Article submitted by Twitter user, @cyclingbolar 

This year’s Tour de France route has a wide variety of stages to suit everyone. The first 9 stages might look easy, but they are anything but, however. As you will notice on the stage profiles, the yellow B near the end of the stage. That will give 3, 2, 1 bonus seconds to the first 3 riders past that point. It won’t shape the race that much, but will bring intrigue for breakaway riders that want to wear the yellow jersey.

STAGE 1

Don’t be fooled by this profile. One thing it doesn’t show is the coast. The peloton will ride half the stage via the Atlantic coast which could create crosswinds and echelons. Stage 1 already provides nerves for the riders, but this stage will provide even more nerves for the GC contenders.

STAGE 2

After the nervous first day, this stage should be easier with a bunch sprint expected.

STAGE 3

This Team Time Trial course is demanding. 35km over hilly terrain will make it hard for GC contenders without good teams. Team Sky and BMC will have an advantage after this stage.

 

STAGE 4

The first of three Breton stages shouldn’t be too demanding. There are a few narrow roads but expect another bunch sprint.

STAGE 5

The last half of this stage is tough with narrow roads and short sharp hills. It is important for the GC guys to remain attentive today. It won’t end up in a big bunch sprint, but unless there is a late attack that gets away, a peloton of about 50 riders will contest the finish here. Arnaud Demare, Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan the stage favourites. A GC rider could try and collect the 3 bonus seconds on offer here 12km from the finish.

STAGE 6

The stage finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne will be a hotly contested one. The peloton climb it twice before finishing on it. In 2011 when the Tour was here, the stage was won by Cadel Evans with Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov hot on his tail. Most recently, it was used in 2015 where Alexis Vuillermoz made a well timed attack to win. Chris Froome was strong on this climb gapping his rivals. Whilst you won’t lose much time on this stage, it’s important for the GC guys to be at the front. The bonus seconds available are after the first time up the climb so a GC rider might want to pick up 3 seconds. Of the GC riders, Alejandro Valverde is the one that can benefit most on this stage.

STAGE 7

The GC guys can breathe easier today with another reasonably flat stage for what should be a  bunch sprint. It is, however, the longest stage of the race, so with 8 man teams and a tough two days before, if a big enough break goes, they might fight out victory.

STAGE 8

After a demanding first 7 days and a day on the cobblestones the next day, this stage could go either way. Being Bastille Day, you will see an early break featuring a lot of French riders and other opportunists. With 8 man teams, if a big break goes, it might not come back as teams may want the day off and the teams that do chase may not be strong enough – but, this is all depends on Groupama FDJ and Arnaud Demare. This is Demare’s home region so the most likely scenario is to see Groupama FDJ make sure that a small break goes that they can manage and then lay it all on the line for a Demare sprint victory.

STAGE 9

The stage the GC guys will be dreading. You can’t win the Tour on this stage, but you can lose it and believe me, there will be GC riders a few minutes down after today. This stage features 22km of cobbles split up into 14 sectors. There will be carnage, there will be tears and for a couple GC contenders there will be joy as they will find themselves in a good place on GC. The good news for them is after 9 tough stages there is finally a rest day, but, the next 3 stages are insanely hard so there is no let up.

Before I touch on the next 3 days in the Alps, which are brutal, the contenders that lost time on stage 9 all need to be on the attack over the next three stages. So it should make for some exciting viewing. Let’s check the stages out. 

STAGE 10

 

The first of the 3 tough Alpine stages sees 4 massive climbs. There is also a 1.8km section of dirt leading to the Plateau des Glières. If the pace is on early, and you puncture there and have no team mates to help you, you could lose a lot of time. Today is a good stage for an opportunist to make their mark on the King of the Mountains jersey as unless the pace is high, someone from the break can pick up a handy lead in that competition.

STAGE 11

This short 108km stage is going to be ridden fast from the outside. It was used in this years Critierium du Dauphine. A break of  15 riders got clear but held mostly a 2 minute advantage all day. At the bottom of the final climb, Pello Bilbao had a 30 second break on the peloton, but it was reduced so much that only the GC guys were at the head of the race without team-mates that he could hold on and take a memorable stage victory.

