What It Is:
The Tour de France is considered the most prestigious bike race in the world. Over 100 years old, the race has been held every year, except during the World Wars. It is also considered to be the most difficult sporting event in the world. Even if you’re not particularly into racing or sports, it’s worth it to watch at least a few stages of The Tour every year (see below) to see the spectacle. There are few things in sports that can match the excitement of two riders battling it out on a high mountain pass or the drama of watching a lone rider try to hang on for a solo win. Despite past issues with doping and scandals, the sport has taken huge steps to clean up its act in recent years, and many say that the sport is now cleaner– and more exciting– than it ever has been in the past.
The Tour de France will start on July 5th, 2014, and ends on July 27th, 2014.
The Tour will start in Leeds, England. After a few days of racing in the UK, the race will move to France. The final stage will be held in Paris with the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees.
The Tour de France is a 21 day race—with each day of racing called a “stage”. There are two rest days. The stages are divided between “flat” stages, “mountain stages”, and one day with a time trial.
Must Watch Stages:
Stage 1: Saturday, July 5. Watch as The Tour gets off to its start in Leeds, England. All the drama will be focused on Mark Cavendish, who will hope to win the opening stage and wear the yellow jersey for a day on home turf.
Stage 5: Wednesday, July 9. Paris-Roubaix it ain’t, but this stage will feature cobbled roads on the Tour de France for the first time since 2010. Given the difficulty of riding on cobbles, this could be where early favorites get into serious trouble. Expect drama, crashes, and some epic heartbreak. This could be the stage that makes (or unmakes) the race.
Stage 10: Monday, July 14. This is going to be one of the toughest days of mountains that the Tour has seen in quite a while. The route will tackle two Category 3 climbs on the way to the La Planche des Belles Filles—a series of seven Category 1 &2 climbs that average around 8%. There is a chance that the race could be effectively decided on these climbs for both the GC and KOM battles.
Stage 14: Saturday, July 19. This one is going to hurt. As The Tour turns towards the French Alps, the climbs only get worse. This stage will feature the famous hors categorie Col du Izoard climb. After getting up the Col du Lautaret—a 34km long climb, the riders must then tackle the Izoard (19km, average grade 6%). Anyone having a bad day here will be out of the running for the win.
Stage 18: Thursday, July 24. This stage is relatively short, so expect to see some high speed racing in the Pyrenees Mountains, including the infamous Col du Tourmalet—the legendary climb that should see an epic battle between Froome and Contador, as well as anyone else brave enough to try and hang with them.
How It Works:
There are 5 prizes up for grabs in the Tour de France. The overall win, the points prize, the king of the mountains prize, the best young rider, and winning individual stages.
- General Classification (GC, Yellow Jersey): This is the overall win for the race. The GC winner is the rider with the fastest overall time. The current winner of the race will wear a yellow jersey, which may change hands several times during the race.
- Points (aka Sprinters Jersey): This is the award for the fastest sprinter in the race. The current points leader wears a green jersey. Unlike the GC contest, the points contest is awarded based on points. Each stage will feature an intermediate sprint in the middle, and a final sprint at the end. Points are awarded for the order in which riders cross.
- King of the Mountains (aka KOM, Polka Dot Jersey): This goes to the fastest climber in the race. The current KOM leader wears a white and red polka dot jersey. Like the points jersey, the KOM award is based on points. Points are awarded based on the order in which riders make it up categorized climbs (mountains classified as: 5 (easiest), 4, 3, 2, 1, hors categorie (hardest), with the most points awarded for hors categorie finishes).
- Young Rider: This award goes to the fastest rider under the age of twenty-five. The current leader wears a white jersey. The white jersey is awarded to the under-25 rider with the fastest time.
- Stage Wins: Many teams will choose to forgo racing for the GC win and instead choose to win individual stages of the race. This is often seen as more prestigious than winning the green, polka dot, or white jersey. Teams may choose to adopt the strategy of “stage hunting” if they have no rider capable of genuinely challenging for the GC win, or to get more attention for the team and their sponsors.
Riders To Watch
Chris Froome (Kenya; 2013 winner)—Team Sky
Alberto Contador (Spain; sort-of kind-of former winner?)—Tinkoff-Saxo
Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)– Astana
Alejandro Valverde (Spain)—Movistar
Tejay Van Garderen (USA)—BMC
Andrew Talanksy (USA)—Garmin Sharp
Romain Bardet (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale
Rui Costa (Portugal; current World Champion)—Lampre-Merida
Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium)—Lotto-Belisol
Peter Sagan (Slovakia; 2012, 2013 points winner)—Cannondale
Mark Canvendish (UK; 2011 points winner)—Omega-Pharma-Quick Step
Marcel Kittel (Germany)—Giant-
Shimano Andre Greipel (Germany)—Lotto-Belisol
Joachim Rodriguez (Spain)—Katusha
Pierre Rolland (France)—Europcar
Mikel Nieve (Spain)—Team Sky
Christophe Riblon (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale
Andrew Talanksy (USA)—Garmin Sharp
Romain Bardet (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale
Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)—Omega-Pharma-Quick Step
Tejay Van Garderen (USA; 2012 young rider winner) —BMC
The Tour de France will be contested by 22 teams. Each team will usually consist of a GC rider—usually the best all-around rider on the team—who will in theory try to win the entire Tour, though really only a few riders are capable of doing this. He is supported by eight “domestiques”, who will allow the GC rider to draft off of them, keep him away from dangerous riders, get him water and food, and even surrender their bikes or wheels if needed. Teams may also feature sprinters, climbers, rolleurs, and other types of riders who may try to contest for individual stage wins in the sprints or the mountains, if their team decides they no longer need to support their GC rider on that day. The teams for the 2014 Tour de France are:
- AG2r-La Mondiale (France) Leader: Romain Bardet (France)
- Astana (Kazakhstan) Leader: Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)
- Belkin Cycling (Netherlands) Leader: Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
- BMC Racing (USA) Leader: Tejay Van Garderen (USA)
- Cannondale (Italy) Leader: Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
- FDJ.FR (France) Leader: Thibau Pinot (France)
- Garmin Sharp (USA) Leader: Andrew Talansky (USA)
- IAM Cycling (Switzerland) Leader: Sylvan Chavanel (France)
- Katusha (Russian Federation) Leader: Joachim Rodriguez (Spain)
- Lampre-Merida (Italy) Leader: Rui Costa (Portugal)
- Lotto-Belisol (Belgium) Leader: Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium)
- Movistar Team (Spain) Leader: Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
- Omega-Pharma-Quick Step (Netherlands) Leader: Mark Cavendish (UK)
- Orica Greenedge (Australia) Leader: Simon Gerrans (Australia)
- Team Sky (United Kingdom) Leader: Chris Froome (Kenya)
- Giant Shimano (Netherlands) Leader: Marcel Kittel (Germany)
- Europcar (France) Leader: Pierre Rolland (France)
- Tinkoff-Saxo (Russian Federation) Leader: Alberto Contador (Spain)
- Trek Factory Racing (USA) Leader: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)
- Cofidis (France) Leader: Rein Taaramäe (Latvia)
- Bretagne Seche Environment (France) Leader: Brice Feillu (France)
- Netapp-Endura (Germany) Leader: Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic)