14 November 2014

Recommended Reading for a Friday

A number of topics have caught my interest this week

Time for a recommended reading list....

A tale of the toughest bike race held across northern France through the battlefields just after the end of The Great War. What rider today could you imagine being this tough to complete an arduous race such as this? Circuit des Champs de Bataille By Rouleur Magazine.

In a week of Armistice Day and Veteran's day around the globe, Pez Cycling reflects on how the battlefields crossed during the 2014 Tour de France left a big impact on what they thought would be a simple visit to cheer on a bike race. Remembrance at Le Tour de France By Peter Pestes for Pez.

News about an event organizer taking steps to ward off a damaged reputation by banning all formerly suspended dopers from participation. The Taiwan KOM Challenge: why we banned all formerly suspended riders from our race By Crankpunk

An honest interview about one female cyclist's view of the current state of women's racing. Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By Simon Withers of CyclingNews

Now that you read that article, read these 'Cycling is now one of Britain's best loved sports' and Sir Bradley Wiggins: I want my Team Sky development team to create a lasting legacy for next 10 years By Tom Carey of The Telegraph. It is interesting the things top cyclists negotiate into their contracts.

Anyone who has not yet discovered the Flipboard App or Longform online or app, needs to check them both out - they will expand your world through excellent writing.

This week on Longform I enjoyed reading the amazing story of Vivien Thomas (I had seen the movie years ago) titled Like Something the Lord Made A great read by Katie McCabe for The Washingtonian about an individual who truly advanced cardiac medicine.

On a fun note, the Mile High Urban Cyclocross Chaos race takes place this Sunday in Denver. An unusual race based near the rail yards of downtown Denver. An unlikely setting for a bike race but one with tons of character and good cheer. The temperature at 8:30am, when the first wave of racers are set to take to the frozen course, is estimated to be 14˚F. If a bike racer can work in that temperature, I sure hope my camera can. (video of the race by OnSightMedia)

To leave you on the note of good character and racing - read Be Your Personal Best by Selene Yeager of Bicycling

13 November 2014

The growing force of womens cycling

What do I think of women's bike racing?

It seems I ask this question of myself every other week; the answer, I find, is often different.

One thing is for certain - womens cycling is again growing and I better adjust to changing times. With brutal honesty I admit I was fearful of the change and uncertain of how I would cover the newly added women's stage races to the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. Was it social pressure to suddenly know everything there was to know about womens cycling or was it recognition of my own ignorance about the sport of womens cycling.

I followed the generation who created the womens movement, I was schooled through Title 9, I have witnessed the unequal status of women's sport for decades. And yet I have never been on the forefront of making the change happen. I honestly have never been into all women's sports, only a select few. I enjoy watching women tennis, swimming, skiing, track and field; all exciting sports in their own right. But womens hockey, baseball, or soccer? No.

I reasoned that just because I like men's football, basketball, golf and cycling, that was no reason why I must also follow women's football, basketball, golf or cycling. In my mind they were separate sports and one did not piggy back upon the other. I had no obligation to a professional sport simply because women did it, or simply because I was a woman.

Now that researchers have been trying to lay to rest the myth that sex sells sport, most fans admit they mostly look for ability on the field from top athletes (except for those nude women's kits that got far too much press in 2014). This revelation means we can focus on the excitement of pure athleticism and good competition. Perhaps the reason I have never really been into women's cycling is simply because I have not been exposed to the highest level.

My point is - maybe it is time that I give some attention to learn about professional women's cycling. Maybe I will enjoy the sport. I don't get that excited watching a local amateur race, but expose me to the best men in the world racing a WorldTour race and I get plenty thrilled. I know all the teams and the riders, I have my favorites and I know the history. I unabashedly celebrate the outcomes of individual effort in sport as if the athletes were my best friends.

It took me years to learn about professional men's cycling.

Maybe if I start learning now about women's cycling, I can catch up to the point where I can truly appreciate the athletes and their performance. This is exactly the opportunity we are being given by way of the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge having added multiple day women's races to their 2015 calendars.

Even if we are not fans of womens cycling today - we might be tomorrow, or better yet - next year. Our daughters, nieces and neighbors might be the next great stars of the sport. We grow our interest, we grow our support, and the athletes benefit now. It takes a willingness to say yes, I am going to watch and encourage more women's bike races.

For now if these races have to piggy-back onto the men's races, so be it. Soon they will stand on their own and maybe one day we will hear that a mens race has been added to a womens stage race. The best form of equality is when the athlete becomes known as a professional bike racer of outstanding ability, without gender attached.

I better step up and be part of this change, I know I have a lot to learn. Womens bike racing is in no way new and the sport has waxed and waned over the years. Growth has not been a constant upward curve, races have been eliminated, diminished, reborn again. But I hope the movement now gathering steam sticks and womens cycling continues to earn respect, admiration and sponsorship.

The Amgen Tour of California included a womens criterium as early as 2008, adding a time trial in 2011. Finally 2015 will see a three-day stage race, followed by a separate ITT for the women five days later. The men's and women's races will overlap, spreading viewership, I worry. More info: amgentourofcalifornia.com/competition/womens-races.

