Tour de France 2017

The Tour de France begins in Dusseldorf, Germany, then heads West into Belgium before entering France for the majority of the stages, and the famous finish on the Champs-Elysees.

Stage 1 Dusseldorf - Dusseldorf. 14 km.

This is a completley flat time-trial over 14 km. The riders take off on the east side of the Rhine to head south-east. Near the Tonhalle they cross the river for a short section on the left bank before the Rheinkniebrücke takes them to the Königsallee, a famous shopping boulevard. Via the Tonhalle they ride in the opposite direction, once again along the Rhine, back to the Messe. This is as straightforward a time-trial as you could find, and will come down to the real speedsters on the clock.

Stage 2 Dusseldorf - Liege.

The stage here is mainly in Germany. It's when the route enters Belgium that we'll see anything remotely like a climb, and even then it isn't anything to write home about and a sprint victory is to be expected on the boulevard de la Sauvenière.

Hills.

Km 6.5 - Côte de Grafenberg1.4 kilometre-long climb at 4.5% - category 4
Km 183.0 - Côte d'Olne1.3 kilometre-long climb at 4.7% - category 4

Stage 3 Viervers - Longwy. 212.5 km.

Into France today and this is for the puncheurs, those riders we see dominating the Spring Classics.

The 3rd stage of the Tour de France opens with some uphill sections before Cote de Sart is crested at kilometre 18. A little later the riders hit the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which is the venue of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.

The route is marked by rolling roads with Cote de Wiltz and Cote d’Eschdorf  standing out. Then the riders continue to the finale, which opens when they hit the Cote de Villers-la-Montagne, a 1.1 km climb that’s crested with 15.5 km remaining.

The finish line of stage 3 is perfect for punchers. The last 1.6 km ascend to the Citadel of Longwy. The is at an average of 5.8%, while the steepest sector is 11%. The first 500 meters are toughest. This is definitely a stage where Froome has the chance to show the rest of the peloton that he means business.

Hills.

Km 18.0 - Côte de Sart2.8 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% - category 4
Km 105.5 - Côte de Wiltz3.1 kilometre-long climb at 4.8% - category 4
Km 120.5 - Côte d'Eschdorf2.3 kilometre-long climb at 9.3% - category 3
Km 197.0 - Côte de Villers-la-Montagne1.1 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% - category 4
Km 212.5 - LONGWY - Côte des Religieuses1.6 kilometre-long climb at 5.8% - category 3

Stage 4. Mondorf-les-Bains - Vittel. 207.5 km.

Another flat stage as the route traverses flat to gently rolling roads. Two back-to-back climbs with 37 km left are literally standing out with the first  4 km at 3%, the second 1 km at 4%. The only surprise I can see here is the false flat to the finish line.

Stage 5. Vittel / La Planche des Belles Filles. 160.5 km.

From Vittel thru the first 100 km the route today is comparatively easy, certainly in comparison with what awaits the riders afterwards. Today is all about the final climb. La Planches des Belles Filles is 5.9 km at 8.5%. The climb shows no mercy from bottom to top, yet the steepest sector is in the finale when the riders face a grueling 20%. It’s there Froome attacked in 2012 to escape to victory, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him try and do the same this time around.

Stage 6. Vesoul - Troyes. 216 km.

There is very little of note on this stage, and it will almost certainly finish in a bunch sprint.

Stage 7. Troyes - Nuits-Saint-Georges. 213.5 km.

Very similar to stage six, and another sprint finish.

Stage 8. Dole / Station des Rousses  187.5 km.

The race takes in three cols in the Jura mountains. Following an 11.7 km climb at 6.4% the last 11 km are over an undulating course.

The first 28 km of the day of stage 8 are the quiet before the storm. Then, starting in the village Arbois, the road goes up and down until the end of the stage. Yet, the first real climb looms with 95 km done. The Col de la Joux, peaking at 1,035 meters , is a 6.1 km ascent with an average gradient of 4.6%.

