Sunday, 11 May 2014

2014 Tour de France Preview Stages 1-3 (English Stages)

This years Tour de France will start in Leeds, England and 3 stages will be in England (more than ever previously). The first two stages will be the Tours' most northerly as they are in Yorkshire. Unlike when the Tour has previously been in England (in 1974, 1994 and 2007), this time riders will have to go up challenging hills including one 2nd Category climb on Stage 2.

Stage 1 - Leeds - Harrogate 190km

The 101st edition of this historic race will start in West Yorkshire and will see the riders have a relatively flat ride to Harrogate, which is where Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish's mother is from. The peloton will have to cross three categorised climbs; the first coming after 68km, the category 4 Cote de Cray. The days intermediate sprint comes 10km later at Newbiggin. A chance for one of the riders in the days break to get €1500 for their team. The second climb of the day is the 3rd Category, Cote de Buttertubs, here is when the break will start fighting it out for the King Of the Mountains Classification. The third and final climb of the day comes at 130km - Cote de Griton Moor - the descent will likely be where the break is caught, with there being a bunch sprint in Harrogate with my pick for the stage being Mark Cavendish to take Yellow, hopefully this year he doesn't crash with 5km to go.

Stage 2 - York - Sheffield 201km

Stage 2 is when we will see a switch in the GC as it is not a day for the sprinters. Thierry Gouvenou says "it is set to be thrilling because the overall favourites will have to avoid being caught napping" .The medium mountain stage sees the peloton crest 9 categorised climbs.  The first of the nine is the 4th Cat, Cote de Blubberhouses after 47km, followed by the 3rd Category Cote d'Oxenhope Moor 38km later. As the race re-enters West Yorkshire, the peloton will be greeted with two Category 3 climbs in quick succession; the Cote de Rippondale and the Cote de Greetland. This seems tough, but it is only the calm before the storm, as the hardest climb Holme Moss or as the ASO call it the Cote de Holme Moss; the 2nd Category Climb is 4.7km long at a gradient of 7% which is where we should see the malliot jaune being dropped by the peloton if he hasn't been already. After this we see four categorised climbs in the last 34km. The first of those would be the 3rd Category, Cote de Midhopestones, with 34km remaining, swiftly followed by the 4th Category Cote de Bradfield, with 26km to go. The final two climbs will be a perfect springboard for riders to attack and for the GC contenders to make time on their rivals these are the 3rd Category, Cote de Oughtibridge, with 19km to go and the final climb is the Category 4 slog up the Cote de Jenkin Road, which finishes with only 5km to go. The high speed descent into Sheffield could cause crashes and be a very exciting finish. My pick for the stage is Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEDGE.

Stage 3 - Cambridge - London 155km

A nice short stage into London before the race goes back onto the continent. This is a stage was put on so that the UK Government could give the Tour bid backing. Stage 3 shows no challenges, at all, it will be a fast stage with a break being caught, that break doesn't even have any KOM's to go for as there are none. The break will be caught before 50km to go just before the intermediate sprint at Epping Forest which is when we will see the real Green jersey contenders come to the fore, as they will be looking to catch up on the likes of Sagan and Gerrans by getting 20pts in the days' sprint. The race will then enter the Olympic Park before finishing in a bunch sprint on the Mall next to Buckingham Palace. The only thing the peloton will have to look out for is the crashes near the finish in London. My pick of the day is for Mark Cavendish to win the stage.

As the Race leaves Great Britain I think we will see David Millar in Yellow, Jens Voigt in the Polka-dot (KOM) and either Mark Cavendish or Peter Sagan in the Green (Sprinters) jerseys.

No comments: