The Five Key Stages In The 2014 Tour de France

LEEDS, United Kingdom, July 03, 2014 (AFP) – With the Tour de France
starting in Leeds on Saturday, AFP looks at five key stages where the race
could be won or lost.

Stage 5, Wednesday July 9
Ypres-Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 155.5km
For a mostly flat stage of just over 150km this might seem a surprising
choice but it is the nine sections and 15.4km of cobbles that makes this stage
stand out. Borrowing part of the course used on Paris-Roubaix, this stage
provides a great number of potential pitfalls for the overall contenders. The
Tour cannot be won on this stage but it could be lost by either crashing or
getting caught behind a fall on the treacherous cobbles. Rain, wind and poor
weather could make this an even greater danger.

Stage 10, Monday July 14
Mulhouse-La Planche des Belles Filles, 161.5km
Even though it’s not in the high mountains, this stage has four category
one climbs, two category twos and even a third category climb. The lumpy
nature of the course will sap the energy in the riders’ legs before the final
5.9km category one climb up to La Plache des Belles Filles with an average
gradient of 8.5 percent. Chris Froome won his maiden Tour stage here in 2012
and while the time gaps are unlikely to be great between the favourites, this
will be a chance for the riders in the best form to test their legs and
deliver a psychological blow to the competition.

Stage 14, Saturday July 19
Grenoble-Risoul, 177km
The previous day’s first Alpine mountain stage may have already done some
damage with its 18.2km uncategorised climb with a 7.3 percent average gradient
to finish with. Anyone suffering from that will be buried on this stage that
takes in a torturous 34km, 3.9 percent category one climb before going over
the highest point of the Tour and the 19km, 6 percent uncategorised Col
d’Izoard that reaches a height of 2,360-metres above sea level. With their
lungs screaming out for oxygen the riders still have to tackle the final climb
up to Risoul, a first category 12.6km, 6.9 percent grind. By now, those with
the legs to win and those without should already be known.

Stage 18, Friday July 18
Pau-Hautacam, 145.5km
The third of three days in the Pyrenees takes the peloton over two brutes,
the Col du Tourmalet (17.1km at 7.3 percent) and the finish on the Hautacam
(13.6km AT 7.8 percent). This is the second shortest stage of the race, apart
from the time-trial, and that should ensure a fast pace and some no-nonsense
riding. The long descent between the two beasts could provide an opportunity
for someone like Vincenzo Nibali to get away and put his rivals under
pressure. In any case, the leader’s team will want to keep the pace high to
discourage attacks while those chasing will know this is their last
opportunity to make up significant time in the mountains. Expect fireworks.

Stage 20, Saturday July 26
Bergerac-Perigueux, 54km individual timetrial
If Froome gets to this, the penultimate stage, wearing yellow, the Tour
could already be over. The Briton is the fastest time-triallist of the
favourites but form and history can still go out the window on a gruelling
hour-long test against the clock. Alberto Contador and Nibali have both at
times in their careers put in big efforts in time-trials and if either is
wearing yellow you can expect him to produce the stage of his life to defend
the jersey. But on a flat course and given the time Froome took out of both in
a time-trial one fifth of that distance at the Criterium du Dauphine last
month, they may both need to be holding advantages in the minutes rather than
seconds to stand any chance of overall victory.