A long drop takes the riders to the foot of the Cote de Viry. This is a 7.6 km climb at 5.2%. Off here and it's up and down to the finish as the race heads down to Saint-Claude for the start of the finale. The last climb is called Montee de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes, it’s a long ascent, too. The Montee  is 11.7 km, averaging 6.4%.

Still 11 km left to race, in which to descend to 1,107 meters. A rolling section runs to the finish line in the ski station of Les Rousses, close to the Swiss border.


Stage 9. Nantua - Chambery. 181.5 km.

An excellent looking stage, with some tough climbing to negotiate. With seven categorised climbs and over 4,500 meters of ascending this should be a good day to watch.  The start looks easy, but don't be deceived as this is a climb that is three in one. Cote des Neyrolles is 3.2 k. at 7.2%. After cresting Neyrolles, there is no such thing as a descent as the climb goes on to Col de Berentin at an average gradient of 4.25%. Still no descent but a false flat leading to the Col de Cuvery. And then, finally, a descent. This is all within the opening 16 km. descent of the Col de la Biche the next monster is tackled on the steep west side. This way the Grand Colombier 8.5 km at 9.9% with a steepest stretch at 22% almost halfway up the climb.

After the Grand Colombier the riders arrive on the route of the 6th stage of the Dauphine, a race that came down to a clash between Fuglsang, Porte, Froome and Aru. They crossed the line in that order, although Porte would have won the sprint if Froome had not closed the door to his former team mate along the barriers.

After the passage in Culoz the ensuing route of stage 9 in the Tour travels on the same roads as above-mentioned Dauphine stage. The village lies 19 km before the top of Cote de Jongieux, which is a minor climb of 3.9 km at 4.2%. Following a short descent the route starts to climb, although this is not yet part of the official Mont du Chat ascent. After some 6 km the riders arrive on a small plateau and only then the last climb of the day is in full swing. Mont du Chat is a 8.7 km drag, running from an elevation of 606 meters to 1,504 meters , thus averaging 10.3%.

A technical descent, in which Froome put huge pressure on his rivals in the Dauphine, plunges down into the valley. The riders fly over a small hill before a final stretch of 8 flat km's to the line.

Stage 10. Perigueux - Bergerac 178 km.

Another day, another sprint/break. There's nothing to add...we've already seen similar days as this route on several other stages in this edition.

Hills.

Km 100.5 - Côte de Domme 3.5 kilometre-long climb at 3.3% - category 4
Km 138.5 - Côte du Buisson-de-Cadouin 2.1 kilometre-long climb at 5.6% - category 4

Stage 11. Eymet - Pau. 203.5 km.

Ditto. I'm beyond bored now, I'm actually getting annoyed at the lack of any real stages.


Stage 12. Pau - Peyragudes 214.5 km.

Into the Pyrenees and the riders face four climbs before the double - barreled ascent to the finish line.  The peloton can be stretched at Cote de Capvern and Col des Ares before Col de Mente looms, the break will be gone by this point. This is a 6.9 km long climb at 8.1% with steepest slopes of 16%.

Port de Bales is crested after a 11.7 km with anaverage gradient is 7.7% with ramps up to 11.1%. With 14 km remaining the Col de Peyresourde appears. In fact it is the first climb of a double-barrelled ascent to Peyragudes. The first part amounts to 11.7 km with an average gradient of 7.7% before a short drop runs to the foot of a 2.4 km slog at 8.4% up to the finish line.


Stage 13. Saint-Girons - Foix 101 km.

