SAN DIEGO, June 15, 2013 – It’s a milestone anniversary year for one of the world’s greatest athletic competitions, the Tour de France cycling race. The 100th anniversary edition will roll out from the starting line in Corsica on Saturday, June 29.
Over the course of 23 days until the finish in Paris on Sunday, July 21, the world’s elite professional bike riders will cover a total distance of 3,360 kilometers, or 2,088 miles. That’s the distance driving by car from Louisville, Kentucky to Los Angeles, California; or from Medina, Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada. As the crow flies, it’s a trip from New York City to Mexico City.
Last year’s Tour and Olympic champion, Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain’s Team Sky withdrew at the beginning of June due to injury. While disappointing for Wiggo and his fans, it leave the race open for several legitimate contenders.
One of them is Wiggins’ countryman, Chris Froome, who many observers believe could have won last year if not playing a support role for Wiggins. He has won four major races in 2013, the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tour of Romandie and the Criterium Dauphiné. He has perhaps the strongest team around him, and he will be hard to beat.
Among the riders that will try: Alberto Contador of Spain riding for Saxo Tinkoff team; Australian Cadel Evans of BMC; and American Tejay van Garderen, winner of the Tour of California. Froome also named Spanish riders Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez and Colombian Nairo Quintana as competitors he will be watching.
Each year the race follows a different course in 20 stages. There is no prologue this year. There are six mountain stages with four summit finishes; five rolling or hilly stages; seven flat stages; two individual time trials and one team time trial stage. There are two rest days. Ten of the stages will cover new ground and visit cities for the first time, including three days on the island of Corsica.
With the mixing of ingredients like any good French recipe, this means the race has a different flavor every year and plays to different riding strengths as the flat stages combine with mountain stages, and as time-trial stages are added.
This year, the race favors riders who can combine strength and stamina. Time trial mileage is minimal. Some of the hilly stages are quite long and challenging. Hot weather could play a role.
Mountain climbs in the Tour de France are rated in categories signifying their relative difficulty, from a category four, or easiest climb, up through a category one, and an additional “beyond category” (“hors category” or HC) climb, meaning your legs will be screaming at the end.
Stage 1| Saturday, June 29 – Porto-Vecchio to Bastia (132 miles)
No prologue this year; the Tour visits the island of Corsica for the first time in its 100 year history. This scenic coastal flat stage will allow the sprinters to come out and play. The rivalry among sprinting stars Mark Cavandish (Team Sky), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) will start in earnest. American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) will hope to win a stage or two, but he’s not quite in the league of the major sprint contenders just yet.
Stage 2 | Sunday, June 30: Bastia to Ajaccio (97 miles)
The Tour takes on Corsica for a second day. This stage features rolling hills that could do some surprising damage. It’s doubtful the sprinter who wears the yellow jersey on day one will still be wearing it on stage two. Let’s see if a GC contender can make his mark early.
Stage 3 | Monday, July 1: Ajaccio to Calvi (90 miles)
On the third and last day in Corsica, the riders will hug the eastern coastline. Not a minute to rest and plenty of hills. The peloton will need to work quite hard to stick together. A rider like Thomas Voeckler might want to seize the reins here, especially after his excellent ride and surprising fourth place finish overall last year. It’s also possible one of the GC riders like Cadel Evans might take a chance early and see if he can gain time on his rivals.
Stage 4 | Tuesday, July 2: Nice to Nice (16 miles)
Departing Corsica, the riders will stay overnight in Nice before their first time trial, a team trial. This is a short time trial and there is no strategy other than speed, speed and more speed. Team Sky should be the favorite on this stage.
Stage 5 | Wednesday, July 3: Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille (142 miles)
The route through southern Frace is the race’s second longest stage, and it should provide beautiful scenery for fans. It’s a day when an early breakaway could survive to win this long flat stage.
Stage 6 | Thursday, July 4: Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier (110 miles)
Sprinters should take the win at the finish line on this flat stage, if they were able to conserve their energy from the long stage on Wednesday. The heat may be a factor here, as well as the wind.
Stage 7 | Friday, July 5: Montpellier to Albi (128 miles)
The third long stage in a row is more rolling than on the previous two days as the riders approach the Pyrenees. It’s a stage where top riders need to be careful they don’t lose time due to fatigue.
Stage 8 | Saturday, July 6: Castres to Ax 3 Domaines (121 miles)
For fans who like the mountain climbs, this is the first stage with a beyond category (HC) finishing climb, the difficult Col de Pailhères. We will start to learn who are the contenders and who are the pretenders here. Expect the Spanish riders to come out, including GC contender Alberto Contador. Smart GC contenders like Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, and perhaps Andy Schleck will stay close.