The USA Pro Challenge had previously featured a womens circuit race run in conjunction with the pro race on the streets of Aspen, but in 2015 race organizers will present an official USA Pro Challenge womens stage race. Full details have yet to be released for the 2015 mens or womens parcours in Colorado.

The Giro-Rosa in Italy is the most prestigious women's stage race. We have only four opportunities in America to see the best of the best in womens racing. If you live in Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arkansas - you are the lucky ones. I won't make it to any of these races in 2015, but I will make a point of watching online, if possible (How to follow women's road cycle races live).

It is clear that change is in the air worldwide for womens bike racing. “We’re going to have a much stronger world cup calendar and international calendar,” UCI president Brian Cookson recently told CyclingNews. Listen to Cookson address women's minimum wage and calendar and developments on this CyclingNews video: UCI President Brian Cookson on the progress of women’s international cycling. Cookson states "women's events don't always need to be secondary or subsidiary to men's events, they can stand on their own and be really successful." 

Having women's cycling stand on it's own is my hope and vision for the future. When we achieve a mixture of men and women leadership and sponsorship throughout both men's and women's bike racing, the result benefits everyone and signals an appreciation of the truly able athlete. That is when we know we have equality.

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos - one of the MOST AMAZING ATHLETES you will see in any sport, male or female. Photo via www.mariannevosofficial.com

I believe building a solid following might have more to do with the quality of the business and operation then in the quantity on the calendar.  

Womens top level pro races in the USA for 2015 - Full Calendar Women 2015
Total UCI Womens Races over the year (signs of adjustment):
  • 2006 - 57
  • 2011 - 70
  • 2013 - 65
  • 2014 - 76
  • 2015 - 78
Learn more:
Update 11/14/14: Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By CyclingNews An honest interview about the current state of women's cycling.

10 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - an old Denver tradition

Cruising to coffee in downtown Denver

Not all coffee shops survive - as I can attest - because two of the coffee shops I hunted for during this Coffeeneuring Challenge had up and vanished before I was able to pedal to their doorstep. For my #7 of 7 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge I decided to visit a coffee shop that has survived the test of times. The Market - in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver).

When I moved to Denver in 1990, The Market was the first coffee shop I ever visited in this large city. That is because The Market was pretty much the only coffee shop in Denver. After living overseas in Southeast Asia for 5 years, I had become accustomed to afternoon tea or coffee. The coffee shop craze, although already active in Seattle and Portland, had yet to migrate inland to Denver.

Life as an expat taught me that taking time for a warm drink in the afternoon signaled a moment of relaxation. It was a tradition I quickly learned to enjoy. I liked going to The Market to overhear foreign accents (something I missed terribly when I moved back to the U.S.) and watch others who practiced the tradition of good conversation and relaxation over a cup of coffee. The Market was a bit before it's time and it's patrons have rewarded it with consistent business for 31 years.

In 1983 two brothers, Mark and Gary Greenberg,  from New Jersey bought the market and created the current format of service including a coffee bar, fresh foods, deli, chocolates, bakery, catering, and specialty grocery items. The company website claims, "The Market was the first espresso bar between New York and Los Angeles, eighteen years before it became trendy to open a coffee house on every corner." Plenty of restaurants and shops have come and gone on Larimer Street over the years, but The Market has remained steady.

In the 1970's and 80s downtown Denver was sorely neglected, unattractive, dirty, without use. Then the mayor promoted an economic urban renewal that made the area attractive to restaurants, shops, loft living and plenty of new businesses. LoDo boomed. Before the renovation of Lower Downtown the single block of Larimer Street, between 14th and 15th streets, was a small oasis of preserved historic architecture. The Market has always been the cornerstone of Larimer Street, although it resides in the center of the block. The Market is a Denver tradition.

My coffeeneuring challenge To LoDo Denver

Adventure #7
Coffee Shop: The Market
Website: http://themarketatlarimer.com/
Address: 1445 Larimer St
City: Denver
Neighborhood: LoDo (Lower Downtown historic district)
Date visited: 11/09/14
Bike ridden: cruiser bike
Miles ridden: 10
Coffee enjoyed: Latte mocha mint
Eats: nothing, the coffee was like pudding!

Photos from my ride:
The city never sleeps, even on a Sunday morning (mountains in the background)
The modern landscape of the upper part of downtown
Typical historic architecture found in the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district of Denver
The Market !
The coffee bar with fresh baked goodies
The market
The entrance has that old time historical feel
My Latte mocha mint. The Barrista took his time to hand blend this yummy drink for me and added the nice design on top.
Sitting at an outside table in front of The Market on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Blake St (near to Larimer St) in 1866. We've come a long way!
 It was a great setting yesterday outside this traditional coffee shop in Denver. TODAY IT IS SNOWING!!!

I have completed my coffeeneuring challenge for 2014, but will be pedaling to more coffee shops in the future. That was tons of fun - thanks Chasing Mailboxes for organizing and inspiring the challenge.

09 November 2014

Catching up with tech advances in cycling

Who says a bicycle never changes

Did anyone else complete the 2014 Cyclingnews Reader Poll? Sure I know all the riders, sure I know all the races, and most certainly I have my opinions on who and what are the best. But then the tech questions appeared before my eyes. Uh-oh I don't know all these, I realized in shame.  There have been a lot of new technological equipment changes and advances in the bicycle industry over the past year(s). I need to catch up.

Advances are so numerous, the Cycling News poll devoted two pages to best new tech advance and best new product. I copied the two pages onto an email to myself, titled it "Learn" and sent it off to myself as a message to get-with-it. Today it has become my Sunday homework, and now, yours.

What is the Best New Product?
  • Speedplay SYZR pedal
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Garmin Edge 1000
  • Shimano XTR Di2 electronic mountain bike transmission
  • GoPro Hero 4
  • Giro Synthe aero road helmet
  • Fabric ALM saddle
  • Zwift virtual group ride indoor training system
  • Campagnolo Record/Super Record road group
  • SRAM Force CX1 1x11 cyclo-cross bike transmission
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below) 

Take the time to read up on each of these new products and you will know a lot about recent developments in our sport. I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web (actually my favorite reviewers are Logan VonBokel, James Huang and Ben Delaney but I have ventured to offer a variety). In order of new products listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

First Look: Speedplay Syzr Mountain Bike Pedals, Updated Cleats – Interbike 2014, Review by Andrew Reimann of CXMagazine

Interbike: Schwalbe Procore dual-chamber tire system Review by Francis Cebedo of Mtbr.com

Garmin Edge 1000, Review by Ben Delaney of BikeRadar.com

Reviewed: Shimano XTR Di2 is capable, at a steep price Review by Logan VonBokel of VeloNews

GoPro Hero 4: Everything You Need to Know Review by Grayson Schaffer of OutsideOnline.com

Giro Launches High-Performance Synthe Helmet Review by Mike Yozell of Bycling.com

First look: New saddles from new brand Fabric Review by Adam Newman of Bicycle Times

Zwift: Indoor Training, Made Bearable Review by Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer

Campagnolo Super Record RS groupset review Review by Matt Wikstrom for Cycling Tips

SRAM Force CX1 groupset launched Review by David Arthur of Road.cc

The fact that I had to dig past every major online sales site to find a review of the new GoPro Hero 4 might indicate who is making a gazillion bucks on the newest product released.  If you read Logan VonBokel's review of the new Shimano XTR Di2 you will read how he thinks it is "The best group." Now that it is winter in Colorado, I think the Zwift Indoor Trainer would come in very handy.

What is the best new tech advancement?
  • Full-suspension fat bikes
  • BioShift automatic shifting
  • Focus RAT quick-release thru-axle system
  • Inexpensive power meters
  • Direct-mount road brakes
  • Canyon MRSC magnetic suspension system
  • Automatically adjusting safety lights
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Advanced aluminium frames  
  • 3D printing
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below)

Next take the time to read up on each of these tech advancements. Again I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web. In order of new tech updates listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

Fat bike mega gallery - Interbike 2014 Review by Josh Patterson of Bike Radar

Hands-on with the Bioshift Automated Bike Shifting System Review by DC Rainmaker of DCRainmaker.com

AngryAsian: Bring on the thru-axles Review by James Huang of Bike Radar

Product Reviews: Power Meter Buyers Guide Review by Road Bike Action. Also read AngryAsian: Why are power meters so expensive? Review by James Huang of Bike Radar

Reviewed: Disc who? Shimano’s rim brakes of the future Review by Caley Fretz of VeloNews

Eurobike 2014: concept bike unveiled by Canyon - the MRSC Connected Review by Timothy John of Road Cycling UK

The Best Commuter Bike Lights Review by Eve O'Neill of TheSweetHome.com

First Ride: Schwalbe Procore dual chamber system Review by Danny Milner of Mountain Bike Rider

Aluminum: Call It a Comeback - Bicycling Review by Joe Lindsay of Bicycling.com

3D Printing: The Printed World News by Filton of The Economist

What this homework exercise has taught me is that bikes do indeed change and advances are continuously made as man is forever trying to improve. It also makes me realize there is an endless amount of gear to spend my money upon and an old bike is any bike older that three years. Mostly this quick review of tech advances in the bike industry for 2014 has taught me that I should have been a gear tech reviewer. Could you imagine the pure happiness of package after package of this goodness arriving at the doorstep of your office, or being flown out to new tech press announcements? I would love my job.

Look how happy these people look to be riding a bike indoors? That might be the biggest advancement ever in cycling.

Photo from the Zwift Indoor Trainer FB page

Somehow I ended up not linking to any Cycling News tech reviews, for a full list of their reviews, please read: cyclingnews.com/tech

Related posts by Pedal Dancer®: The bikes that won the 2014 Tour de France

01 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - old & new roads near home

A traditional stop at Hudson Gardens

Chasing Mailboxes 7-week 7-coffee shop 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge continues.