This stage shows that if you get in the early move and you are a decent climber, you can hang on. It all depends on what happens with the GC guys. If there are some with team-mates, then expect a GC rider to take the stage win, but if it’s man on man, then it’s advantage to the breakaway. Sadly, unlike at the Dauphine, there will be stronger teams so the GC guys should have team-mates to help set them up for stage victory.

There are also some valuable King of the Mountains points available so if a rider picked a lot up the day before, chances are they will try and back up – at least for the first two climbs.

Nonetheless, this will be a great stage to watch.

STAGE 12

With a finish on the iconic Alp d’Huez, expect this day to be dominated by the GC riders. With that said, if the previous two stages have been ridden hard, then someone from a breakaway could take it. Again, any King of the Mountains hopefuls will be wanting to pick up points on the first two climbs. The last few times the race has been here, the peloton tackled Alp d’Huez twice. They only need to attempt it here once this time around.

STAGE 13

On face value, this should be a stage for the sprinters – however, don’t be too sure. This goes down to 3 factors.

1. The size of the breakaway

2. How the sprinters teams and the sprinters feel after 3 tough mountain stages

3. 8 man teams.

A sprint or a break. We will have a fair idea come this stage what is the most likely outcome.

STAGE 14

This looks like a day for a breakaway. With that said, there are two possible scenarios that could prevent this. A rider down on GC may want to make the race hard to try and gain back time and not only that, with the places of the intermediate sprints on the mountain stages this year, this is a good stage for a Peter Sagan or Michael Matthews to target to get back into the green jersey hunt or consolidate a lead as the climbs won’t be too tough for them.

STAGE 15

This will be a stage for the breakaway. If a non GC rider is leading the King of the Mountains classification, then they need to get into the break on this stage and maybe on stage 16, but definitely stage 17, to pick up some handy points that could win them the jersey.

STAGE 16

This stage comes after the final rest day. Again, this is the day for the attackers. Expect someone from the breakaway to take the stage win. Even though the finish is in France, with 10km on Spanish soil in the last 20km of the stage, expect the Spainard’s down on GC to be the main antagonists. Again, the King of the Mountains leader should be looking at picking up points today. After a day of rest, they should be able to pick up points on this stage as it may be hard to do so on stage 17.

STAGE 17

At just 65km, this is the shortest stage we’ve seen for 30 years in the Tour de France. This is also the stage where the top 20 on GC will line up in a grid formation similar to motor racing. The rest of the peloton will start behind 20th place. So anything can happen on this stage. If a team has a few riders in the top 20, they could force the pace early for a solo attack from their leader. It also could be man on man for the entire stage too. It will be interesting viewing. This is the last grueling mountain stage with stage 19 not being that bad, so expect it to be ridden fast.

STAGE 18

Again, this stage looks set to be a bunch sprint, but expect the sprinters to be fatigued after the last two stages. If a sprinter is feeling good then their team can control this stage, but I’d say this is a stage for the break.

STAGE 19

This is the last day someone down on GC could try and make up time, but with the time trial the next day, you don’t want to use up too much energy. This is an important day for the King of the Mountains jersey. I don’t think it will be on a GC contender, so whoever has it can win it this day. If it is on a rider top 5 in the GC, then they won’t really care about it so it is a good opportunity for someone else to take it.

STAGE 20

The final GC stage, the time trial. This time trial isn’t for the specialists and the course is hard enough that we could see 1, 2 or 3 minute gaps between the GC riders. With that said, as it is more of a undulating stage, the climbers that can time trial have an advantage. With that said, final time trials in Grand Tours are 95% for the riders who have the legs after a tough race. So GC riders that aren’t that good against the clock could go well on this stage if they are feeling good and the ones that can time trial are not feeling great.

STAGE 21

The final stage on the Champs Elysees. A bunch sprint is expected. As mentioned briefly during the stages, the intermediate sprints on the mountain stages are mostly before the big climbs, so the Green Jersey is most likely still up for grabs. I highly doubt the leader will have an unassailable one ahead of this stage.

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