Love and hate the Tour de France

Doug Pensinger

Well the TdF route will get dissected in a thousand ways in the coming days. I'll leave the heavy lifting for the ones who are keen on calculating the numbers of meters ascended vs. the kilometres of timetrialing historically in the modern era of cycling since Lemond visavi the introduction of STI shifting and carbon materials and yada yada yada ......... and simply tell you what's great about the course and what's crap.

Three things to love.

1. The Vosges mountains
We tend to complain when the Tour does the same old, same old don't we? Well this year the Alps aren't too decisive but we do get two stages in the Vosges that should be great. First one with a nice little three-climb finale in the last 30 kms into Gerardmer and then a doozy of a stage 10 with six categorized climbs and the fierce Planche des Belles Filles.

2. Great variation over three weeks
Not much chance of getting bored on this route. Instead of stacking all the climbing in one big block and with long strings of predictable sprint stages the ASO have managed to mix it up admirably. It goes roughly: Sprint, Hilly, Sprint, Sprint, Cobbles, Sprint, Sprint, Uphill finish, Sprint, Mountain, Rest, Sprint, Sprint, Mountain, Mountain, Sprint, Rest, Mountain, Mountain, Mountain, Sprint, Timetrial, Parade-Sprint.  Then lets assume that some of those I call sprint probably have a bit of trickiness too them even if they aren't hilly enough to have their profiles published yet. That's usually how it goes.

3. First week curve balls
I have big hopes for both the hilly stage to Sheffield on day 2 and of course the cobbles. With a bit of luck and ambitious teams that stage 2 might get us the natural GC selection we need since there's no Prologue. If it doesn't week one might become a bit hectic with too many people thinking they have too good chances to grab the yellow jersey. London should

Three things to hate

1. Too much flat
I count 9 stages (not including Champs Elysée) tht have no profiles and as yet no apparent special challenges. Heading east we're well away from the coast and I can't see any apparent wind-stages. There aren't too many that seem to offer any special features that spice things up, be it course wise or in visiting special places. It might emerge later that there is but there looks to quite a lot of bland at first glance at least. Also we have flat stages on both the middle Sundays of the race so no really massive weekends for TV viewers.

2. No really magic mountain days
Izoard is nice of course (ignoring the fact that it was my big failed goal to climb it this year) but beyond that the riders will certainly have to do their part to make the magic happen. Because there aren't really any mountain stages that really spark the imagination. On the other hand maybe we will se myths born instead of celebrating old ones. Maybe there will be a stage in the 2044 Tour that celebrate the magical first Tour ascent to Risoul? Who knows?

3. Pre-planned narratives
"Corsica didn't work out so we plan a first stage in the UK that finishes with two laps around Cav's mom's living room where it will be really emotional for him to get his first yellow jersey."........  These things never work out. Try to create one narrative and it always turns out to be something else. I don't want to read months of "Cav's dream of Yellow" stories only to have a completely deflated press-corps if it doesn't happen. Also, it will always be messy in the first week but I think it is fairly uncontroversial to say that there is something to be said for the small amount of order that a prologue creates. (And I'm not 100% sure a Cancellara win is a foregone conclusion of a prologue anymore, or is it?).
At least there is no mega finale-stage to Ventoux or the Alpe that is built up to something it can never live

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