Understanding the Tour de France
Tour de France Television Coverage
Tour de France Terms
Races Within a Race
King of the Mountain Jersey
Tour de France Strategy
- Mountain stages
- Individual time trial stages
- Team time trial stages
For 2015 there will be a short time trial (Stage 1), and a team time trial on Stage 9. They don't have a team time trial every year, but it's on the schedule for 2015. In the team trial, each member of a team will take a turn at the front, where they have to do the most work, then rest up while they draft on the others. When climbing mountains, riders are going slower, so drafting off someone doesn't save you that much energy. The top riders can get time on their rivals during these stages, especially, when the stage ends with a climb. If there is a big climb in the middle of a stage, the peloton will typically split apart during the climb, but the top riders generally comes back together before the end of the stage. Obviously, if the stage ends with a climb, there is no opportunity for this to happen.
If you go to the official Tour de France website, you can click on "Route" then click on any of the individual stages. You can then click on "Stage Profile" to see how much climbing the riders will have to do that day. For 2015, the critical mountain stages look to be:
- 10: Finishes with an HC climb on Col de Soudet
- 12: Ends with an HC climb to Plateau de Beille
- 19 The final climb is a 1C to La Toussuire
- 20 Finishes with the legendary 22 switchbacks going up Alp D'Huez, another HC climb. Don't Miss This One!
Of course, things don't always go as expected. This is especially true if the riders encounter a strong crosswind. Normally, a rider drafting off another cyclist will ride directly behind him. In this case, the peloton forms a long pack that stretches back down the road. When there is a crosswind, the ideal drafting position is to the side away from the wind and slightly behind the rider in front. In this case, the peloton would soon run out of room because of the limited width of the road. If they encounter a strong crosswind (more likely on stages near the ocean), the peloton may split apart, even if the stage is realtively flat.
In the Tour de France, all the riders know each others strengths and weaknesses. The contenders for the yellow jersey will not be concerned if some sprinters gain a few minutes on them in the early stages. They know they can easily make up time on them in the mountains. If one of the top riders thinks he can beat his rivals up stage 20 to Alp D'Huez, he just has to stay even with them going into stage 20. On the other hand, if he expects to lose some time to rivals on that stage, he better have a lead going into that stage.
The 2014 Tour de France
The 2014 TDF was a disappointment to cycling fans because two of the top three contenders, crashed out in the early stages. Both Chris Froome (2013 winner) and Alberto Contador (2007 & 2009 winner) were injured in crashes and had to abandon the race. The remaining rider of the top three, Vincenzo Nibali, put in a masterful performance and won by almost eight minutes. It is a shame that cycling fans did not get a chance to see him compete against Froome & Contador. After his impressive 2013 victory, I thought Froome would be unbeatable in 2014. After watching Nibali, I'm not too sure Froome could have beaten him even if had not crashed.
The 2015 Tour de France
The 2015 Tour de France looks like it should be a good one. The three contenders from last year should be there, along with Nairo Quintana from Colombia. Quintana is an outstanding climber and finished second to Froome in the 2013 TDF. I'm hoping for an exciting, 4-way battle up the slopes of Alp D'Huez on the next to the last day of the Tour. By tradition, those competing for the overall title do not race each other on the final day. The last stage is strictly for the sprinters.