The 2015 Tour de France begins on July 4, oddly enough, in the Netherlands. In its never-ending quest to keep things "fresh," the Tour organizers selected France's near-neighbor to host the first three stages, known as the Grand Départ. And why not? The Dutch are absolutely nuts about cycling, and if last year's opening jaunt through England was any indication, the celebration to start the Tour should be massive.
What makes the kickoff especially unique is that it won't be particularly easy. Often the first three stages serve as ceremonial rides leading up to the serious racing in the meat of the three-week schedule, but the general classification will take shape almost instantly with a short individual time trial in Utrecht on Stage 1. From there, a Stage 2 ride to Zeeland could feature crosswinds, and Stage 3 will finish on a sharp ascent to the top of Mûr de Huy.
Then the Tour welcomes riders to France with cobbles in Stage 4, nasty bumps that can lead to big crashes. There will be more wind down France's Northwest coast. Then the Tour makes a big jump south for the second half, riding through the Pyrenees to the Alps.
Rider will finally get to relax on July 26, when the Tour does its mostly ceremonial ride up and down the Champs-Élysées. Just before that, however, may be the most pivotal stage of the race. Stage 20 is a relatively shorts ride, 110.5 kilometers, finishing on top of the iconic Alpe d'Huez. If you watch just one stage of the 2015 Tour de France, tune in on the final Saturday of the Tour for what ought to be an all-out dogfight up a brutal climb.
The route is regarded as climber-friendly, in general, with lots of climbs and fewer flat surfaces much to the chagrin of the sprinters. Some riders have also taken exception to the absence of a long individual time trial. Viewers should love the course, however, and it will certainly test a stacked field of competitors, led by Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali. The battle for the Maillot Jaune has the potential to be epic.
Courtesy the official site of the Tour de France.