2015 Tour de France Preview
The 2015 Tour de France will be a climber’s Tour. The 3,344-km race will have only 42 km of time trials, with 14 km of those being an individual time trial on the race’s first day. La Grande Boucle will feature seven mountain stages with five mountaintop finishes. Climbers sometimes complain that a particular Grand Tour does not give them a chance to win because it has too many time trial km, but they will not be able to make that complaint in 2015.
The race will begin in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where the riders will take on a technical, 14-km time trial. Stage 2, a flat, 166-km ride from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans, is one made for the sprinters, but it will require a classic rider’s sensitivity to the wind, which could split the field into echelons and catch unwary contenders off-guard. Stage 3, which will feature 13.3 km of cobbles, will also require a classic man’s touch, especially because the 154-km ride from Antwerp to Huy, Belgium will end on the Mur de Huy, which was made famous in La Fleche Wallonne. Stages 4 to 6, which will take the field across northern France to Brittany, will be sprinters’ stages. The following three stages will run through Brittany, and the 2015 Tour’s second time trial, a 28-km team affair, will take place on Stage 9. The race’s first rest day follows.
During the Tour’s second week, the riders will tackle the Pyrenees. Stage 10, a 167-km ride from Tarbes to La-Pierre-Saint-Martin, will feature only one climb, but it will be the race’s first mountaintop finish. Stage 11, which will be take the riders 188 km from Pau to Cauterets Vallee de Saint-Savin, will feature the Col du Tourmalet and the Col d’Aspin. Stage 12, 195 km of pain, will have three hard ascents before ending atop the Plateau de Beille. Stages 13 to 16 will be transfer stages that will give escape artists and sprinters chances to win. The second rest day will take place after Stage 16.
The last act of the 2015 Tour de France will be written in the Alps. Stage 17 will go over the Col d’Allos before climbing to the finish at Pra Loups. Stage 18 will take the field over the Col de Glandon and up a 3.8-km stretch of climbing with 18 hairpin turns cut into the climb before descending to the finish in Saint Jean de Maurienne. In Stage 19, the riders will go over the Col de Chaussy, the Col de Croix de Fer, and the Col de Mollard, while in Stage 20 the peloton will ascend the Col de Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier before the final mountain finish at Alpe d’Huez. Stage 20 will be a final attempt to sort out the general classification before the traditional procession into Paris in Stage 21.
What do the riders and managers say about the course? Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) likes the course. “The first stages are a bit different from the last few years,” the two-time Tour champion says. “You have to be in good shape from the very first stage. It begins with a short time trial, but there will be time differences….I like this Tour, it’s harder than what the last years have been and requires me to recover well from the Giro d'Italia. But I will prepare myself thoroughly."
Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) agrees that the 2015 Tour will be rugged. “The first nine days of the Tour 2015 are very tricky and can offer lots of spectacle,” the Frenchman states. “The wind could play a crucial role in the second stage through Zeeland and in the sixth stage to Le Havre. Just like last year there’s a cobblestone stage and there are several opportunities for punchers. The stages to Huy, Mur de Bretagne, and Mende suit me. After the first rest day there’s lots of climbing to do. It will be a very tough Tour.”
Mark Sergeant, Lotto-Belisol directeur sportif, gets the last word. “Especially the fact that there are so few time trial km is remarkable,” Sergeant declares. “That’s really different compared to the previous editions. There are stages for sprinters, punchers, and climbers. I see four to six sprint opportunities, which doesn’t mean that it will each time be a peloton of 180 riders that goes to the finish line. It can also be a sprint of fifty. The sprint teams will have to make the race as well. The stages in the Pyrenees are tough, but I expect the last week in the Alps will be decisive. There will be a battle until the last Saturday.”
Check in at www.roadcycling.com for the latest news during the run-up to the 2015 Tour de France!