I would bet that every road cyclist in Denver has stopped in at the tiny refreshment hut called Nixons at Hudson Gardens. Hudson Gardens sits right on the Platte River bike path. Try as I might to avoid bike paths, I am not alone is using this path to quickly get south out of town. On summer weekends the place is packed with cyclists. In early spring or late fall, less so; today was very quiet. The Hudson Garden rest stop was fixed up a couple of years ago and now offers fine tables, shade, restrooms, water fountain, bike pump and tool station and a snack shop.

Today I ordered a cappuccino. I sat and enjoyed my coffee with my friend Julie, whom I met out riding.

I am on Coffeeneuring Adventure #6 and have been trying to visit a different neighborhood and order a different kind of coffee drink at each challenge. Hard to believe I only have one more challenge to go, which is good timing because I am trying to avoid the chocolate mochas or pumpkin Lattes. It seems my New Year's Resolution to loose some weight has hit me early. So far I have enjoyed an Americano (my standard favorite), a boiled coffee, drip coffee, iced coffee, cafe latte, and a cappuccino. I hope I find something different next week.

My journey into new neighborhoods has been a great experience. Today after meeting up with friends, I said no thank you to taking the same bike path back home, intead I continued south toward Chatfield Park and then east connecting to Clarkson Street. Clarkson is a fantastic road for cycling. Quiet, pretty and rolling - it's just plain great. I had never used the southern part of the road before and was happy to discover that it is a much better alternative to the bike path (except I would miss Hudson Gardens).

I'm not crazy about bike paths, mostly because they are truly mixed-use paths with small children, dogs on leashes, skaters, and couples walking side by side. Kind of a crazy environment for a road cyclist. Plus bike paths are graded so that a rider's challenge stays too steady between -3 to +3 degrees in grade. I rarely get my heart rate up. I prefer to use my gears and vary my speed. I like rollers and small climbs and I don't like only looking at the shoulder/saddle of the rider in front of me. I am happiest when I am on a real road. The trick, these days, is finding safe roads.

Today I found new safe roads in the city and had a good cup of coffee.

A recommended inner city 29-mile loop ride in Denver and Littleton (click to enlarge)
I could easily extend this ride southwest into Chatfield Reservoir (doing hill repeats on the road up to the dam), or continue up Deer Creek Rd. Or I could link this route east to Cherry Creek Reservoir using East Quincy Ave (another nice inner city road to ride on a bike) .

Adventure #6
Coffee Shop: Nixons at Hudson Gardens
Website: hudsongardens.org/content/snackshop and www.hudsongardens.org/
Address: 6115 South Santa Fe Drive
City: Littleton
Neighborhood: South Platte River
Date visited:11/01/14
Bike ridden: road bike
Miles ridden: 29.0
Coffee enjoyed: cappuccino
Eats: nothing (the gardens are only 10.0 miles from my house)
Weather: 64 degrees, windy
Comments: nice setting, very quiet in November
Music: Pandora blues guitar channel

Nixons' friendly sign on the bike path at Hudson Gardens welcomes cyclists.
Nixons on the Platte River bike path in Littleton. Bike-in only, no cars.
The one of a kind rest stop in the Denver area. this area is usually filled with cyclists resting under shade trees.
My cappuccino in it's small white cup awaits me
I think I am going continue this challenge as long as winter allows.

27 October 2014

Coffeeneuring - riding a long way for coffee

The day I rode 62 miles for an iced coffee

Last Saturday I woke up excited to be free to ride my bike, it was coffeeneuring day. I knew there was a big cyclocross race happening north of Denver someplace, but I was so happy knowing that I would instead be out riding my own bike. I felt carefree, not having an exact plan, the point was to ride and enjoy. I headed south and east out of Denver deciding to hook up with the Plate River bike path. Maybe I would stop in Littleton, maybe ride to Chatfield Reservoir, Deer Creek, or maybe Highlands Ranch. I knew the locations of a couple coffee shops on route.

Then I ran into a friend.

He was biking in the completely opposite direction. So I turned around and followed him all the way back into and across the city and out to Nebraska. Okay, it wasn't actually to Nebraska, but it sure as heck felt like it, we rode out in Parker/The Pinery someplace. I rode 62-miles. I had brought one bottle of water with me and one Gu packet (which just happened to be resting in my helmet from a previous ride when I got dressed that morning, thank goodness I stuck it in my jersey pocket). I thought I was headed to a coffee shop, I wasn't prepared for such spontaneity. Somewhere out near Nebraska I spotted a convenience store and begged Bob (who never stops) if I could get some water. Two bottles and 62 miles of riding is exactly how NOT to ride a bike. Wow was I hungry and dehydrated when I got home.

But it showed me what I am capable of doing when I set my mind to go mode.

