OT: Tour de France Pre-Race Thread

Submitted by reshp1 on July 3rd, 2014 at 3:48 PM

The 2014 Tour de France kicks off this Saturday, July 5th. This year's race begins with 3 stages in the UK before moving to France. Week one features largely flat stages suited to the sprinters and should feature some exciting bunch sprints. As was the case last year, the opening stage will not be the traditional individual time trial format, so the sprinters will have a little extra motivation since the winner will earn the right to wear the yellow jersey.

Stage 5 breaks up the opening week's sprinter friendly trend by featuring 9 cobble stone sections. Cobble stone sections, as made famous by the spring classic Paris-Roubaix, are a grueling test of strength, bike handling, determination, and at least a bit of luck as rider and bike alike will be battered and shaken to their limit. The overall leader may not be decided on this stage, but a GC contender's chances can certainly be dashed here.

Stage 8 will likely be the opening salvos in the battle for the general classification as it features the first, albeit short, uphill finish. After a week of trying to keep safe and clean out of the spotlight, look for GC contenders to test each other here for the first time.

Stage 10, 13, 14 are in the high mountains of the alps and all feature cat 1 or HC climbs at the finish. IMO, this is where the race for the yellow jersey will be won and lost. Stage 15 and a rest day offer a brief respite before the race moves into the Pyrenees, with another pair of decisive uphill finishes in stage 17 and 18. This stretch, coupled by the fact that there is only one time trial stage, may make this one of the most climber centric Tours in recent memory.

Stage 20's individual time trial will be the last chance for the GC contenders to make up time on their rivals. Although it is the only race against the clock  this year, it is a long and tough course at 54km and hilly. With how tough the mountain stages are, I think whomever emerges as the best climber likely has the GC sewn up at this point, but it doesn't mean this stage won't decide the rest of the podium.

 

The favorite for the GC has to be Chris Froome. Although he's had some setbacks due to crashes and illness this year, he's shown that in top form his climbing ability is unmatched. This course will definitely suit him. His team, Team Sky, will also bring a strong contingent, including his trusty lieutenant Richie Porte, that is focused solely on helping him win.

Alberto Contador will likely be Froome's biggest threat. Contador is coming back into form we haven't seen since he won the Giro 2 years ago. He and Froome duked it out in the Tour tune up race, the Criterium du Dauphine, in June, with Contador ultimately victorious taking advantage of a crash-wounded Froome.  His chances took a big hit however when his right hand man, Roman Kreuziger, was barred from racing due to biological passport irregularities. Look for Contador to animate the race with aggressive attacks as he seeks to find a crack in Froome's and Team Sky's armor.

For the Green Jersey, points classification, I think Peter Sagan will run away with it again. He has an unique ability to place well in sprints while showing the climbing ability to snatch intermediate points on stages where the other sprinters will be struggling just to make the time cut-off. Sagan, however will likely not be a factor in the big bunch sprints with three explosive sprinters in Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, and Andre Griepel. None of these guys have been able to assert dominance over the others, and when no one and on one team dominates, sprints tend to be chaotic and dangerous as multiple teams jockey for position in the final kilometer. Expect some exciting stage finishes that come down to the last inch and probably a couple of big wrecks as well.

 

EDIT: Previews, News, Stage descriptions and more here:

http://www.steephill.tv/tour-de-france/

Comments

LSAClassOf2000

July 3rd, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

The stage-by-stage preview from the BBC is here - LINK

The English stages sound like some pretty awesome rides actually. In order:

 - Leeds-Harrogate (190.5 km)

 - York-Sheffield (201 km)

 - Cambridge-London (155 km)

 

FreddieMercuryHayes

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:06 PM ^

GEEZ MAN THIS IS A MICHIGAN BLOG WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT STUPID CYCLING GET THIS OFF THE BOARD AND TALK ABOUT MICHIGAN HOW TALL IS PEPPERS WHEN IS JAKE BUTT COMING BACK

tdcarl

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:21 PM ^

I'm pulling for Talansky in this one. I don't think he can do it, but I didn't think he'd take Dauphine either. I'd love to see TeJay do well, but I don't think this tour suits him all that well. 

I'm excited that some of the famous Roubaix cobbles are getting included. For those not familiar with them, they are serious business.  Just imagine riding on this, on a road bike, with 200 other dudes.

 

I'm also a big Cavendish fan, especially after reading his books, and would love to see him take the first stage in the UK. As a sprinter myself, the bunch sprints really excite me with all of the teamwork going on in the last few km leading up to the explosive sprint. As much as I like Cav, I still gotta go with Sagan as the green jersey favorite. 

reshp1

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

I think Talansky can pull a top 10, maybe even top 5. As well as he did in the Dalphine, even he admitted the TdF is a different kind of race. He likely would not get the leash to pull off a move like that again in the Tour. 

No prologue time trial is going to make the opening sprint very interesting. The yellow jersey may be a bit of a mixed blessing as that team may end up with too much pressure and responsibilities to have enough left for a lead out at the end in the subsequent stages. 

bluecervelo

July 4th, 2014 at 10:04 AM ^

I'm really rooting for Talansky, seems like a good dude. Anyone but Froome really... I'd even prefer that cheat Contador, sad to say.

I love me some Cav as well, I think he's on really good form this year, and OPQS is really having a strong year. I think Cav will have his way on the sprints this year.

 

Looks like you are on the M cycling team? I met one of the guys who just graduated on the Tuesday Derby ride in Birmingham. I had my M cycling kit on as well and we struck up a conversation. 

MMB 82

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

has come out with a new line of bikes, the Emonda; the top of the line version weighs in at all of 10.25 lbs! I wonder if we will see them- UCI still has minimum weight limits, right? 

tdcarl

July 3rd, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

Jens tweeted out that a few guys will be riding them for sure. I imagine they'll make up some of the weight with heavier bars/saddles/seat posts/power meters/other goodies. 

ST3

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:57 PM ^

I was in France last week. I was expecting the town I was in to go crazy the night France played in the World Cup. Instead, the game ended 0-0 and everyone was sort of, meh. The following night, Algeria made it into the next round. The streets were full of fans celebrating and honking horns. This went on until around 1am local time, which was rough on me since I had to wake up at 5am and catch a train back to Paris. It seems there are quite a few Algerians living in France.

snarling wolverine

July 3rd, 2014 at 5:06 PM ^

And that's why a lot of French people wanted Algeria to lose to Germany, even though (on paper) Algeria would have been a weaker opponent. 

It should be added though that that was also Algeria's first-ever qualification to the round of 16, whereas France has done that many times (and they had already basically clinched their group before that Ecuador game).  If France beats Germany there will be much more celebrating.

Speaking of festive atmospheres, it's really cool to attend a stage of the TdF in person.  Anyone going to France in July should try to make a detour to see it.

 

 

 

 

Quailman

July 3rd, 2014 at 6:05 PM ^

My old roomate used to think that there was a rider named "Peloton" becuase they would always be talking about "him" whenever I would have the Tour on the TV. 

petered0518

July 3rd, 2014 at 6:38 PM ^

While I respect his decision as a good career move, I am sorely disappointed that Quintana rode the giro.  Adding a third contender and one who can blow things up in the mountains at any time just adds so much excitement to the race.  I see him like a Pantani figure going forward (minus the dope and drugs of course) leading the Columbian charge.

I had figured that this would be another race for second like last year, but Froome is showing some weakness so hopefully we have a good race.  I believe that Contador is in a much better place than last year and he is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting and unpredictable stage racers ever.

reshp1

July 3rd, 2014 at 7:50 PM ^

Yeah, I feel the same way. You can't really say it was the wrong call since he won the Giro, and has a solid shot at the Vuelta as well, but this Tour course seems tailor made for him. He may not be quite ready to win but man, he would be a huge catalyst in the mountains and  really animate the race. He seems like that guy that comes in with no fucks to give and blows up everyone's best laid plans to smithereens.