It’s that time of the year again, the time of year when Australian cycling fans stay up late, American fans get up early and the British fans don’t get much work done. Cycling fans from across the globe tune in and become obsessed for three weeks with the apex of the cycling season. Its Tour Time.
This year sees the grandest of the Grand Tours hit triple figures. The 2013 event is the hundredth edition and hence the organizers of the race ASO have pulled out all the stops. They’ve designed a route that takes in some of the most memorable areas, mountains and challenging roads that the Tour has visited throughout its glorious history.
Saturday sees the start of a long build-up to the event that the professionals have been working towards. There are very few pros that don’t have the Tour as a major aim for the season and it’s never guaranteed that they will have a place in the team’s final roster. The team rivalry, showing that they are worth a place in the 9 man team starts from day one of the season. All you need to do is look at the build-up with Team Sky, reigning champion Wiggins is out, he hasn’t performed well enough this season. The goals he set at the start of the season haven’t been accomplished – no place for him. No one is exempt when it comes to the Tour, though in this instance the team management may have pre-empted what could have been an in-team power struggle and acted to avoid it.
Team Sky aren’t the only team with in-team power struggles, look at BMC. Cadel Evans who won the Tour back in 2011 has young gun Tejay Van Garderen nipping at his heels. Will we see Tejay taking the role of leader if Cadel falters? I’m guessing yes, after Tejay’s performance and overall win at the Tour of California.
Then, there are the not so noticeable power struggles. Teams like Argos-Shimano have two sprinters that have had relatively good seasons so far this year. On other teams their results would designate them as sole sprint leader but within the team, will they fight for dominance or will Kittel and Degenkolb share the work load when taking on Cavendish and Greiple?
Corsica is the proud host of the first three stages this year, with a lack of a prologue. The first stage is going to be a shoot up between the big sprinters. Germany’s sprint ace Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) will be in the same boat as the boy racer Mark Cavendish (Quick Step). Both took their respective national road titles, and both will want to show the colours off in the first stage. If they succeed they will then swap the national champ jersey for the famed maillot jaune.
The likelihood of a sprinter wearing the yellow jersey for the first day is pretty much a certainty, stage 2 though has just as much a likelihood that the jersey will be on a new back. The stage is middle mountains, hilly enough for a new rider to take the lead. But this is just the start, 3 weeks await the riders. Once they leave Corsica the race heads along the south coast to the Pyrenees where the real hills start. There may be fireworks here before the race then makes a quick flying visit up to Brittany. This is tough guy territory, Brittany has some of the hardest amateur racing in France and the fans will be out in force. A stage that takes in the infamous Mont Saint-Michel will have riders edgy; back in 1999 a crash here helped break the peloton and aide a certain American to his first (temporary) yellow jersey! The peloton and its entourage then head inland and back towards the Alps, where the race again will be decided in the mountains. With such a varied and challenging course any team that wants to head into Paris with the lead will have a tough time controlling the race.
There are a few prime stages that PBK will be blogging from, stages that should be big deciders that will show whose legs and which teams are flourishing and who’s not cutting the (Dijon) mustard. Expect video interviews and updates throughout the race from our on the ground reporter, Dave Everett. Bring on Saturday and let the race commence.
We’ve certainly got Tour Fever here at Probikekit and we’ve put together some great special offers and competitions to celebrate:
View our brand new Tour de France offers
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