The total length of this year’s Tour is 3,344 kilometers – easy enough to remember. The longest ever Tour was in 1926, covering 5,745 kilometers.
This year there are 21 stages. The first historical Tour had only six stages, with more and more stages added over the years. This year’s longest stage, Stage 4 from Seraing to Cambrai, covers 221 kilometers.
Alberto Contador is attempting to complete a double this year, i.e. winning both the Giro and the Tour. Only seven riders have managed this feat in the past and one of them is Stephen Roche, who became the second man in history to win the Tour de France, Giro and the World Championship in just one year. Read our story about Stephen and his sons.
But Contador will be going up against 2013 champion Chris Froome, who is looking to become the first Briton to win the Tour two times. Froome and Contador both crashed out early in last’s year Tour, leaving Italian Vincenzo ‘Shark’ Nibali to turn their tragedies to his advantage and take the title.
But don’t underestimate Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, who grew up in Combita at 2,825 m above sea level. He has lived at this altitude all his life, making him well adapted to the steep Alpine climbs. Hopefully we’ll see a head-to-head competition between these four this season.
Unfortunately Marcel Kittel, the excellent sprinter and winner of the first Yellow Jersey in the last two Tours de France, will miss this year’s race because his season was hampered by illness.
The highest point of this year’s Tour is the Galibier mountain pass at 2,645 m. Stage 20 from Modane to Alpe d’Hues has the highest stage finish at 1,850 meters. A new climb has also been added this season in the Rhone Alps.
Not surprisingly, the fastest average speeds are clocked during the time trials, with the record average speed for team trials clocked at 57,841 km/h. Will the record be broken this year on the 28-km route between Vannes and Plumenec that comprises Stage 9? We’ll find out.
Dangerous moves are inevitable in the first week. We can expect some big ones, especially on the flat roads of the early Dutch stages. In particular, watch out for the rain on the cobblestoned stretches of Stage 4. Falls in the mountains are equally painful and can bring a fast end to the race for riders caught in the wreckage.
An event of this size needs a strong man to lead it. Current director Christian Prudhomme took over the Tour de France in 2006. His first race was in 2007. Read more about Christian Prudhomme’s Red Car.
About 2,000 journalists will cover the race this year, with 121 different TV channels broadcasting the Tour to 188 countries, making it the biggest annual sports event in the world.
Twelve million spectators are estimated to watch the Tour live the along the route.
According to the rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), no bike in the Tour may weight less than 6.8 kg – this in order to make sure that the bikes are sturdy enough so riders don’t get injured.