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PARIS (AFP) — Following the announcement of the 2015 Tour de France route in Paris on Wednesday, AFP looks at five key stages where the race will be won or lost:
Stage 2: Utrecht to Zeeland, 166km
This is one of two stages where the weather could play a crucial and decisive role in determining the outcome not just of the stage but the whole Tour. Along with the sixth stage from Abbeville to Le Havre, in which there will be 100km of racing along the cliffs of Normandy, this stage, which takes in the Zeeland Delta in the Netherlands, is at severe risk of high winds. High winds create the possibility for splits in the peloton that can quickly grow into gaps that count minutes rather than seconds. The favorites will be on high alert.
Stage 4: Seraing to Cambrai, 221km
Tour director Christian Prudhomme likes early stages that animate the course rather than simply ending in a bunch sprint, and this is one such stage. Back in July, we saw what cobbles can do on a stage as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) laid down a dominant marker, taking more than two minutes out of all his major overall rivals after a brilliant ride on the cobbles. Reigning champion Chris Froome (Sky) crashed out and abandoned the race even before attempting the cobbles, while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) looked uncomfortable and lost more than 2:40. This will be a stage in which a few contenders will likely be hoping to stick to Nibali’s rear wheel.
Stage 10: Tarbes to La Pierre Saint-Martin, 167km
The first day in the Pyrenees will be crucial, not the least because of the final 15.3km climb that has an average gradient of 7.4 percent. It is not the hardest climb, nor the toughest stage of the race, but two factors will make it perhaps the most testing mountain stage: It comes after a rest day and it is the first mountaintop finish. Those two factors can catch out riders whose bodies have yet to adapt to the specific exertions of the high mountains, as was the case with Australian Richie Porte (Sky) this year, who had looked strong on milder climbs in the Vosges region before cracking spectacularly on the first true mountain stage.
Stage 17: Digne les Bains to Pra-Loup, 161km
This is not the toughest mountain stage by far in terms of the climbing, nor the relatively short distance, but it is the long descent of the penultimate Col d’Allos ahead of the short final ascent to Pra-Loup that makes it intriguing. This year, Contador’s hopes went up in smoke when he crashed on a fast descent and broke his leg, forcing him out of the Tour on the 10th stage. Nibali is regarded by many as one of the best descenders in the peloton, and this tough technical descent could allow him, or someone else, to get away and defend a considerable gap ahead of the final climb. With most minds focused on the climbs, those who dare to attack where it’s not expected can sometimes see themselves richly rewarded.
Stage 20: Modane to Alpe d’Huez, 110km
This stage, the penultimate one of the Tour, is tailor-made for fireworks. It is very short for a mountain stage at just 110km and includes three brutal climbs, meaning it will be a battle between the contenders right from the start. The Col du Telegraphe is 11.9km long at an average gradient of 7.1 percent, followed by the ceiling of next year’s race, the Col du Galibier — 17.7km at 6.9 percent. None of the contenders will likely have broken clear by then, although some may have fallen away, but the tough climbing already in their legs might come back to haunt the overall challengers when they then ascend Alpe d’Huez, all the way to the finish. Its 21 hairpins and 13.8km 8.1 percent average gradient will ensure the possibility of turning the Tour on its head right to the very end.
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Chris Froome (Sky) said the 2015 Tour de France presented Wednesday “is about the mountains” and that he could skip the race in favor of the time trial-heavy Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
“There’s no two ways about it, next year’s Tour is going to be about the mountains,” Froome said in a press statement.
The Briton and 2013 Tour champion is with Sky at a team building camp and did not attend the presentation in Paris, where organizer ASO presented a route with six summit finishes and only one 13.7-kilometer individual time trial.
“There’s very little emphasis on time trialling which means the race will be decided up in the high mountains,” Froome said. “With six mountaintop finishes it is going to be an aggressive and massively demanding race.”
Froome said the race suits Spain’s Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), but he also mentioned Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 2014 winner and Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Contador and Quintana have already put the 2015 Tour, slated for July 4-26, on their program.
“We’ll have to see who’s going to be there but I think Alberto Contador will be the man to beat,” Froome continued.
“Alberto is the guy who stands out though. He came back after his injury in an amazing way to win the Vuelta España title this year and I expect him to be just as strong next season.”
Froome raced and won the 2013 Tour. He returned in 2014 to defend his title, but he crashed three times and abandoned with fractured bones in his wrist and hand on the fifth stage, July 9, ahead of the cobbles to Arenberg.
He explained that it is not guaranteed that he will lead Sky again at the 2015 Tour. Instead, he could opt for the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España next year.
Organizer Unipublic has yet to present the 2015 Vuelta route, but RCS Sport revealed its Giro course October 6. Besides the usual mountaintop finishes in the final week, it includes a 59.2km time trial on stage 14.
“The team and I will have to give it some careful consideration before we make any commitments to which of the grand tours I will compete in,” Froome said. “I see myself as quite a balanced GC rider and the Giro with its inclusion of a long time trial of 60km and tough uphill finishes will make it a well-balanced race which suits me well.
“If I did the Giro I may also be able to get myself back to top shape for the Vuelta and go there with a realistic chance of aiming for the win. In the past I’ve only targeted one grand tour each season, but it could be a good opportunity for me to focus seriously on two.”
