Huez’s namesake will crown this year’s Tour De France.
The 102nd Tour De France will burst into action this Saturday (4th July), and while the 2015 edition won’t feature the joy of a home soil Grand Depart, it’s already shaping up as a race to remember.
Know your Tour
Running from July 4th to July 26th, the 21-stage tour will take in almost 3,400 kilometres of Northern Europe’s most challenging roads. Two weeks of cycling gold - comprising of 9 flat, 3 hill, 7 mountain and 2 time trial stages – will demand nothing more than incredible versatility and intense, prolonged exertion from the world's greatest riders (who'll burn almost 7000 calories a day).
Departing from Utrecht in Holland’s record 6th hosting of the Grand Depart, the peloton will wind its way down the Dutch coast, into Belgium and then onwards into the hills of Brittany. In keeping with tradition, the tour’s final stages will face the memory laden roads of Southern France – before concluding on Paris’ Champs Elysee.
History in the making
The oldest and most prestigious of the ‘Grand Tours’ (the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana its close rivals), the Tour De France began its illustrious journey on July 1st 1903. The inaugural Tour, organised by Géo Lefèvre as a means to increase sales of magazine L’Auto, saw 60 riders pioneering riders compete over six mammoth stages – the Nantes to Paris leg being 471km in itself. (Remove if desired). Led by Maurice Garin, only 21 of the starting ‘routiers’ made it over the line – a tone of challenge not lost on the modern incarnation.
Much has changed since Garin took victory 112 years ago, but the desire of the riders to compete in cycling’s toughest theatre of battle remains absolute. Last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali was inches away from absence following the drug scandal that engulfed the Astana team this season, but through a stroke of good fortune will return to defend his 2014 title from challengers Contador, Quintana and odds-on favourite Chris Froome.
Having crashed amid huge fanfare in his last showing, Froome will be hoping to right past wrongs when riding for Team Sky with British teammates Luke Rowe and the newly crowned national champion Peter Kennaugh. Six more British riders will start than did in Yorkshire last year, equaling the 1955 record of ten and serving as a fitting testament to the sports growing popularity at home. Notable figures saddling up include Alex Dowsett for Movistar, Mark Cavendish for Etixx – Quick Step, and twins Simon and Adam Yates who start together for Orica Green Edge’s squad.
What’s in a name
If there’s one thing that gets Huez excited about the Tour each year, it’s unquestionably the mountain stages. So two ascent finishes in week 1 at Mur de Huy and Côte de Mûr de Bretagne (which ascends at 15% in places), three days in the Pyrenees and alpine summit finishes at Pra Loup and La Toussuire (the scene of Froome and Wiggins’ 2012 encounter) will leave us spoilt for choice this time around.
If high-octane mountain top duels weren’t already enough, there’s another reason the Huez team will be watching so avidly this year. Following in the footsteps of historic peaks Ventoux in 2009 and Annecy-Semnoz in 2013, the peak of Le Alp D’Huez will be the last line the riders see before concluding on the Champs Elysee the following day. Our namesake will crown the 20th stage of 2015, with riders facing a grueling 13.8km ascent over 21 bends to reach the summit - on a stage traditionally seen as the end of the Tour proper.
Will Froome join Wiggins in the history books, or will Contador continue to upset our compatriot at the last? Who knows – but be sure to watch the world’s greatest riders attack France's fabled routes and find out.More stories