Tour De France Route Guide
Today marks the day for 3 weeks of cycling ecstasy as the Pro Cyclist battle it out for Yellow Supremacy at the 2015 Tour de France. Here is a guide and profile of every stage with a quick take on the day added, Tomorrow I will share the Jersey classification as well as the prize awarded to the riders. Stay tuned
One short time trial stage and six summit finishes make this one for the climbers. The race starts with mini-version of the spring classics crammed into one week with wind-ravaged roads, cobbles, sharp uphill finishes. All this action means there are relatively few stages for the sprinters, probably just five in the whole race. The Alps and Pyrenees are both raced hard with the Alps having four consecutive days of racing with the crowded Alpe d’Huez climax.
Stage 1 – Saturday 4 July
The grand départ happens the Dutch university city of Utrecht. Don’t call it a prologue, Stage 1 is a stage in its own right as it’s almost 14km, enough to open up some significant time gaps. There’s the race for the yellow jersey and the secondary contest between the overall contenders as they look to take time or limit their losses. The course is flat with only canal bridges and underpasses altering the elevation. There are many 90 degree bends but they’re wide. A course for the powerful over the skilled.
Stage 2 – Sunday 5 July
Flat but potentially dangerous. First the Netherlands is a crowded place with a lot of street furniture and once the course gets away from towns the roads get more exposed to the wind. The latter part passes along the coast before it finishes on top of the Pijlerdam flood defence. This is open terrain where a light breeze can feel angry and the peloton will be wary of crosswinds.
Stage 3 – Monday 6 July
Next in the spring classics smörgåsbord sees the race traverse Belgium to pick up the finale of the the Flèche Wallonne in the Ardennes including the “new” Côte de Cherave climb just before the finish which should help split things up. We’ll the overall contenders duelling with the spring classics specialists on the infamous Mur de Huy.
Stage 4 – Tuesday 7 July
The race returns to French soil, literally, as it heads for the dirty cobbled lanes. This is the fear stage where the overall contenders worry their chances will turn to dust in the cobblestone lottery. The pavé sectors used are hard but not the nightmare zones from Paris-Roubaix.
A day for the sprinters. The relative lack of chances for the sprinters in this year’s race surely dooms any breakaway attempt, the best escapees can hope for is their name and jersey on TV.
A seaside trip for the race. Nice for a ride but sending 200 riders along the northern coast could be risky if the wind gets up. Over the half the stage hugs the coast and much of it passes atop exposed cliffs before an uphill finish in Le Havre designed for Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews.
A stage across Brittany, a region that loves cycling so expect big crowds. No more so that than finish at Mûr de Bretagne, a village of just 2,000 people but its population will swell tenfold or more for the day. This uphill finish was used in 2011 with Cadel Evans getting the better of Alberto Contador.
Stage 9 – Sunday 12 July
A 28km team time trial over a difficult route with lumpy, exposed roads. The awkward final climb to the finish will test team cohesion especially as this comes relatively late into the race and teams could have lost riders to crashes and other misfortunes. A long transfer to the Pyrenees and a rest day follows, a chance to lick wounds and examine the time differences.
The first summit finish of the race and where the time gaps between the contenders can go from seconds to minutes. Over more than a week of racing in the big ring the sudden change in rhythm often surprises some. The Col de Soudet is an awkward climb with irregular gradients and long sections above 10% before it flattens out to the line.
A classic day across the Pyrenees with the Aspin and Tourmalet pairing. The Tour has visited Cauterets often for a climb to a ski station above the valley, this time it arrives in the town itself for a more gradual finish but an uphill slog all the same.
The names are not as legendary but the stats show this is a giant day with 4,500m of vertical gain including the tough Plateau de Beille summit finish, 15.8km at 7.9%. It’s also a scenic ride across quiet valleys where the Tour de France is the biggest thing to happen every year.
A hard transition stage with many uncategorised climbs including the final ramp to the finish line just outside Rodez where the race climbs up for almost 600m at 10% just outside the HQ of RAGT, an agricultural business that sponsors the Tour.
Stage 14 – Saturday 18 July
The route skirts the landscapes described in Tim Krabbé’s The Rider novel but it’s all about the finish with the arrival on the small airport run above Mende via the sharp Col de La Croix Neuve sometimes known as the Montée Jalabert.
A breakaway or a bunch sprint? All the climbs are steady with slopes of 4,5 or 6% before the finish in Valence and the second rest day.
The race rides into the Alps to Gap and then climbs the Col de Manse, a regular climb followed by an infamously irregular descent, the place where Lance Armstrong once ploughed across a field and where Andy Schleck’s nervousness allowed Cadel Evans to take time and helping him to win the 2011 Tour de France.
Stage 17 – Wednesday 22 July
A air of déjà vu with the repeat of this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage with the Col d’Allos and Pra Loup, itself a recreation of the 1975 Tour de France when Bernard Thévenet took the yellow jersey off Eddy Merckx. You’ll probably be sick of the story of Merckx’s defeat being told again and again come the day but it’s a great stage to watch. The Col d’Allos is a hard climb with a very technical descent before the more regular but still tiring climb to Pra Loup.
Stage 18 – Thursday 23 July
An uphill start to launch the breakaways and then a road that climbs or descends all day, even that calmer part of the profile around the intermediate sprint is up the awkward Romanche valley, a tiring road that often has a persistent headwind. The giant Col du Glandon is tackled before the races plunges to the Maurienne valley before the scenic climb of the Lacets de Montvernier and then a fast and straight run to the finish.
Stage 19 – Friday 24 July
4,600m of vertical gain in less than 140km and they’ve added a valley section just for the sake of it. The opening climb of the Col du Chaussy leads halfway up Col de Madeleine before descending back down the valley and then taking a flat route in one direction before returning back in the same direction to scale the Col du Glandon for the second time in the week then onto to the Croix de Fer and then the rough Col du Mollard. A twisty, shaded descent takes the riders back to the valley again before the ski station summit finish to La Touissure, 18km at 6.1% and the steepest slopes at the start.
Stage 20 – Saturday 25 July
At just 110.5km this is a short and sharp stage designed to encourage explosive racing from the start. Only the best laid plans can go wrong as emergency roadworks for a late change means and the race abandons the Col du Galibier for the Croix de Fer. It’s a touch easier and there’s just a little more flat road to the foot of Alpe d’Huez, the climax of the 2015 Tour. Ideally there’s still a battle to be had between the overall contenders but a coronation in front of the giant crowds would be fitting too.
Stage 21 – Sunday 26 July
Ah Paris! As ever the final stage is a bizarre event, a parade that mutates into a criterium. Sèvres is famous for its porcelain and where the winner’s trophy is made. The race will use the entire length of the Champs Elysées, circling the Jardin des Tuileries at one end and the Arc de Triomphe at the other for a full lap.