This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
The 2015 Tour de France will include just 42km of time trials but eight mountain stages, making it a race for the climbers and giving French riders Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Peraud a chance of winning the legendary yellow jersey.
The 2015 Tour de France starts in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on Saturday July 4, with a 14km time trial stage. There is no final time trial before the riders head to Paris. Instead the last battle for the yellow jersey will be on the 21 hairpins of L’Alpe d’Huez in the Alps on Saturday July 25, before the riders fly to Paris for the final stage on a new circuit in the heart of the city.
The team time trial returns to the Tour in 2015 on stage nine with a 28km contre-la-montre between Vannes and Plumelec near the Brittany coast, but the rest of the route tips in favour of the climbers, with mountain stages to La Pierre Saint Martin, Cauterets Vallé de Saint Savin and Plateau de Beille in the Pyrenees, then Pra Loup, Saint Jean de Maurienne, La Toussuiere Les Sibelles and L’Alpe d’Huez in the Alps. The final two Alpine stages are only 138km and 110km respectively but this could mean the racing is more intense and exciting.
The details of the full route of the 102nd edition of the Tour de France were unveiled by race director Christian Prudhomme in a packed Palais des Congress in centre Paris, close to the Arc du Triomphe and the Champs Elysees where riders complete the three-week Grand Tour every July.
2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, Pinot, Peraud, plus Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Cadel Evans (BMC), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) all attended the presentation, along with UCI President Brian Cookson. Alberto Contador was absent after undergoing minor surgery on the leg he injured in this year’s Tour de France, while Chris Froome was in Britain for a Team Sky get together.
A highlights video recalled the drama of the 2014 Tour de France before the 2015 route was revealed. Then Prudhomme confirmed details of the Grand Depart in Utrecht and revealed the details of each stage.
The opening time trial will twist around the streets of Utrecht and will immediately create small time gaps and of course award the first yellow jersey of 2015. The sprinters will have a chance of taking yellow on stage two to Neeltje Jans on the exposed western coast of the Netherlands. However the cross winds could spark echelons and make for a dramatic stage and see someone lose any chance of overall success.
The overall contenders will also be on edge on stage three to the top of the Mur de Huy. The double-digit final gradient will be a fight for every second and will come after a long fight for position on the roads of the Ardennes. The 2015 Tour also includes another taste of the cobbles of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on stage four to Cambrai. This year Vincenzo Nibali set up his overall victory with an impressive ride on the pave and in 2015 there will seven sectors of pave and yet again 30km of raving on the bone-jarring cobbles.
The 2015 cuts across northern France via Amiens, Le Havre and Fougeres, offering the sprinters more possibility of success. However the overall contenders will again have to be vigilant along the coast and on stage eight on the uphill finish on the Mur de Bretagne. Cadel Evans won here in 2011 and the short climb could spark time gaps.
The first part and the Northern section of the 2015 Tour ends with the 28km team time trial between Vannes and Plumelec. The stage is on long straight roads but also includes an early climb and pays homage to local hero Bernard Hinault.
The mountains of the 2015 Tour de France begin after the first rest day in Pau, with stage ten on July 14, Bastille Day, from Tarbes to La Pierre Saint Martin.
The triplet of mountain stages in the Pyrenees also includes a stage to Cauterets Vallé de Saint Savin, which includes the Tourmalet. It is followed by a finish at Plateau de Beille, a stage which remembers the late Fabio Casartelli, who tragically died during the 1995 Tour de France. It is the sixth time Plateau de Beille hosts a finish, with the 16km, 8% climb expected to cause significant time gaps.
The Tour transfers across the south of France via Rodez, Mende and Valence, with the sprinters getting a chance of success after suffering in the Pyrenees. However they face a lot more mountains if they want to reach Paris.
The Alps hosts the final mountain stages of the Tour with a series of testing but short mountain that have rarely been seen together in one edition of the Tour.
Stage 17 to Pra Loup includes the rarely used Col d’Allos followed by a difficult descent — which brought a smile to Nibali’s face but will scare many of his rivals. The climb to the finish at Pra Loup recalls the historic stage from the 1975 Tour, when Bernard Thevenet ended Eddy Merckx’s reign and stopped him winning a sixth Tour.
The Tour de France shows a flash of innovation on stage 18 by including the Lacets de Montvernier climb. It has 18 hairpins cut into the side of the mountain that twist and turn on themselves. It is only 3.8km long but will be a spectacular moment before the longer climbs of the stage and the finish in Saint Jean de Maurienne. Stage 19 is short at only 138km but includes the Glandon and the Croix de Fer before the finish at La Toussuiere Les Sibelles.
L’Alpe d’Huez is the final Alpine stage and the final mountain stage of the 2015 Tour de France. The crowds will no doubt be huge with the Dutch corner packed as ever, as the riders fight for overall victory in a 110km stage.
Video: Alpe d’Huez Tour de France climb
The riders fly to Paris before a 107km stage from Sevres Grand Paris Seine Ouest to the Champs Elysees, that Prudhomme promised would visit the Eiffel Tower and the Left Bank before starting the finishing circuits. It will be the 40th time the Tour de France ends on the Champs Elysees, with the winner crowned on the podium with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.
The total race distance will be 3350km, with Prudhomme confirming that daily time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds will also return and be a factor in deciding the final podium.