This will be an explosive day. The break will have to work like mad to stay away, and will still fail, I think. Still, the 14th of July is Bastille Day, so we should expect a lot of French riders to go on the attack. Actually, we can expect a lot of attacks overall, as this is usually the case in such short stages. Everyone will need to be awake for this stage. From the off the route goes up until it heads over the Col de Latrape, which is 5.6 km at 7.3%. Around halfway, the riders come upon the steepest sector at 10.6%. Off here and it's 5 k of flat valley road until they hit the bottom of the Col d’Agnes. This is a 10 km drag at 8% with steepest sections of more than 10% right at the base of the climb. The highlight of the day, for viewers is the final climb. the Mur de Peguere, is a killer 9.3 km in length , the average percentage of 7.9% may look fairly doable, yet is is the build-up that will do the damage here. The first six km go up steadily, but then all hell breaks loose with a nasty ramp with one km at a 13% average and a steepest sector at 18%. What comes next is hardly any better and it’s only at the top that the riders will be out of their misery. Off here on a lengthy descent, 27 km, and it's just 1 km to the line. I think this is the same finish we saw in 12 when Lulu attacked just before the top and crested Mur de Peguere alone and was able to hold off the chasing group for the win.


Stage 14.  Blagnac - Rodez 181.5 km.

Looks like a day for the break, especially after the previous day's exertions. If not the break then definitely a Classics type battle. The day starts off easily enough but as with all good pieces builds up to a crescendo of a finish. Today we'll see a stage that has a flat opening before the last 100 km of the race are played out on more rolling territory. No really hard steep ramps however, although two intermediate KOM climbs are averaging 7.0% and 7.7% yet, the Cote du viaduc du Viaur and Cote de Centres both are just 2.3 km in length.

The stage will be demanding. In these conditions, the Côte Saint-Pierre will offer a splendid launch pad to a puncher.

Stage 15. Laissac-Sevarac l'Eglise - Le Puy-en-Velay 189.5KM

From the start town the race heads out for the Massif Central. After some 20 km the Montee de Naves d’Aubrac comes first. This is an 8.9 km climb at 6.4%. From here it's along a plateau of 8 km to the easier Cote de Vieurals, which is 3.3 km at 5.9%.

After almost 100 km on roads that undulate the finale is ushered in by a drop. For starters a flat section of about 10 km and then the riders hit the toughest climb of the day. The Col de Peyra Taillade is an 8.3 km ascent at 7.4%. The first 4 km are easy with an average gradient of 6%. But then the riders face ramps of the ramps go of up to 14% before the climb flattens out in the last km. After cresting this climb the route route travels steadily down, with two minor kicks upwards Cote de Saint-Vidal and a small uphill section in Polignac. That last hill climb of the day the Saint-Vidal which is 1.9 km at 6.8%. The last two km are flat to the line.


Stage 16.  Le Puy-en-Velay - Romans-sur-Isere 165 km.

This is the area in which the famous Ardechoise sportives are held. Hard days on the bike for mortals, but for the riders today it will probably a sprint, if the break is caught. I think a sprint finish is the likeliest outcome today.


Stage 17. La Mure - Serre-Chevalier 183 km.

The stage as it is starts in La Mure and then heads out to the Col d’Ornon, a 5.1 km climb at 6.7% that’s crested with 30 km done. Off this and then it's descending into the valley where the route travels north to hit the Col de la Croix de Fer. The climb kicks in hard with ramps of 10% in the first 7 km . A descent brings some relief before other steep slopes appear. All in all, the Croix de Fer is 24 km with with an average gradient of 5.2%. This was just a warm up though. The riders now have the double punishment that is the Col du Telegraphe / Col du Galibier combo. These are both real climbs. First up is Telegraphe. This is a steady 11.9 km climb at 7.1% before a 4.5 km drop brings the riders to the base of the Col du Galibier at 17.7 km and an average of just 6.4%. This is still an ask with steep sections mixed in with flatter sections breaking up riders momentum in the first part of the ascent. The second half, 8 km, is at 9% till the last km at 10%. The final 28 km is on the aforementioned descent to the line.

Stage 18.  Briançon - Izoard 179.5 km.

It's all about the climb to the line today. Hopefully the GC will be open and we'll see some attacking riding. The Col de Vars begin in Jausiers.

It's a 21 km climb that starts off easy with sections between 2% and 3%. Looking at the profile shows that the climb is classed on the last 9.3 km at 7.3%. There's ramps closer to 10 and 12% nearer the top.

This is a seriously tough climb, after which we can expect to be a very fast approach through the 20 km valley road the climb begins at 14.1 km's from the finish. This 14.1 km averages out at 7% with the last 10 km being at 9%.

If you're a climber today is your last chance to win/shake up the GC.


Stage 19. Embrun - Salon-de-Provence 222.5 km.

The longest stage in this edition. There's a time trial to come and I think we'll see the GC riders being more concerned with saving themselves for that.  It'll be a final opportunity for escapees to witness glory. Just as long as they manage to stay clear of the hungry pack all the way to the finish line.


Stage 20. Marseille - Marseille. 22 km.

For the very first time, Marseille will welcome an individual time-trial. The route runs on flat roads to the foot of the steep ramps to Notre-Dame de la Garde. This climb is 1.2 km at 9.1%. Following a 2 km descent the last 5 head back to La Corniche, the picturesque seaside road, and the old harbour Le Vieux Port to the line.


Stage 21. Montgeron / Paris Champs-Elysees. 103 km.

The parade to the finish on the Champs-Eleysees and a race that has been dominated by the Brits and Germans in recent years. A wonderful stroll for whoever is leading the GC, and a glass of bubbly as they cross the finish line.

GC Contenders.

Froome - Even though his season looks a lot different than previous years, he surely has more to come you would think. In the years that he's won the overall at the Tour he's done well, winning stages and the overall on various races, especially the Dauphine. This year though he was 4th at the Dauphine, looked off the pace at Romandie, and add in the fact has not won a race so far this year this does appear to be a much more vulnerable Froome than we've seen. The lack of time trial practice will also count against him and his best opportunities will come on the five mountain stages, and two of the hilly stages. And as we know he builds his season around the Tour, knows what it takes to win and will have the strongest team in the race as support.

Porte - Bad luck and trouble. Both are part of the reason why Porte is still untested at GC on a GT. He has most of he attributes needed to win, yet he remains untested as a GT contender over three weeks and not even a podium at one. He has looked good throughout 2017 to this point though.  He looked-was the best climber at the Dauphine and only lost the overall there because his supposed best mate in the peloton worked against him. The problem he doesn't possess one of the most important abilities needed at any race; he can't descend at the level needed and that will count against him. His team are also definitely not as strong as some of his rivals, as we saw at the Dauphine.

Quintana - It is surely too much to ask him to be properly competitive here after the racing he has already had this year. He looked to everyone who watched to be under-cooked at the Giro and I think he had half an eye on the Tour at the time, but I think he simply underestimated how strong Dumoulin was going to be. The lack of time trial distance will help, but there's no real long climbs, the kind of climbs where he can impose himself upon other riders. If he can do what Dumoulin did at the Giro and stay in contention till the last two mountain stages I think he can do well on them however it's a big ask though as fatigue sets in after four straight GT's.

Valverde -  This edition suits him more than Movistar's other leader. With a decent year to now - having won Vuelta Andalucia, Volta Catalunya and Vuelta Pais Vasco, as well as both Fleche Wallonne and Liege Bastogne Liege he's been on a good one for a while now. With those hilly stages, those time bonuses, Valverde will take a lot of time in the descent and reduced bunch sprints, add in the lack of time trial distance and it also being in Quintana's interest that they're both in contention in that final week I can see him doing well here, before perhaps falling away in the final week

Contador - The most stylish of the riders in the GC battle. It does look beyond him now though, to win the overall. Unlike the older Valverde age appears to have played a crueler role in his life on the bike. I feel a stage is the limit for him, though it would be great to see him up there on the GC fighting for the overall. He's had a good season too. Missing out on two overall wins by seconds to Valverde at both Volta Catalunya and Pais Vasco, along with the second spot at Paris - Nice. He'll have two very able riders in the mountains in Pantano and Mollema but I still think it won't be enough.

