TOUR’16: The PEZ Preview
Tour Preview: It’s time for the BIG ONE! Yeah, the Tour de France, the biggest bike race of the year, starts Saturday on the coast of the English Channel and our Grand Tour expert, Ed Hood, takes a close look at what we can expect from France this July. The course, history and the probable winner are all here. Tour time baby!
The British political landscape resembles The War of the Worlds, after a referendum result which takes the United Kingdom out of Europe; and the English soccer team have just suffered the most humiliating defeat in their history at the hands of – Iceland. . .
It’s all down to The Froome Dog to restore national honour; but there are damned Johnny Foreigners waiting in the wings to try and deny Christopher his Tour de France hat trick – Spanish, Colombian, Italian and even the French are in on it.
We need to look at this in more depth. . .
This will be the 103nd Tour de France; statistically it’s best to be French if you wish to win – ‘Les Bleus’ have won 36 times albeit the last Home Badger to win was Bernard Hinault in 1985.
Belgium comes second on 18 wins but this year it’ll be 40 years since Lucien van Impe last had the folks in the Flatlands actually pay proper attention to Le Tour.
In terms of stage wins, France dominates here too on 696 victories with Belgium on 469. The next Frenchman to win ‘The Grande Boucle’ can write his own contract cheque.
‘Recordmen’ on five wins are Jacques Anquetil (France), Eddy Merckx (Belgium), Bernard Hinault (France) and Miguel Indurain (Spain) – there was a guy on seven wins but. . .
All of the above named riders except Indurain are in the exclusive club of men who have won all three of the world’s Grand Tours – the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España – along with Alberto Contador (Spain), Felice Gimondi (Italy) and Vincenzo Nibali (Italy).
Aforementioned Baron Merckx holds the stage wins record on 34 with ‘Badger’ Hinault on 28; 20 of those against the watch – ‘Cav’ is on 26 wins, all won in a sprint finish but it’s hard to see him adding to that, this year. Of other current riders, André Greipel is a long way back on 10 wins but will be hoping to add to that this year.
Three riders have won eight stages in a single Tour: Charles Pelissier in 1930, Freddy Maertens in 1976 and Eddy Merckx, who of course had to go one better and did the deed twice – in 1970 and 1974. The fastest Tour was Lance’s 41.654 kph in 2005 but. . .
The fastest road stage falls to ‘Super Mario’ Cipollini (Italy) with 191 kilometres from Laval to Blois at 50.355 kph in 1999; whilst the fastest ever chrono – prologues included – is Rohan Dennis’s (Australia) incredible 55.446 kph over 13.8K in Utrecht last year.
The most participations by a rider is 17; three riders having achieved this – with 13 finishes by George Hincapie (USA), Jens Voigt (Germany) on 14 finishes but harder than hard; Stuey O’Grady (Australia) ‘got round’ 15 times to make him ‘recordman’ – whilst of current riders, Sylvain Chavanel’s (France) tally will go to 16 this year. The record for finishes belongs to 1980 winner, Joop Zoetemelk who finished 16 Tours off 16 starts – respect!
Stage One: Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach, 188K.
With two early fourth cat. climbs on the agenda there will be a frenzy to grab the points so as French rider can pull on that first, beautiful spotty maillot. But this is one for the sprinters – Kittel was majestic at the Giro, but so was Greipel and it was le Gorille who won the sprint at the end of the German Elite Road Race, last weekend.
Stage Two: Saint-Lo to Cherbourg, 183K.
With three fourth cat. climbs early this one will start frantically – and the finale will be much the same with the finish atop the stinging third cat. Cote de la Glacerie. Sagan, Matthews, Valverde, Vuillermoz will all have a big red ring around this one.
Stage Three: Granville to Angers, 223.5K.
There’s a fourth cat. ascent early but this should be one for the sprinters as we leave the English Channel behind us.
Stage Four: Saumur to Limoges, 237.5K.
Almost full Classic distance and again it should be for the fast men, they’ll get over the one fourth cat. – somehow.
Stage Five: Limoges to Le Lioran, 216K.
The early fourth cat. sets the scene for the first real ‘GC Day’ with another three third cat. climbs and two second cats with a mountain top finish. Bardet will be anxious to impress on home ground.
Stage Six: Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montaubon, 190.5K.
Lumpy to start with but the last 40 K is predominantly downhill or flat it should be one for the sprint trains.
Stage Seven: L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162.5K.
There are 70 mostly uphill, tough kilometres before the summit of the mighty Col d’Aspin, the centre piece of this Pyrenean day – but it’s not a mountain top finale. There’s a six K drop of the Aspin before a drag to the finish – it could be a breakaway day. . .
Stage Eight: Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 184K.
This is a nasty with the trend from the off firmly upwards, all the way to the 2115 metre hors cat. Col du Tourmalet at 86 K; straight down then straight up – the second cat. Hourquette d’Ancizan; repeat to the top of the first cat. Col de Val Louron-Azet; and yet again to the first cat. Col de Peyresourde. If there’s a saving grace then it’s the 16 K drop off the Peyresourde to the finish line – they’ll be taking big risks down there.
Stage Nine: Vielha Val d’Aran to Andorra Arcalis, 184.5K.
