Tour de France 2014: three mountain ranges !

In front of more than 4,000 spectators, including some who are pretenders for victory, the route for the Tour de France 2014 was unveiled at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. From the county of Yorkshire to the Champs-Elysées, the 101th edition could be won or lost at many different points: the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix will have a part to play, as will the high altitude finishes in the Pyrenees or the sole time-trial at Périgueux, but the Vosges Mountains could also lead to an unexpected cull among the favourites.

The 101st edition first and foremost signals a return to England. The fourth visit to the Island will be the 20th grand start of Le Tour to take place outside French borders, 60 years after the first experiment in Amsterdam and seven years after London. The pack has fond memories of the welcome received in 2007, but can expect an even warmer welcome thanks to the success of British riders. Since then, Mark Cavendish has become the leading collector of stage wins on the professional circuit, with 25 victories, whilst Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome respectively met with overall triumph in 2012 and 2013. The first three stages, with finishes programmed in Harrogate, Sheffield and London, promise some highly intense racing.

Once on the continent, other familiar sights have been organised for Le Tour's riders, who will have to be at their most vigilant on the cobbled sections of Paris-Roubaix that figure fairly regularly as one of the star features on the Big Loop. The nine portions and 15 kilometres of bumpy terrain in total awaiting the pack, could lead to upheaval in the race hierarchy on the 5th stage. Before reaching the rest day, the favourites will do battle in the Vosges Mountains. “It will be clear to see that the Tour de France indeed crosses three mountain ranges,” underlines Christian Prudhomme, who describes the stage at Planche des Belles Filles, for example, as a genuine challenge for climbers.

The two ski resorts of Chamrousse and Risoul will host the two Alpine stages on which the festival of climbing will continue, during the 13th and 14th stages. However, the scheduling of the difficulties should maintain the suspense until the Pyrenean trio… and even beyond! The kings of the gradients will again be at the forefront on the two particularly dense stages at Saint-Lary Soulan (125 km) and Hautacam (145 km). It will be in their interest to take advantage before the 54 km of time-trial between Bergerac and Périgueux, which is the unique opportunity for the specialists against the clock to display their superiority. Maybe someone will use it to stage a hold-up at the very last minute…