Aru -  It's great to see he and his suffer face back winning races...so how do we expect to see him do here?  According to the team he and "Birdsong" are joint leaders and as with Movistar it will be good if both are going well and are up there in the overall, just witness their superlative attacking performance in the Dauphine to see how well they can work together. I do though expect to see Fugelsang drop off and Aru to become the solo leader. I expect to see the Tricolore worn with style and the rider wearing it to do well as early as the finish on La Planche de Belles Fille. Anything more than a top ten finish would be mightily impressive given is earlier season exertions.

Bardet -  I don't see him going as well in this edition, a top ten finish overall will be good for him, along with a stage win. I just don't see how he finishes top five because of his lack of a time trial experience. He is still an excellent rider though and the future of French GT cycling.

Chaves - He's going to suffer. He's had, as we know a knee injury that has kept him off the bike until just recently, this will keep him from showing how good he is in the first two weeks. The final week I expect to see him going better, by then the race will have passed him by. All that might be wrong and route of this years Tour suits him perfectly, and if he has recovered some form I'd expect big things as he is another for whom the future is bright.

Yates - He was going to the Giro until Chaves did his knee. He's another good option for Orica - Scott. He's ridden well every time I've seen him, with a stage win at Paris-Nice, victory at GP Miguel Indurain, a stage of Romandie and second overall before finishing 13th at the Dauphine. Yates will be aiming for the white jersey and top 10 overall, both of which seem very achievable, imo.

Martin - He's in an interesting position within his team. Kittel needs his train, Gilbert does as he wishes and that leaves Martin to fend for himself. It's something he's used to, he's one of the best tactical minded riders in the peloton. He's had a good year, in a year that's been good all round for his team, with at Paris Nice, good without being great at Catalunya, and then 2nd at both Fleche Wallonne and Liege Bastogne Liege, and 3rd at the Dauphine. It was at the Dauphine that I noticed he was climbing much better on stages that he's previously have had troubles on, both the Mont du Chat and Alp D’Huez climbs aren't ones he's normally do well on, he prefers the Pyrenees type climbs and this showed he has prepared well for this race and should hopefully benefit him.

Pinot - Here for a stage and hopeful of the mountains classement.

Izagirre - After a stellar ride on the overall and a stage win at last year’s Tour, Izagirre over the summer to the Bahrain Merida, a team he now leads here. I just don't see it. He came back from bad hay fever at the Tour de Suisse and nearly caught Spilak on the HC climb of the Teifenbachferner. So therfore I think his climbing style and crono will help him best on stage 18 and that crono on stage 20, other than that he doesn't feature in the overall fight.

Meintjes - A curve to a career that another African rider doesn't have, a curve that all good riders have. He's been getting better with every year since that 2nd spot at the Worlds. He's still young and learning but he's been there in three GT's now and I think this might another. A top ten is the best I think he can achieve due to his lack of a time trial (a familiar theme).

Roglic -  Prior to this season I doubt many had followed Roglic, 2015 saw him take the overall in Slovenia, a dominant time trial win at the 2016 Giro, but this year has been his breakout, with an overall at Volta ao Algarve, finished in the top five of Tirreno Adriatico and Tour of the Basque Country and finished on the podium of both Romandie and the recent Ster ZLM. I think Roglic has the potential to become a GC rider, but probably not quite yet. He's great against the clock and can climb, and as we'd expect of a former down hill skier, a great descender, just look at his descent in the time trial at the Dauphine. I thinks he has an outside chance of the top ten, if he can make it to Paris, it's only his second participation on a GT. He might just be the first rider to wear the leaders jersey.

Majka - A dark horse I think. I've not seen him mentioned as a GC rider by anyone. A top ten, a stage and that mountains jersey will be foremost in he and his teams plans here.

Gesink - A good rider who is a little out of his depth on the GC fight. He'll do well to take a stage.

Talansky - Stealthy little ride last year at the Vuelta and I think he can do that again. With the team built around him I expect another top ten finish for him.

Jerseys.

Green Jersey.