Stage 9 | Sunday, July 7: Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre (105 miles)
Four Category 1 climbs with a Category 2 tossed in, ended with a long steep descent will test riders on this relatively short stage. This is nowhere to make a mistake or be dropped off the back of the pelton. Thankfully riders get a rest day tomorrow.
Rest day, Monday, July 8 Saint Nazaire – Loire-Atlantique http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2013/us/rest-day-1.html
Stage 10 | Tuesday, July 9: Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo (122 miles)
This flat stage in western France is full of Tour history and will honor heroes of past Tours. For the first time, riders will travel through the Coëtquidan military academy. Elite cadets from the Saint-Cyr military school will line up along the road to salute the riders. Expect this flat stage after the rest day to produce a hotly contested sprint finish.
Stage 11 | Wednesday, July 10: Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel (21 miles)
The first of two individual time trials will end at Mont Saint-Michel, France’s second most popular tourist attraction after the Eiffel Tower. Two billion people around the world will see the riders arrive. This short time trial will keep the contenders close together near the top of the leaderboard.
Stage 12 | Thursday, July 11: Fougères to Tours (135 miles)
Organizers made this a long stage because they want to reach Lyon in three days. It’s a sprinter’s finish in theory, but at this point there may be other riders with serious ambitions. Teams may vie to control the peloton to protect their GC contenders, and if they slow things down there could be several attacks. If not, the sprinters will have their chance.
Stage 13 | Friday, July 12: Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond (107 miles)
This is one of those odd middle stages. It’s not perfectly flat but there is only one Category 4 climb. It’s long, but not horribly long. Top sprinters could contend, but it could just as well be a breakaway kind of day.
Stage 14 | Saturday, July 13: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon (119 miles)
A longer stage full of troublesome Category 3 and 4 climbs. These should wreck the legs of the sprinters, so don’t expect a run at the finish line today. It could be a day for Team Sky to protect its lead, assuming it has one.
Stage 15 | Sunday, July 14: Givors to Mont Ventoux (151 miles)
Bastille Day in France brings the longest stage on this year’s Tour. It’s considered a huge honor for a French rider to win this stage. Winning on Bastille Day in the 100th year of the Tour would be an honor for the ages. Even an American should be rooting for a French rider to prevail today. But it won’t be easy, ending with a Beyond Category climb up tricky Mont Ventoux.
Rest day | Monday, July 15 Vaucluse
Stage 16 | Tuesday, July 16: Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap (104 miles)
Many of the riders in this year’s Tour have victories at Gap: Alberto Contador, Thor Hushvold, Sergio Paulinho, and Pierrick Fedrigo. The stage win will go to whoever feels like staging an attack. Perhaps Thomas Voeckler?
Stage 17 | Wednesday, July 17: Embrun to Chorges (20 miles)
The time-trial is called “The Race of Truth” and the entire Tour turn on this critically important stage. Those who hope to gain some time here must hedge their bets, because they need plenty of gas in the tank for Thursday’s huge climbing stage . The all-around contenders like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans may have to ride for their lives today.
Stage 18 | Thursday, July 18: Gap to Alpe-d’Huez (107 miles)
Famous climbing stages in the Tour de France have names well-known to its fans, none more so than Alpe d-Huez. This year, riders will climb Alpe d-Huez twice in one stage, a first for the Tour and a special thrill for the riders and the fans. Climbers can’t get ahead of themselves and expend all their energy on the first ascent, because they’ll get to do it again. Expect this to be the most exciting day of the tour, especially if there is still a fight for the overall lead.
Stage 19 | Friday, July 19: Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand (127 miles)
If they have survived a double dose of Alpe d’Huez, riders will have to find the strength to traverse the Alps a second day. If the overall Tour victory is still in contention, the leaders will discover who is truly the strongest rider both physically and mentally today. Any rider who must try and win the Tour today will certainly earn his victory.
Stage 20 | Saturday, July 20: Annecy / Annecy to Semnoz (78 miles)This is a short but challenging circular route with numerous Category 3 climbs and a Beyond Category summit climb of just over six miles at the end. It’s the last chance for most riders to score a stage win in the Tour’s 100th anniversary year. If the yellow jersey for the overall Tour will is still up for grabs, expect a real battle.
Stage 21| Sunday, July 21: Veersaiiles to Paris Champs-Elysees (83 miles)
The traditional finale comes into the City of Lights and is essentially a coronation celebrating the achievement of the winner. But he does have to cross the finish line. For the 100 year anniversary, it’s a very special route. Instead of turning in front of the Arc de Triomphe, riders will go all the way around it. The stage is in the early evening and should finish at dusk, under the lights of Paris. Truly a magical sight.
So put the Champagne on ice, and get ready for an exciting month of competition provided by some of the world’s most well conditioned athletes, through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Vive le Tour!
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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