Froome has only raced the Giro d’Italia twice before, in 2009 when he placed 34th and in 2010 when he was disqualified for holding onto a motorbike. In 2012, he raced the Tour and the Vuelta, placing second and fourth. After pulling out of the 2014 Tour, he placed finished in the Vuelta in September.
The post Froome may skip mountainous 2015 Tour for Giro-Vuelta double appeared first on VeloNews.com.
PARIS (AFP) — For the first time in Tour de France history, the legendary Alpe d’Huez will be climbed on the penultimate stage of the 2015 edition before the final procession in Paris.
That was one of several surprises unveiled on Wednesday as the official route for the 2015 Tour, from July 4-26, was announced in Paris by Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
After this year’s exciting fifth stage — in which defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) crashed out with a broken hand and wrist — won by Dutchman Lars Boom (Belkin), the cobbles return for a second successive year while the first part of the race pays homage to some of the greatest bike races in the world.
But perhaps the biggest shock is the lack of time trial kilometers, something that will not favor 2013 winner Froome, who had said last month he was hoping for more, or longer, time trials to give him an edge on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), who pipped him to Vuelta a Espana glory in September.
“One aspect of the race which I feel are my strengths is in the time trials,” Briton Froome had said ahead of last month’s world championships in Spain.
“I’m quite eager to see the 2015 Tour route and whether in the time trials I can get an advantage on [Contador].”
The 2015 course will thus be seen as giving an advantage to Spaniard and two-time winner winner Contador, or even Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar) of Colombia. 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will also likely look favorably on the course, as he is considered weaker than both Froome and Contador against the clock.
The Italian excelled on the cobbles this year, finishing third on that stage, and will no doubt look forward to the fourth stage, the longest of the race at 221km, in which there will be seven cobbled sections totaling 13.3km — with six of those coming in the final 45km.
“The alchemy of the Tour is to use every possible terrain,” said Prudhomme of the perilous cobbles.
Nibali gained more than 2 minutes on all his main rivals this year on the cobbled section that took in parts of the prestigious Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic course, as will next year’s fourth stage.
The day before that, the third stage will also play homage to another one-day classic, La Fleche Wallonne, with a finish on the brutally steep Mur de Huy.
That, along with the stage 8 finish up the Mur de Bretagne forms an integral part of the first week of racing along almost exclusively flat terrain in which sprinters will have plenty of opportunities to have their day.
Fighting for victory
Those two tough finishing climbs, as well as the return of bonus seconds for the first three — for the first time since 2007 — are aimed at animating the early part of the race, according to Prudhomme.
“I want to see the leading contenders fighting for the victory right from the off,” said Prudhomme.
Another thing Prudhomme wants to see is riders battling for victory on a day of special significance, which is why the fifth stage from Arras to Amiens will pass through some of the most important battlefields of the Somme, continuing the World War I theme from this year’s course and aimed at resonating particularly with Australians, New Zealanders and Britons.
Once the first rest day is out of the way, following the ninth stage from Vannes to Plumelec, a short 28km team time trial, it will be all about the mountains.
Three days in the Pyrenees and four in the Alps, including five summit finishes in total, are what await the peloton.
For the sprinters, it will be largely about surviving so they can take their chances on the final stage on the Champs Elysees. But for the contenders, there are a multitude of possibilities to make a difference and turn the tide of the race in their favor.
“Four consecutive stages in the Alps, that hasn’t happened for a long time,” said Prudhomme, who hopes that the penultimate stage up Alpe d’Huez, having earlier scaled the ceiling of the 2015 race, the Col du Galibier at 2,645 meters, will allow the overall standings to still be “turned upside” down, right to the bitter end.
As Prudhomme says: “Anything can happen.”
Stage 1: July 4 — Utrecht, 14km individual time trial
Stage 2: July 5 — Utrecht to Zeeland, 166km
Stage 3: July 6 — Antwerp to Huy, 154km
Stage 4: July 7 — Seraing to Cambrai, 221km
Stage 5: July 8 — Arras to Amiens, 189km
Stage 6: July 9 — Abbeville to Le Havre, 191km
Stage 7: July 10 — Livarot to Fougeres, 190km
Stage 8: July 11 — Rennes to Mur de Bretagne, 179km
Stage 9: July 12 — Vannes to Plumelec, 28km team time trial
Stage 10: July 14 — Tarbes to La Pierre Saint-Martin, 167km
Stage 11 July 15 — Pau to Cauterets-Vallee de Saint-Savin, 188km
Stage 12: July 16 — Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille, 195km
Stage 13: July 17 — Muret to Rodez, 200km
Stage 14: July 18 — Rodez to Mende, 178km
Stage 15: July 19 — Mende to Valence, 182km
Stage 16: July 20 — Bourg de Peage to Gap, 201km
Stage 17: July 22 — Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup, 161km
Stage 18: July 23 — Gap to Saint-Jean de Maurienne, 185km
Stage 19: July 24 — Saint-Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles, 138km
Stage 20: July 25 — Modane Valfrejus to Alpe d’Huez, 110km
Stage 21: July 26 — Sevres to Paris, 107km
The post 2015 Tour route unveiled; Cobbles, Alpe d’Huez finale included appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Team Sky leader says Giro d’Italia suits him better