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Tour de France 2015

Tour de France 2015

After months of speculation, the Tour de France route for 2015 was announced last week – and it’s a doozy. The route will delight the climbers – Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador will be salivating with pleasure – and anyone who thinks the individual time trial has been allowed to skew results too much in recent years. Yes, Tour de France 2012, we’re looking at you.

Time bonuses for the first week so the sprinters can play play pass the Yellow Jersey parcel? Check. Spectacular stage finish in the middle of the sea? Check. Long first week stage with cobbles? Check. Short, punchy climbs of the Mur de Huy and the Mûr de Bretagne? Check and check. The Montée Laurent Jalabert above Mende, where Laurent Jalabert had his Jour de Gloire on Bastille Day in 1995? Check. Alpe d’Huez? Check. Less than 50km of time trialling? Check.

With less than 14km of individual time trialling, next year’s Tour makes a real break with tradition. Gone is the 50+km “race of truth”. It seems no modern rider will ever have the opportunity to replicate Raymond Impanis, who won a 139km time trial in 1947 – the longest in the Tour’s history. Instead, in what looks suspiciously like the Vueltaisation of the Tour (the Amaury Sport Organisation organise both races) the individual test has had to give way to a series of tough mountain challenges. Five of the seven high mountain stages will finish in the clouds. And there are newcomers too – the climb of La Pierre Saint-Martin hits gradients of 15% over its 25km length and the Montvernier ascends a steep 4km up a cliff face in 18 torturous hairpin bends.

It’s a curious race this year, a tour of two Frances – the north and the south – with precious little in between. The north is the rough, tough cycling of the hard men, the flahutes, with its cobbles and its crosswinds and its famously variable weather. It’s the cycling of the Hell of the North and the Ardennes and the Fleche Wallonne with its iconic finish on the Mur de Huy, that deceptive little climb that ramps up to 26%, its 1,300m seemingly endless. It’s the cycling of granite-hard Brittany, that wild and windswept landscape that produced so many of the greatest cyclists from Jean Robic to Louison Bobet. It’s the land of the Badger, and Hinault will be delighted to see the Tour back on his home roads.

The race heads south after a finish on the Mûr de Bretagne, the Alpe d’Huez of Brittany, and towards the next great rendezvous in the Pyrenees. This is the France of barren and breathtaking peaks, of the Circle of Death – the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Soulor, Col du Tourmalet, Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde – where the wind screams and the snow falls even in summer.

© The Guardian online - read full article





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