Sagan. Winner of the last five green jerseys can we really see past him. Seeing as he is always thereabouts in a sprint, can win stages that other pure sprinters cannot and has been known to go away in the break on mountains days., then it feels like another formality, unless injury strikes.

Kittel is still, I contend, the fastest pure sprinter in the peloton and with several stages suiting him I think he might give Sagan a better fight than Sagan has faced in the last several editions. I do think he'll focus on stage wins over the jersey.

Cavendish surprised myself and others with that form last year, however with him being out for so long with Epstein Barr Virus, which he returned a few backs and has only ridden Slovenia and the British Nats, where he was OTL, I'll be stunned if he has anything like the form he had last year.

Demare - He's a level above Bouhanni and Coquard, but still he remains below the elite sprinters. A stage win is his only chance here, and I expect to see him take one.

Griepel - Not at his best at the Giro, with positional mistakes, again. And the same goes for Kristoff, Bouhanni, Colbrelli, all out of the fight due to their lack of climbing or in Bouhanni's case, that crash in Yorkshire that appears to have effected more than originally thought.

Groenewegen - A stage is the most he can hope for here.

Matthew - This is a rider that has become a poor man's Sagan. I had hopes that he'd become a Classics rider and he's take a Monument, but he's not good enough in the mountains to win in a BOTD scenario nor fast enough on the flat to beat his rivals.

Mountains Jersey.

This is always an ask, calling the winner. It tends to favour riders that are out of the GC fight as they're then able to get away without worrying the GC teams. It's also possible that one of the podium in Paris has the jersey, simply by the fact of having done well on those high points scoring MTF stages.

Anyone of Froome, Quintana,  Majka, Rolland, Wellens or de Gendt. Also strong climbers like Barguil or Chaves who I expect will lose time simply because of their lack of racing days.

White Jersey.

This classement is always my favourite. We get to see how well those young riders we've followed from their U-23 days, and in some cases from even earlier.

For some people it is hard to see past Meintjes for this jersey. He's made a steady progression since his podium at the 2013 U-23 Worlds, behind Mohoric. He has twice finished in the top tenin a three week long stage. He simply has a diesel engine and a recovery capability that makes him better and better as a GT progresses. At the same time, last year he showed that he can follow the world's best climbers on the biggest stage, and his performance in the spring, where he has always been a quiet, indicates that he is even sharper this year.

If Meintjes wasn't here I'd think this might stay in the Yates household for this edition, for the simple reason that the other riders I think could contend will find themselves being doms for their respective team leaders. Both Buchmann and Latour would have been in this jersey fight if they rode on a different team, as it is both Bora and AGR have bigger fish and GC plans for said fish. Yates will be a co-leader, I think until Orica know exactly whereabouts Chaves is regarding his form.

In the same boat as the two above is Howson. This guy has, I feel, the talent and versatility to become a GT rider. Not this time around though as he's here for Yates and Chaves.

Look also to Benoot in this classement. I think he'll be the early leader. It's his first GT and I know he'll be looking for a stage and I'm hoping that he can do so, as he is a special young talent this lad. His future is on those Spring Classics roads that we love so.

For myself and others Guillaume Martin is considered as the next French stage talent, but his grand tour debut is a little too early for him to compete with the white jersey. Injuries have largely given him a hard start to the professional career in both 2016 and 2017. He has, along the way, especially in the two recent versions of Dauphine, shown great potential, but there is still some way to go before he's up there and fighting for this and other jerseys. Expect to see him feature early on, and fade as the race continues.

Calmajane is another good talent. A great debut in the Vuelta, a stage and he's continued to impress me this year with some nice wins, the overall at Coppi- Bartali, Etoile de Bessèges and Circuit Cycliste Sarthe - Pays de la Loire. I'm thinking his climbing isn't at the level needed to win this jersey or a GT in the future. Soon though I expect to see him contesting those races that we see Sagan and GVA winning.

Selections

Overall GC - Richie Porte - 1 point @ 5/2

Points Classification (Green Jersey) - Marcel Kittel - 1 point @ 4/1

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