The 2015 Tour de France gets underway this weekend starting with a short Individual Time Trial of 13.8km in the Dutch city of Utrecht before stages through Belgium then into Northern France before heading south to the Pyrenees and then onto the Alps and the Alpe d’Huez before finishing on the Champs Elysées. This year is the Tour de France is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the red polka dot King of the Mountains jersey and it’s a race for the climbers featuring no less than six summit finishes.
Key Stages of the 2015 Tour de France
The Tour de France consists of 21 stages over the three weeks and covers 3,360km of stages with nine sprinters stages, three hilly stages, seven mountain stages an Individual Time Trial and a Team Time Trial. The Tour de France has two rest days.
These nine stages are the ones I think will be pivotal to winning the Tour.
Stage 1 – Utrecht ITT 13.8km – Absolutely flat 13.8km individual time trial, don’t expect it to be won by one of the overall favourites but Nibali and Quintana will have to limit their time loses here otherwise they’re on the back foot from the start.
Stage 4 – Seraing to Cambrai 223.5km – This stage heads back into Northern France, it’s the longest stage of this years race and includes seven cobbled sectors at 13km in total, if it rains there will be chaos like last year. Look for Nibali to shine here.
Stage 9 – Vannes to Plumelec 28km Team Time Trial – This is a tough team time trial over very lumpy roads and three climbs, the TTT finishes on the 153m Cote de Cadoudal. Movistar may not win the stage but I see them taking back some time for lead rider Quintana over the Team Sky, Tinkoff Saxo and Astana teams.
Stage 10 – Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin 167km – The first summit finish of the race coming straight after the first rest day, the Col de Soudet is 22km long at features sections over 10%.
Stage 11 – Pau to Cauterets 167km – This stage features three climbs of the Pyrenees, the Col d’Aspin, Col du Tormalet and finishes on the Cote de Cauterets.
Stage 12 – Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille 195km – This is a stage for the pure climbers, climbs over 4,500 metres including Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de la Core, Port de Lers and the final summit finish of Plateau de Beille.
Stage 17 – Digne-Les-Bains to Pra Loup 161km – This is a repeat of this years Critérium du Dauphiné stage and a repeat of the 1975 Tour de France stage. It’s the first stage after rest day 2 Again next stage after rest day 2 and features the 2,250m Col d’Allos and then finishes on the climb to Pra Loup.
Stage 19 – Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to La Toussuire 138km – Shorter stage but includes three big climbs and over 4,600 metres climbing, the stage starts straight into the climb of Col du Chaussy then the Col de la Croix de Fer and finishes on another summit finish, the Le Corbier.
Stage 20 – Modane to Alp d’Huez 110km – A short final mountain stage of this years race, climbs the Col de la Croix de Fer then a flat section before the iconic climb of Alp d’Huez, if the race as come down to seconds between the leaders it will be a fitting climax to the race.
The Tour de France Contenders
One of four riders should win this years Tour de France, and in no particular order starting with last years winner they are Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. I will do a post later in the week explaining the betting odds but quickly this is the closest grouping of the top four, and the longest priced outright favourite for a long time. On paper, this shapes up as a close race but as we saw last year, anything can happen.
In 2014 Vincenzo Nibali won two races, the Italian National Championship and then the Tour de France, this year he comes into the race fresh of another Italian Road Race win. After Contador, Nibali has the next most Grand Tour wins at three, one in each of the three Grand Tours and if he wins the Tour de France this year he would be the first Italian back to back winner since Ottavio Bottecchia in 1925.
Nairo Quintana is the youngest of the four favourites at only 25 years old but has already won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and finished second in his Tour debut in 2013, an outright climber from Columbia this years course suits Quintana. Quintana finished second to Contador at the recent Route du Sud stage and won the Tirreno–Adriatico earlier this year. Movistar bring a strong team to support Quintana including the experienced Alejandro Valverde for the mountains and Alex Dowsett and Adriano Malori for the TTT and flat stages.
Chris Froome crashed out of last years race when he was the clear favourite and will be seeking to make amends this year with slightly less pressure than last year. Froome won the tradional warm up race to to the Tour de France, the Critérium du Dauphiné but at times this year as not looked as strong as he was last year. With only a very short Time Trial this years course does not play to all of Froome’s strengths, he’s made no secret of the fact he would have preferred more time trial kilometres. Froome will be supported by Australian Richie Porte.
Contador has taken on a huge challenge this year attempting to win the Giro d’Italia – Tour de France double, he won the Giro late last month and only in the last day has he said he’s now fully recovered and his legs aren’t sore, despite beating Nairo Quintana at the Route du Sud 9 days ago. There is no question at all that only one of these four riders is capable of a Giro – Tour double and that’s Contador, whether he does that or not is another question. My own opinion is that the Giro wasn’t as taxing on him as what others are saying and that after the stage 14 time trial the race was won, Astana through everything at Contador and couldn’t break him. Tinoff Saxo bring a strong support team of Peter Sagan, Rafal Majka, Roman Kreuziger, Australian Michael Rogers, Ivan Basso, Daniele Bennati, Michael Valgren and Matteo Tosatto.
Australian and New Zealand riders at the Tour de France
Australian team Orica-GreenEdge starts it’s fourth Tour de France and has named Australians Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews, Luke Durbridge as well as Adam and Simon Yates, Svein Tuft, Pieter Weening, Michael Albasini and Daryl Impey. Orica GreenEdge will be targeting stage wins including the Team Time Trial.
The other Australian riders are Richie Porte (Team Sky), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff Saxo), Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep), Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) and Zak Dempster (Bora-Argon 18).
New Zealander Greg Henderson starts for Lotto Soudal and Jack Bauer starts for Cannondale-Garmin.
TBL – The Bike Lane