28 July 2014

2014 Tour de France Summary Page



Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2014
101th Tour de France, 3,656 kilometres in length

THE route
Start: England  |  Finish: France
Route Map of 2014 Tour de France.  Photo © A.S.O. click image to enlarge
THE 21 Stages

THE start village

Yorkshire is impressively spectacular landscape! (Also read: Tour de France 2014 stage 1 to be permanently signposted). Certainly the days preceding Stage 1 will be great fun, with team presentations, interviews and the worlds best cycling on local roads. Tickets for the Festival of Cycling, 4th – 6th July 2014, will be available at the beginning of November 2013, read more at www.festivalofcycling.org. There will also be a sportif event for amateur cyclists to ride on course.

THE climbs

Climb By Bike already has most of the 2014 climbs (with profiles) listed out for us: http://www.climbbybike.com/race.asp?Race=Tour2014 , including the top 10 ouches (hardest climbs of the 2014 Tour de France):
  1. Planche des Belles Filles
  2. Col de Palaquit
  3. Col de lIzoard
  4. Risoul - Station
  5. Port de Bales  
  6. Col du Portillon
  7. Col de Val-Louron Azet 
  8. Le Pla d'Adet  
  9. Col du Tourmalet 
  10. Hautacam
View down the Hautacam.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
THE cobbles

Here are the 9 sections of cobbles to be included on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France. Can you say Carrefour de l’Arbre(!)

9 sections of cobbles in 2014 Tour de France.  click image to enlarge
Cobbles of Carrefour de l’Arbre. Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
THE opinion

I like the 2014 route. 

I like the emphasis placed on the planning and selection of riders by the Directeur Sportifs, on the expertise of the sprint coaches, on the importance of a team of well-rounded road racers, on the daily tactical decisions as the race situation changes, on the likelihood we will see much more of Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan, and the French and Belgium riders who are masters at road stages. I also like the selection of nine new stage cities.

Nothing is more exciting as when I first glance over the route; imaging the challenges, the logistics, which riders will excel, how the teams should be built, and where the team buses will need to squeeze through. I love imaging the terrain and the toughest climbs. I love imaging where I would like to see the Tour de France.

My first impressions of the 2014 Tour route:
  • 4 countries! (England, Belgium, Spain and France)
  • Obviously intended to attract maximum number of fans  
  • Excited about three stages in cycling crazed Britain 
  • One could chase all the stages in the UK and be content never to hop the pond
  • Happy to see le Tour visit Ypres in Belgium; though sad remembrance of WWI
  • 9 sections, 15.4 kilometers of cobbles in Belgium/France
  • Long distances between stage starts and finishes this year
  • Requires very well orchestrated team support staff
  • Not a lot of big autoroute driving for the overworked bus drivers
  • Hard route on the media and the caravan personnel
  • Tough planning for cycling tour operators
  • Scarce multi-night stay overs 
  • We'll know who brought the best team by the Vosges mountains
  • I've always wanted to go to La Planche des Belles Filles (big stage)
  • They are flying through the Alps this year 
  • I liked climbing the Col de lIzoard, but it is in the middle of nowhere
  • I know nothing about Risoul, except it is 14 kilometers of steepness
  • They are bringing the TDF through the heart of tourist Provence - they rarely do that. 
  • I am not interested in a rest day in Carcassonne 
  • The stages through the Pyrenees are perfection! 
  • The climbing stages are shorter, so they may go harder with daring break aways
  • The penultimate stage is the only individual time trial (54km), followed by a long transfer
  • The area near Bergerac (location of the ITT), along the Dordogne River, is lovely
  • Only one day in or near Paris dashes all those weekend tour packages
  • Return of the classic afternoon finish on the Champs-Élysées - good!
Most excited about
  1. Tour start in England (this is the 4th time the TDF has visited England)
  2. The Pyrenees! And Stages 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20
  3. Etape du Tour on July 20th - Stage 18, Pau-Hautacam!
I would not want to be a tour operator or a bus driver for this Tour de France

And yet I can so clearly see how I would bring a group of cyclists from the Etape du Tour through the final stages, that I want to begin the planning right now!