This friend I happened upon on Saturday is the very same friend that I had written about this summer in Cycling Injures. Bob had suffered a broken back, pelvis and ribs when he was struck by a truck while cycling in June 2014. Here he was out riding his bike. I was so excited when I first saw him, I actually got off my bike and started running back toward him yelling his name. Bob is a bit like me on a bike: he doesn't talk much while riding, which I really like; he is quite capable; and he never stops, which I really like except, of course, when I have no water. But there was no way I was going to complain to Bob about anything.

Then he dropped me, twice.

I can honestly say it was the best 62-mile bike ride I ever completed, only to get coffee 2-miles from my home. Limping back toward home after saying goodbye to Bob, I realized, "I guess I need to go get some coffee, somewhere." So I stopped into Stella's on Old South Pearl Street. Not the best coffee, but a nice location (one I was saving in case a snowy day happened within my coffeeneuring challenge). Stella's is in a very cool neighborhood block of restaurants and shops which sort of rivals Old South Gaylord Street near my home.

After a long warm ride, I ordered an iced coffee with a bit of honey. It came in a plastic cup and was gone in four minutes. Then I rode home for real food.

Adventure #4
Coffee Shop: Stella's
Website: www.stellascoffee.com/
Address: 1476 South Pearl Street
City: Denver
Neighborhood: Washington Park
Date visited: 10/25/14
Bike ridden: road bike, dressed in the most unbecoming lycra
Miles ridden: 62 miles
Coffee enjoyed: iced coffee with honey
Eats: nothing, I needed a real meal
Comments: being spontaneous is fun!

My iced coffee blending in with the fall leaves

Good thing I carried my small camera for those 62 miles so I could snap these photos. I didn't get any of the ride because ... we didn't stop long enough!

The next day, on Sunday morning, I met up with two friends (Julie and AG) to ride city bikes through the parks to the Denver Botanic Gardens. We toured through the Chihuly glass exhibit at the gardens and sat for a coffee at the cafe in the gardens. It was lovely. A very relaxing morning before heading off to a pumpkin carving party. Halloween is this Friday.

Adventure #5
Coffee Shop: Cafe at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Website: www.botanicgardens.org
Address: 1007 York St.
City: Denver
Neighborhood: Congress Park
Date visited: 10/26/14
Bike ridden: B-cycles and cruiser bike (https://www.bcycle.com/)
Miles ridden: 7 miles
Coffee enjoyed: Cafe Latte
Eats: a rice krispie treat
Comments: Beautiful day in the gardens with friends

Rice Krispie treats are gluten free, but not calorie free

Chihuly glass in the Botanic Gardens

22 October 2014

Route of the 2015 Tour de France

What the 2015 TDF means for you

Every October the route of the Tour de France is announced under great fanfare. The race organizers provide maps and glossy videos and make sure the correct pro riders are present standing on a stage with a fancy backdrop. Hype and suspense pre race seem as much fun as knowing who won. The camera pans over the nervous faces of the riders in the audience at the Tour announcement, it is tradition, and yet this year the theme for 2015 is "breaking away from tradition." Recreating anew the grandest of the Grand Tour races will be great fun to watch.

In 2015 you will be taken to new places and new heights. You will be entertained by a team time trial. You will witness the Tour de France riding over cobbles and see new climbs never before visited. That is if the pro riders make it through the tricky and treacherous first week (the exact descriptive words of Vincenzo Nibali). You will also see impeccably selected teams, for the parcours of this Tour de France will require many well seasoned all-rounders and several very good climbers in top form. And, of course, the fastest sprinters in the world.

It won't be until July when we will truly know who will be racing the 2015 Tour de France. But that won't stop us from planning which stages to get most excited about and discussing who will win. As you probably read, the big million dollar trifecta challenge to Froome, Contador, Nibali, and Quintana, to race all three Grand Tours, fell apart and word is that Chris Froome might not even race in the 2015 TDF. Froome was not present at today's route announcement in Paris, France. Neither was Bradley Wiggins (I knew you'd ask that).

Route map of 2015 Tour de France.  Map via Velopeloton
The Stages of the 2015 Tour de France

July 4, stage 1: Utrecht, individual time trial, 13.7km
July 5, stage 2: Utrecht – Zélande, 166km
July 6, stage 3: Anvers – Huy, 154km
July 7, stage 4: Seriang – Cambrai, 221km
July 8, stage 5: Arras – Amiens Métropole, 189km
July 9, stage 6: Amiens – Le Havre, 191km
July 10, stage 7: Livarot – Fougères, 190km
July 11, stage 8: Rennes – Mûr-de-Bretagne, 179km
July 12, stage 9: Vannes – Plumelec, team time trial, 28km
July 13, rest day: Pau
July 14, stage 10: Tarbes – La Pierre Saint-Martin, 167km
July 15, stage 11: Pau – Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin, 188km
July 16, stage 12: Lannemazen – Plateau de Beille, 195km
July 17, stage 13: Muret – Rodez, 200km
July 18, stage 14: Rodez – Mende-Montée Laurent Jalabert, 178km
July 19, stage 15: Mende – Valence, 182km
July 20, stage 16: Bourg-de-Péage – Gap, 201km
July 21, rest day: Gap/Digne-les-Bains
July 22, stage 17: Digne-les-Bains – Pra-Loup, 161km
July 23, stage 18: Gap – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 185km
July 24, stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – La Toussuire - Les Sybelles, 138km
July 25, stage 20: Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez, 110km
July 26, stage 21: Sèvres - Grand Paris Seine Ouest – Paris Champs-Élysées, 107km