Three first cat. climbs, one second and the finish atop an HC topping 2200 metres where the air is thin – enough said. You can lose the race on this day.
Stage 10: Escaldes-Engordany to Revel, 197K.
There’s the massive Envalira straight from the off but once over the summit the whole stage is predominantly downhill – except for that late third cat. – see Stage Two potential winners. Or it might just be a breakaway day with the winner slipping his former amigos on aforementioned third cat. Cote de San Ferreol.
Stage 11: Carcassonne to Montpelier. 162.5K.
‘Roman France’ and sure enough it’s one for the Gladiators – McEwen, Hunter, Cav and Greipel have all won here on these flat but hot and windy roads.
Stage 12: Montpelier to Mont Ventoux, 184K.
Bastille Day – the only result a Frenchman would swap for winning here, on this day would be a podium. The day after this is the time trial and you have to keep a little powder dry for that if you’re serious about the GC; but seventh on GC doesn’t make you a Legend – winning this stage does. Bardet, Barguil step forward please – Pinot has improved his testing no end so he’ll be conservative, unless he’s had a ‘jour sans’ already. . .
Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc. 37.5K contre la montre.
It’s a tough one, climbing from the start then a plateau where ‘everything can go to the right,’ then a descent, more flat but a tough climb to the finish. There will be surprises. . .
Stage 14: Montelimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux. 208.5K
Fast man or Hard man? That’s the question today – the break will go for sure and get a good lead but will the trains have enough fuel left in the tenders to bring it back? This should be a cliff hanger.
Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, 159K.
Horrible! Is how the sprinters will view this one. It climbs from the ‘off’ – then the sequence is: cat. 1, cat. 2, cat. 3, cat. 3, HC, cat. 1 BUT it is a downhill finale off the Lacets du Grand Colombier. Have a ‘jour sans’ today and it’s over – someone will.
Stage 16: Moirs-en-Montagne to Berne, 209K
It’s lumpy, one for the baroudeurs but the likes of Matthews and Sagan will relish the tough, technical finale and their boys will be working hard – and of course, the day is all about Cancellara. Can he do it? Once upon a time but not now, they’re all too hungry to make grand gestures – unless there’s money involved, of course.
Stage 17: Berne to Finhaut-Emosson, 184.5K.
Another big GC day with a mountain top HC finish at Finhaut-Emosson with the first cat. Col de la Forclaz as the warm up. The climb to the Emosson Dam is a brute; if you’re serious you can’t show weakness in those last seven K.
Stage 18: Sallanches to Megeve, 17K contre la montre, montagne.
Some pundits say this time test is too short to have a bearing; we’re not so sure; there are no team mates, no wheels to hang and we’re deep into the third week – another day you could lose the Tour on.
Stage 19: Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146K.
GC riders be on your guard, there’s a cat. 1 then a cat. 2 before the tough HC Montee de Bisanne with the finish atop Mont Blanc – the saving grace is the 50K mostly downhill run off the Bisanne to the base of the final ascent.
Stage 20: Megeve to Morzine-Avoriaz, 146.5K.
The organisers will be hoping that it’s finely balanced coming in to this day and that it might even come down to the final drop off the HC Col de Joux Plane into Morzine. But there’s a second and two first cat. climbs before the Joux Plane albeit with big descents off them allowing things to close up. Le Tour decided on the final descent – that would something. . .
Stage 21: Chantilly-Paris, 113K.
You know the script; biggest rider on smallest bike and vice versa; champagne; horrible paint jobs then death or glory on Les Champs.
OK, so who is going to win? Ed’s tips for the Tour podium HERE.
Stage 1: July 02, Mont-Saint-Michel – Utah Beach / Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont 188km
Stage 2: July 03, Saint-Lô – Cherbourg-Octeville 182km
Stage 3: July 04, Granville – Angers 222km
Stage 4: July 05, Saumer – Limoges 232km
Stage 5: July 06, Limoges – Le Lioran 216km
Stage 6: July 07, Arpajon-sur-Cère – Montauban 187km
Stage 7: July 08, L’Isle-Jourdain – Lac de Payolle 162km
Stage 8: July 09, Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon 183km
Stage 9: July 10, Vielha Val d’Aran – Andorre Arcalis 184km
Rest Day 1: July 11, Andorra
Stage 10: July 12, Escaldes-Engordany – Revel 198km
Stage 11: July 13, Carcassonne – Montpellier 264km
Stage 12: July 14, Montpellier – Mont Ventoux 185km
Stage 13: July 15, Bourg-Saint-Andéol – La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc (ITT) 37km
Stage 14: July 16, Montélimar – Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux 208km
Stage 15: July 17, Bourg-en-Bresse – Culoz 159km
Stage 16: July 18, Moirans-en-Montagne – Berne 206km
Rest Day 2: July 19, Berne
Stage 17: July 20, Berne – Finhaut-Emosson 184km
Stage 18: July 21, Sallanches – Megève (ITT) 17km
Stage 19: July 22, Albertville – Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146km
Stage 20: July 23, Megève – Morzine 146km
Stage 21: July 24, Chantilly – Paris Champs-Élysées 113km.
• See Steephill.tv for live coverage feeds near you.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,200 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.