hautacam

Does it exist? Stage 18 of this summer’s Tour de France finishes in Hautacam but many maps don’t show anywhere called Hautacam. But it’s testimony to the geopolitical force of the Tour and the tourism industry that, like an invading army, the map of France gets rewritten.

What is certain is that the climb exists and if it is a relative newcomer to the Tour de France, it’s a case-study of Pyrenean climbing with an irregular road.

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How Are Climbs Categorised?

The Tour de France has completed three stages in the Vosges, visits the Jura range tomorrow before the Alps and then the Pyrennes. The race rates climbs with five labels, from 4th category for the easiest all the way to 1st category and then HC for hors catégorie, or “beyond categorisation”. A frequently asked question is how are these categories determined.

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Roads to Ride: Col de Marie-Blanque

A scenic road borrowed many times by the Tour de France, the Col de Marie Blanque will often tempt many cyclists visiting the Pyrenees. But there’s a difference: it’s much steeper than your average Pyrenean pass, a fact that’s ruined the day for tourists and Tour riders alike.

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Book Review: Mountain Higher

What makes a great climb? The gradient, the view, the challenge or its use in the great races? For many it is the last category that trumps the others, it’s what makes people flock to Alpe d’Huez yet ignore the nearby roads.

2011’s Mountain High book covered many of the notorious climbs and now Mountain Higher is here to show you “Europe’s extreme, undiscovered and unforgettable cycle climbs.”

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Roads to Ride: Col du Soulor

Col du Soulor Tour de France

As the fifth part of a series to explore the famous roads of cycling, here is the Col du Soulor in the French Pyrenees. The idea is to discover the road and its place in the world, whether as part of cycling’s history or to look at the route on a day without racing and it is open to all.

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The Spin: Vuelta Stage 6

The race heads to the Pyrenees but there are no high mountains. Instead the stage finishes outside the Fuerte del Rapitán, the Rapitan Fort that sits high on a hill above the town of Jaca. The climb to the fort has not been used before but it has an irregular gradient and steep sections and 13 hairpin bends in the final 3km.

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The Spin – Stage 17

If yesterday was the greatest hits of the Pyrenees, today is the experimental album. At just 143km, the stage has some tough climbing ahead of a summit finish.

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The Pyrenees, Mountains of Myth

Pyrenees Brouillard Tourmalet

The mountains have long remained a mysterious place where the truth can be as murky as the fog. Before the railways made France accessible, many believed those who lived in the mountains were freakish figures and imagined strange beasts roamed wild. It’s not all false, today you will find bears in the Pyrenees and wolves in the Alps.

Cycling loves its myths and each July sees the race return to the Pyrenees. Like a child visiting a grandfather, the same stories are told every year. There are the broken forks of Eugène Chistophe, the cry of “assassin” from a Octvave Lapize as he passed the organiser on a steep climb and more. Only many of these tales are exaggerations and even fabrications.

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The Pyrenees on the Horizon

Bradley Wiggins Yellow Jersey Evans

Today’s rest day brings to mind Antonin Magne, winner of the Tour in 1931 and 1934 who said “the Tour is won by sleeping”. He didn’t mean he snoozed on his bike, instead that recovery was so important. Many riders today will have been working hard on their rest day, going for the right ride, eating correctly, stretching hard and getting a strong massage.

They’ll need it given the two giant stages in the Pyrenees. Playwright Antoine Blondin said the great cols of the Pyrenees “separate once and for all the racers from those who use a bicycle to go to the market” and more than the Alps these climbs can be traps with irregular gradients and twisty descents.

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