The caravan approaches on Pla d'Adet on Le Tour day in 2005.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
It's all about the teams and one very strong man

This year's route puts a whole knew emphasis on recent rider transfers. The 2014 Tour de France will be decided in the team selection. Looking at this route, I think the teams need to decide who their GC man will be ahead of time and solidly support him; quite risky. They won't be looking to load their team with 4 climbers (back to the drawing board for team Garmin-Sharp), and see whose form comes through. Two climbers (alternates) pacing the GC up climbs should do just fine (6 out of 21 stages are mountain stages with 5 high altitude finishes).

The teams will also not be looking to fill the ranks with time trialers - there will be no team time trial in 2014 and only one individual time trial which happens to be scheduled for Stage 20, out of 21, and is 54 kilometers long. Which means we will again witness skinny GC contenders no longer fitting their ideal TT bike fit, slipping around on their saddles trying to make up 40-second time gaps, when minutes could separate riders by the end of the day, and the outcome of Stage 20 could very well determine the final Tour podium. Oh the suspense.

There will be plenty of opportunities for glorious stage wins by the sprinters. Teams will need to give any prominent sprinter a good solid lead out. So if a team intends to support a sprinter, they will devote 3 out of 9 men to the task of winning stage victories. Or a sprinter will need to be excellent in taking advantage of other teams and also expert in placement.

Count it out: one GC, two climbers, one sprinter, two leadouts - traditionally that would leave space for 3 extremely hard working domestiques. Instead, I think for 2014 the D.S.s need to select and train a 4 to 5-man team of all-rounders who can act as domestiques, initial lead-out men, and form the protective train in the long distance stages (9 out of 21 stages are flat). We all know these five riders are often the most vulnerable to crashes and DNFs so they better be cross-trained as multi-taskers with good bike handling skills to avoid too many take-outs in the first crazy week through England and Belgium.

Which team will we all be watching in July?  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
This is why I think the 2014 Tour de France is about a good solid road racing team and an experienced GC contender

Tour Organizers have thrown in variety galore, and with visits to England, Belgium and a quick bypass through Spain, the riders and the fans will never be bored; with the winner being determined at some point in the last week. Plus I love when they include cobbles into the mix of the Tour de France. Paris-Roubaix is after all a race in FRANCE! Plus I like seeing the recon reports of Contador, and the likes, training on the old cobbled roads.

Still the 2014 Tour de France has five mountain summit finishes planned - that says a lot right there. If it weren't that so much time damage can be done during a climbing stage, I would think it possible for a someone other than a pure climber to win the Tour de France, but that is unlikely. We can look for the GC contender who makes it safely through week one, stays healthy through week two, and climbs well in week three; reserving enough energy for the long individual time trial and stepping onto the podium in Paris.

THE contenders

As with all the other tour previews, I can throw out names like Nibali, Rodriguez, Contador, Froome, Chavanel, Costa, and Valverde. I can talk of the battle between Sagan, Kittel, Cavendish, and Greipel. But I am looking forward to that solo-breakaway that sticks, that epic triumph, that new young-gun who steps into the limelight. That glorious story that makes the Tour de France the very best Grand Tour. And motivates me to wake up ungodly early every morning during the month of July.

This year I am most interested in the Best Team standing on the final podium in Paris.

Preliminary startlist for the 2014 Tour de France via ProCycling Stats

THE language lesson

Vosges [vohzh] (link to hear how to pronounce)

THE geography lesson 

The 2014 Tour de France will visit three mountain ranges in France:
  1. Vosges
  2. Alps
  3. Pyrenees
Mountain Ranges in France. Map via http://www.france-pub.com