Climbers planning on riding the 2014 Tour de France will have watched today’s unveiling of the route with relish.
Aside from a tricky stage through the cobbled roads of Paris-Roubaix and a lengthily final time trial, the route is populated by multiple climbs from the Tour’s rich history.
Race director Chris Prudhomme proudly claimed that this Tour features three mountain ranges, with the Vosges Mountains being tackleded in stages eight to ten, prior to the Alps and the Pyrenees.
Whereas the first two in this trilogy are characterised by short, steep climbs that will test the riders without causing anything more than superficial time gaps, stage twelve’s finish at the Planche des Belles Filles will likely be a very important day.
It was here that Sky stamped there authority in the 2012 Tour de France. Chris Froome won the stage with a powerful sprint finish, but his main task was achieved through dropping the other major favourites and move teammate Bradley Wiggins into the yellow jersey.
Wiggins, of course, held on to the jersey all the way to Paris; will next year’s Planche des Belles Filles be as decisive?
Next up are the Alps. Stage thirteen finishes atop the Chamrousse, which, being 18 kilometres in length and with a steady average gradient of 7.3%, is typically Alpine.
The climb was used for a mountain time trial back in 2001 with Lance Armstrong claiming the stage honours.
The next day plays host to another Alpine mountain top finish, this time on the Risoul, a 12.6km, 6.9% effort that saw Froome seal the Criterium du Dauphine last year.
On the way, the peloton tackle the infamous Col d’Izoard, with the dramatic rock formation of the Casse Desert. Many a legend has led the Tour to its summit, from Fasto Coppi, to Louison Bobet, to Eddy Merckx.
It is the Pyrenees, however, that will this year play host to the most anticipated mountains.
The first Pyreneean stage (stage 16) is the most gentle of the three, with only two categorised climbs and a valley finish.
But the summit of the Port de Bales – which is recent years has seen Thomas Voeckler and Alejandro Valverde lay the foundations of victory on its slopes – must be reached 20 kilometres before the riders arrive at the finish.
Stage 17 looks like the 2014 Tour’s queen stage, with four accents all over 7 kilometres long, and all with gradients over 7%, including Tour de France regular Col de Peyresourde and the Col de Val Louron-Azet, which both featured in last year’s chaotic stage nine in which Chris Froome was left isolated.
With all four crammed into just 125 kilometres, we can anticipate a similarly action-packed stage this year.
True to form, the Tour has saved two of its most iconic climbs – the Col du Tourmalet and the Hautacam – ‘till last.
The Tourmalet is in recent years best remembered for playing host to Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck’s final battle at the 2011 Tour.
This time round it is positioned halfway through the stage.
Nonetheless, its relentless 17 kilometre length and 7.35 gradients will ensure the peloton are tired by the time they reach the 2014 Tour’s final climb, the Hautacam.
This climb has an unfortunate list of past victors, including Bjarne Riis in 1996 and Lance Armstrong in 2000. Finger crossed a clean, deserving winner can reach its summit first this time round.