Official Le Tour video and Europsport reviewed video (via Steephill.TV)

ClimbBybikes - climb list and profiles of the 2015 Tour de France: www.climbbybike.com/race.asp?Race=Tour2015 

The low down - key points to know about the 2015 Tour de France as a fan:
  • This will be the 102nd edition Tour de France.
  • Dates are July 4-26, 2015
  • This year's stats to recite are: 21 stages, 21 teams, 3344km, 9 flat stages, 7 mountain stages, 5 summit finishes, 1 ITT, 1 TTT, cobbles on Stage 4.
  • The start will be in Utrecht; the final big stage finish on Alpe d'Huez before the parade stage into Paris on the final day.
  • Placement of a TTT in week two breaks a UCI rule and is another sign of the power and might of race organizer A.S.O.
  • There will be an ITT on day one; The Netherlands, Belgium, cobbles plus a TTT in week one; Pyrenees in week two; Alps and Paris in week three.
  • A new points classification system will be initiated in 2015 (see new rules below).
  • Time bonuses on each stage are back for 2015 (last applied in 2008), with 10, 6 and 4 seconds to be awarded for the top three stage finishers.
  • You will hear talk of Pra-Loup, the climb which ended Eddy Merck's chances of winning the 1975 TDF.
  • This is the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the polka-dot jersey into the race.
  • This is not the year of the solo time trialist.
  • In a TTT the fifth man crossing the line must be within 25 percent of the winning team's time.
  • The route is planned to engage TV viewers throughout the three-week Tour.
  • We could see the yellow jersey changing hands for the first ten stages.
  • Tactically the narrow roads, winds, crowds, risk of falls, plus added time bonuses run head first into the ability for a team to keep their GC man in the front of the pack, plus a full squad of riders fresh and healthy for a team time trial on Stage 9. If the Directeur Sportifs and Team Managers can achieve that feat after nine days of racing then they will be poised to unleash the climbers.

What makes the 2015 Tour de France unique:

The Netherlands & Belgium
  • The last time the Tour started in The Netherlands was in 2010. If you are a true groupie of Pro Cycling - arrive days early to spot your favorite riders in the city or attend the Team Presentation.
  • Stage 1 will feature a short 14km Individual Time Trial (not referred to as a prologue). There are no other ITTs in the 2015 race.   
An urban ITT in a city of 489,734.   Map via Steephill.TV
  • Stage 2 and 3 cover new territory for the TDF, crisscrossing Belgium, which should make for good TV coverage and new exposure for Tour fans to small cities in Belgium (some of these roads and climbs are used in other Classics races). I highly recommend being a cycling tourist in Belgium - the country knows and lives cycling.
  • Stage three includes the short but brutal Mur de Huy (Climb by Bike climb profile). The 1.2km climb averages 10% and is considered to be the toughest climb in the Ardennes, as well as a key climb in La Flèche Wallonne race. Cycling Weekly wrote a nice piece about the Mur de Huy in 2011: Iconic Places: the Mur de Huy
MAP of stages in Belgium 2015 TDF.  Pedal Dancer adapted map from Le Tour
Northwestern France
  • Stage 4 contains seven cobbled sections (secteur pavé) sometimes featured in Paris-Roubaix. All that discussion last year about the cobbles having no place in the TDF fell on deaf ears, the fact remains - the cobbles made for very exciting racing.
Cobble sectuers of Stage 4 2015 TDF.  Map via CyclingWeekly
  • Stage 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are all in northwestern France, which means close proximity to the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany - so expect enormous crowds for the first week.
  • Stage 5, 6, and 7 are all flat stages. Marcel Kittel fans - line up. Both Kittel and Cavendish claim their goal is to stick with it all the way into Paris. Fabian Cancellara would excel in the earlier stages but will he stick around past Stage 9, based on previous years - no.
Stage 1-9 2015 TDF map
  • Anyone interested in WWI history and really good Belgium beer, chocolates and cobbles will be interested in being a tourist near Stages 3, 4, and 5. 
  • Anyone interested in WWII history, being a tourist in Brittany, Normandy or seeing Mont-Sainte-Michelle will be interested in traveling near Stages 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. You should be able to base yourself in two locations and drive to the stages, enjoying days of tourism before or after.
The WWII invasion beaches of Normandy
The popular France tourist attrraction of Mont-Sainte- Michelle is nearby. Photo from dezeen.com
  • Stage 9, on a Sunday, July 12th is perfectly placed for prime TV viewing for the Team Time Trial from Vannes to Plumelec. The official Le Tour website refers to it as an "atypical team trial at Plumelec." I am not sure if that means they will be required to ride part of the course backwards, but I will definitely be watching. Any rider surviving the wild first week of potential crashes will get to compete; the teams who have lost men will be greatly challenged. Each team's time is based upon the fifth man crossing the line. We can expect some high drama with partial teams and a derogation to break a UCI rule (requiring any TTT to be in the first week of competition). Read more about: Tour de France 2015 to break UCI rules with mid-race team time trial
BMC bikes set up for the team to warm up before a TTT In Belfast in 2014. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer

The Pyrenees
  • Rest Day #1 happens after nine days of hard racing with a long transfer to Pau in the Pyrenees. Base yourself in the foothills of Midi-Pyrenees and you will be able to drive/ride to two or three stages. For more information on all things Pyrenees, read: VeloPeloton. Pau is a city often used for TDF rest days. The surrounding area happens to be some of the best do-it-yourself bike riding in France, and honestly quite fun to see the teams out riding on the local roads (Pau to Gan or Nay). Also be sure to leave time to ride the climbs not in this year's TDF (Cycling Challenge offers a map of Climbs in the Pyrenees, or my personal map of my favorite climbs is below. Velopeloton offers a page of climb descriptions in the Pyrenees). This is an easy area to get a good map and ride your own rides, there are plenty of places to grab water or settle in at a cafe.
2015 TDF - 3 solid climbing stages in the Pyrenees
Map of my favorite climbs in France https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zF3Mdi_RS4EA.khPsCpthHhgk

The Pyrenees foothills - paradise on a bike.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
  • It is tradition that a French rider attempt to win the stage on Bastille Day. This year they have a tough one - Stage 10 on July 14th, will finish on the summit of La Pierre Saint-Martin. Read more: VeloPeloton talks La-Pierre-Saint-Martin. Here is a photo that well describes the climb:
Okay that is steep.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
  • The Pierre-Saint-Martin ski station climb has only been included in the Tour de France once before, in 2007 (descent). The climb is a long way from nowhere, but a stones throw from Spain, and all but abandoned in summer. I rode the 25.8km long climb alone in 2010 - it is really steep. Cycling Weekly states the climb is a maximum gradient of 15% and the photo I took of a sign on the climb in 2010 (above) collaborates their story. Arette is the nearest real town (for water and cafes).  
Location of Col de la Pierre St Martin in the Pyrenees. The TDF rarely goes this far west in the mountain chain.
The incredible views from the climb.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Rugged climb to La Pierre Saint-Martin ski station ahead.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
  • Stage 11, on Wednesday, July 15th is a picture perfect Pyrenean road bike route. Challenging, beautiful and Tour defining. Mark your calendars for this one. Better yet - be there. One of my favorites - the Col d'Aspin - is featured mid-way and so too is the mighty Col du Tourmalet. This year the riders climb tje Tourmalet from the traditional east side. Having the finish of Stage 11 in Cautarets is a good sign that the town has recovered from tremendous flood damage in 2013 (Read more Pedal Dancer: Pyrenees Floods or Pedal Dancer: Recommended Ride - Tourmalet Loop Ride or Magnificent day in the Haute-Pyrenees climbing Col d'Aspin)
The top of the Col d Aspin, a very nice climb. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Profile of Stage 11 Pau – Cauteret
  • Stage 12 is a test of recovery because this is a long steady day of climb after climb in the saddle. We should know a lot about the overall GC after the finish on Plateau de Beille (15.8km at 7.9 percent).
Four consecutive climbs of Stage 12 - 2015 TDF
  • Stages 13, 14, 15 and 16 basically move the peloton east and north into the Alps, with Stage 13 running through the beautiful Gorges du Tarn. This is the time when you can sneak away and go climb Mont Ventoux on your way north to the Col du Galibier and Alpe d'Huez. (Read more Pedal Dancer: Traveling to Mont Ventoux or Pedal Dancer: Provence).
  • Rest Day #2 in Gap/Digne-les-Bains - four relatively short but hard days of climbing await the peloton so there will be no true resting for the riders on this day, They will need to get out and spin, which means you can catch sight of them on local roads. 
Mountain ranges in France
The Alps
  • Stage 17 - what is surprising is that this is only the fourth time that St-Jean-de-Maurienne has been a host city of the Tour de France. Amazing because most cyclists who have cycled in the Alps have passed through this working-class gateway city. Certainly not a tourist heaven, still I once had a very memorable meal in this town. Don't ignore this stage, there is a lot to going on and it sets the mood for the final week of Le Tour.
  • If you were to travel to the Alps for Stages 17, 18, 19 or 20. Be sure to allow days to climb the other famous climbs in the area on your own bike. As you can see on this map of the climbs in the Alps by Cycling Challenge - you could keep busy for days riding a bike in the French Alps.
Great climbs near St-Jean-de Maurienne, although Le Bourg d'Oisans or Albertville are a better location for accommodations. Map adapted by Pedal Dancer
  • Stage 18 includes the whimsical 18-hairpin climb of the Lacets de Montvernier for the first time. I did this climb (without the preceding 180km) way back in 2007 after seeing a photo of the switchbacks and researching where they were located. Lots of fun, I cannot imagine the caravan or team cars driving up this tiny hillside but am looking forward to the spectacle.
This is me climbing the Lacets de Montvernier 7 years ago. Very narrow but roller coaster fun.
The image that so captured my imagination I had to go climb these switchbacks
The magnificent high alpine view from Col du Croix de Fer toward Col du Mollard. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
I have climbed this wonderful climb twice. I stopped to snap this photo looking down onto the town of Bourge d'Oisans from one of the 21 turns, each with a plaque. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
The Finish in Paris
  • Stage 21 - there is a long transport back to Paris after the peloton climbs Alpe' d'Huez. No wonder Stage 20 is relatively short - Paris is a long way away and the peloton needs to roll onto the cobbles of Champs-Élysées the very day by 5:30pm. There will be many buses and trucks driving overnight to arrive in Sèvres or in Paris to set up for the final Stage 21.

If you want to see the 2015 Tour de France as a fan LIVE, I would recommend: 

Where to see the Tour de France on your own
(self-planned and operated):
  • Fly to The Netherlands for the start, be sure to arrive a couple days early to watch the teams training, mechanics in preparation, or the team presentation.
  • 1-week+ vacation to Belgium, Brittany and Normandy to see parts of Stages 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 plus visit Bruges, the battlefields of WWI and WWII, Normandy and Mont-Sainte-Michelle.
  • 2-week vacation in Normandy, Brittany and the Pyrenees including Stages 8, 9 and 10, 11 (possibly 12). Plan a half tourist, half TDF vacation.
  • 1-week of cycling in the Pyrenees taking in Stages 10 and 11 or 12 in Week Two, and then biking or hiking the remaining days on your own.
  • The Alps: pick and choose your stages and exit-routes in Week Three. If you do a self-planned vacation, consider camping, or going early or staying after the key stages to do your own riding.
Where to see the Tour de France with a Tour Company (see a list of Tour Companies at Pedal Dancer: Take a Tour)
  • To see all of Week One while riding parts of the stages on your bike (Stages 1-9), a tour company might be best simply because transportation/lodging logistics will be challenging with a lot of ground covered and big crowds. This is a week where paying for expertise is smart.
  • Ride and watch the stages in the Alps. Accommodations are difficult for the solo-traveler of 1-4 persons, plus big highways separate these stage starts and finishes, which means chasing the Tour daily could prove exhausting. Any time you intend to see a summit finish, or ride your bike 60+km to a stage - expect long days.
Paris - save it for another year
  • I would recommend seeing the finish in Paris only if you happen to be in town anyway (or win a contest package). Paris is a long way from the top of Alpe d'Huez! Alternatively those who live in neighboring countries could make a nice 3-day journey to Paris.
To cycle or not to cycle

You do not need to ride a bike to enjoy seeing the Tour de France, however France (and Belgium) have outstanding opportunities for bike riding. Even if you do not haul your own bike along with you, try to rent a bike at some point along your journey. You will be able to enjoy the first week of the Tour through use of a rental car. The second week, you will probably want to have a bike for some of the days, especially for your own private rides - there are bike rental shops in the Pyrenees. During week three in the Alps, I would definitely recommend riding a bike to and from the stages. On a number of the big mountain passes you will need to get a car in place the day before or walk for many many miles on race day. Quite honestly, that is why I recommend joining a bike tour company for the stages in the Alps. The better companies have learned NOT to chase the Tour every day and instead balance your conquests with the peloton's conquests.

If you want to see the 2015 Tour de France as a fan on TV, I would recommend DO NOT MISS these key stages:

Saturday, July 4, Stage 1 - Utrecht, individual time trial, 13.7km
Tuesday, July 7, Stage 4 - Seriang – Cambrai, 221km
Sunday, July 12, Stage 9 - Vannes – Plumelec, team time trial, 28km
Tuesday, July 14, Stage 10 - Tarbes – La Pierre Saint-Martin, 167km
Wednesday, July 15, Stage 11 - Pau – Cauterets-Vallée de Saint-Savin, 188km
Friday, July 24, Stage 19 - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – La Toussuire - Les Sybelles, 138km
Saturday, July 20, Stage 20 - Modane Valfréjus – Alpe d’Huez, 110km
Sunday, July 21, Stage 21 - because it's tradition in a year of "breaking tradition"
*The winds on Stage 2 to Zélande could also prove interesting for the GC standings. 

An 1882 map of France, Belgium, Netherlands. Perfect territory to ride a bike.

New for 2015 - Points classification: bonus for victory!
A new points distribution system will be implemented on the 9 flat stages of the 2015 Tour de France to give more importance to stage victories. 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.

How to find out about Le Tour route as early as possible each year

For all those who waited until today to learn about the route of the 2015 TDF - next year remember you can know all this ahead of time by following the Tour de France route rumors at VeloWire and VeloPeloton. You can count on Thomas and Paddy to begin listing rumors for the 2016 route, oh, any day now.