Words by Patrick Fletcher
Chris Froome looks like he will have his work cut out if he is to win the 2015 Tour de France, judging from the route that is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Race organiser ASO will unveil the complete 2015 parcours in Paris at 11am local time, but based on rumours and what has already been confirmed, it does not look as favourable a route for Froome as it was in 2013. So what’s good, and what’s not so good, for the Team Sky rider?
We already know that the opening stage will be a 13.7-kilometre time trial around Utrecht, the first time since 2012 that the race will begin in this way. Although technical in places, Froome should be able to put some time into most of his GC rivals here, and gain the upper hand on day one.
While such terrain suits Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana et al, Froome is unlikely to be too unhappy with the challenging second half of the race (remember, three of his four Tour stage wins to date came atop mountains). Summit finishes atop Plateau de Beille, Pra-Loup (where Eddy Merckx lost the 1975 Tour) and Alpe d’Huez all look likely, and there could also be one to La Toussuire, the location of Froome’s infamous distancing of Bradley Wiggins in 2012.
Team Sky strength
The signings of Nicholas Roche, Wout Poels and Leopald König should strengthen Sky’s potency in the mountains. And given the first week seems to resemble a number of one-day races cobbled together consecutively, the likes of Geraint Thomas, and Ian Stannard and even Ben Swift could assist Froome on such terrain. Movistar lack Sky’s strength in depth, Tinkoff-Saxo could find themselves preoccupied with Peter Sagan, and Astana…well, who knows.
Scarcity of time trials
The time trial is a discipline where Froome would ordinarily be confident in putting time into his GC rivals – he put at least a minute into them on the pan-flat stage to Mont-Saint-Michel in 2013, and over three in Nairo Quintana’s case. Having just 13.7 kilometres against the clock is arguably his biggest handicap in the 2015 route.
Classic first week
Froome’s one-day record is hardly exemplary, which should be of some concern given the first seven road stages. The first of those is a tough, flat journey from Utrecht to Neelte Jans along the North Sea coast, which screams crosswinds as loudly as you have to talk in such weather. Froome was outfoxed by Alberto Contador and Saxo-Tinkoff in similar conditions in the 2013 Tour, and he lost 1-09 to the Spaniard on that stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond. And with hill-top finishes on the Mur de Huy and the Mûr-de-Bretagne expected, the peloton is going to be an inhospitable and nervy place to be. Froome got caught out by such conditions in this year’s Tour – can he make it to the first rest day still in contention, and in good shape next year?
Several stages appear to culminate with short, sharp climbs – the domain of riders punchier than Froome. Along with the Mur de Huy (stage three) and the Mûr-de-Bretagne (stage eight), there’s the three-kilometre climb of what’s known as the Montée Laurent Jalabert (actual name: Côte de la Croix-Neuve), near Mende in the Massif Central, to end stage 14.
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Take a look at every stage of the route of the 2015 Tour de France