July 13th, 2014
Five Climbs that will Decide the Tour
The Tour de France peloton has survived the lumps and bumps of Yorkshire, and most riders got through the pavés. But now the race is heading for its classic territory – the mountain ranges of France, where the race will be decided.
Of all the climbs in this year’s Tour, these are the segments that will help to shape the final selection.
La Planche des Belles Filles
This climb in the Vosges mountains comes at the end of Stage 10 (July 14). It is the year’s first summit finish, and it has been significant in the past: it was here that Bradley Wiggins first wore the yellow jersey two years ago in his Tour-winning year, and where his super-domestique Chris Froome took the stage win. The 5.9km-long climb averages 8.5%, but there are sections of 15% near the summit, and it comes at the end of a brutal seven-mountain stage. Froome is no longer around to put his rivals in the pain cave here, but a bad performance could still spell the end of a few riders’ Tour ambitions.
Stage 14 (July 19) is the only proper Alpine stage, and it’s a big one. First, the 34km drag up the Col du Lauteret to warm up. Then, the classic Col d’Izoard, which, at 2,360m tall, marks the 2014 Tour’s highest point. To finish: the 12.6km of the ascent to the ski station of Risoul. Legs will be tired, but there’s no doubt the yellow jersey contenders will attack. It’s the first time the Tour has used this first-category climb.
Port de Balès
The Pyrenees are generally steeper than the Alps and a case in point is the Port de Balès. Situated just outside Luchon where Stage 16 ends, the 19.7km climb has an average of 6%, which conceals the reality of sections that tip up to 10%, 11% and more. The descent into town is quick and, though the stage is only the gateway to the Pyrenees, featuring ‘medium’ mountains, the riders will have a tough day here – and they know they’ve got two more to come. Strava Pro Laurens Ten Dam currently owns the KOM on this… can he keep it?
10.1km at 8% does not make this the biggest of the Pyrenean climbs – but coming at the end of stage 17 (July 23) it’s the penultimate of the many summit finishes this year. Some may prefer to keep their powder dry, but all it takes is one dangerous attack and the race will ignite. Strava Pro Thibaut Pinot currently holds the KOM, and he will be hoping he can improve on it during Stage 17.
By the time stage 18 rolls up the Hautacam climb, the many switchbacks will branded on to the memory of Strava users everywhere: the stage is the course of this year’s Étape, the amateur closed-road sportive that the Tour organises every year. Hautacam is a ski station, and the access road is relatively wide and gentle, but it comes after the legendary Tourmalet climb and it’s this year’s final summit finish. Over the past few years, the Tour route has favoured these short mountainous stages, their brevity provoking exciting, attacking racing. Any unfinished business of this year’s race may finally be settled here.
Want to know more about the Tour course?
Find the stage routes, the Strava Pros competing and view the key segments to watch on the Tour de France page.