The 2014 Tour de France route was unveiled today.
It's a counterclock-wise year. From England, to cobbles, into the Vosges, through the Alps, a toe into Spain, up and over the Pyrenées, and then off to Paris. Fun.
There are 6 mountain stages, with five uphill finishes. Let's take a very quick look at each mountain stage.
Stage 8 has some hills and a steep uphill finish, but stage 10 is the first real mountain test of the 2014 Tour.
The Vosges mountain range in eastern France is a cycling mecca with quiet roads and medium mountain cols everywhere. And this stage will visit a bunch.
This is the second visit to the wonderfully named little ski station: La Planche des Belles Filles (plank of the beautiful girls). According to legend, during the 30 years war, a group of young girls jumped to their death the avoid being raped and massacred by
Jens Swedish mercenaries.
Christopher Froome won the only other stage finish at Belles Filles in 2012. The final 6 kilometres average 8.5% with some steeper stretches. A chance for GC pretenders to stake their claim.
A straight forward, back-loaded mountain stage in the Alps. After an easyish first half the route will first visit the Chartreuse Alps via Col de Palaquit and then face a long, challenging climb to Chamrousse ski station.
The Tour has only made one previous visit to Chamrousse. Mr. Armstrong won a Time Trial there in 2001.
Daniel Navarro was first to summit Chamrousse, descending to victory in the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné:
There are only two Alps stages, but this one is beautiful, and a candidate for "Queen Stage." It also features the highest point of the 2014 Tour: Col d'Izoard at 2360 metres.
Starting in Grenoble, the route heads to Bourg d'Oisans, but for a change bypasses Alpe d'Huez and instead continues up the very long climb to Col du Lautaret. I have called this the worst +2000m climb in France due to all the uphill tunnels - ten tunnels, several very long, dark, & wet, and sometimes heavy traffic. But it's a beautiful climb when the road is closed. :)
At Lautaret, the route will -- also for a change -- bypass Col du Galibier, and instead descend south to Briançon. Next they will climb the north side of the legendary Col d'Izoard descending through the land of Coppi: La Casse Deserte. Finally a mountain-top finish at Risoul. Great stage.
I believe this is the first Tour appearance for Risoul, although the ski station has hosted two Dauphiné stages recently. In 2010 Vogondy was victorious, and just a few months ago, Alessandro de Marchi held on against a charging Froome for stage victory.
Izoard and La Casse Deserte:
This is the only mountain stage without a mountain-top finish.
The route starts in Carcassone - a beautiful fairy-tale-like castle town. After a flat start, the peloton enters the Pyrenées, first climbing the short but steep Col de Portet d'Aspet. The question will be if the summit of the beautiful and remote Port de Balès is close enough to the finish to be decisive.
The final 20+ kilometres are downhill, and non-technical finishing in the Spa town of Bagnères de Luchon.
In 2006 in preparation for the 2007 Tour, the paths near the top of Port de Balès were finally paved linking each side and creating a fantastic cow-filled climb. It appeared in the 2007, 2010, and 2012 Tour de France.
A very fun Pyrenées stage over four medium mountains. The Route starts in Spain - the Spain/France border is the summit of the first climb: Col du Portillon. Col de Peyresourde makes its millionth Tour appearance. The finish is atop the ski station of Pla d'Adet.
Pla d'Adet is fun to say and makes its 10th Tour appearance. It last featured in 2005, in a stage won by George Hincapie.
You are now leaving Spain:
Hot tip for cyclo-tourists: a couple of kilometres from the summit of Pla d'Adet is a fantastic hair-pinned road that goes far higher to Col de Portet.
There are very few hairpins up to Pla d'Adet. The first several kilometres as viewed from the bottom near Saint-Lary-Soulan has just one hairpin:
In 1974 Raymond Poulidor won the first ever stage to Pla d'Adet and there is a plaque at the location where he made his decisive attack:
The final mountain stage of the 2014 Tour is a Pyrenées beauty.
First over the La Mongie side of the legendary Col du Tourmalet and the up a steep and challenging climb to the ski station of Hautacam.
First appearing in 1994, this will be the fifth Tour finish atop Hautacam. Jaun José Cobo Acebo won the last stage here in 2008 (Piepoli was stripped of the stage after a doping infraction).
Hot tip for cyclo-tourists: At Hautacam the paved road continues higher to Col de Tramassel.
The top of the east side of Col du Tourmalet passes over the ski slopes of La Mongie ski station:
Part way up Hautacam a house has an "interesting" painting:
I think it's a solid Tour as far as mountain goes. Nothing too innovative though. I can still list a bunch of dream climbs that never appear in the Tour. But I think there is a lot to like here and plenty to look forward to in 2014.