Tour de France set for a showdown in the Pyrénées in 2014
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tour de France set for a showdown in the Pyrénées in 2014

by Ben Atkins at 11:38 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Five summit finishes and two flat time trials as the race pays tribute to the Great War

tour de franceOn the eve of the official presentation of the 2014 Tour de France route, rumours of the likely course are abounding in the French media. All that has been confirmed so far is that the first three days of the three-week race will take place in the United Kingdom, as it crosses the English Channel - or La Manche, as the French call the narrow sea that divides the two countries - for the first time since its London start in 2007.

With the Alps having featured so heavily in the 2013 race, 2014 is set to spend several stages in the Pyrénées, according to La Depeche. The southern mountain range will host three stage finishes, at Bagnères-de-Luchon, Pla d’Adet, and Hautacam; the first of those passing over the ferociously steep Port de Balès for the fourth time in eight years, while the last will head out from Pau after the near-omnipresent city returns after an uncharacteristic absence last year.

Despite the Pyrenéen focus, La Depeche still predicts two summit finishes in the Alps, with the first visit to Chamrousse since the mountain time trial of 2001, and a first ever visit to the ski resort of Risoul.

The race is set to feature three stages against the clock but, unusually, two of these will be on consecutive days, according to La Depeche. The first, flat stage, will cross the border from Mulhouse to Fribourg-en-Brisgau, and seems almost a direct invitation to World champion Tony Martin to show his rainbow stripes on home turf. The next day will suit the German far less, however, as it will head in the opposite direction from the Mulhouse start, and finish at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles; a summit finish first visited in 2012.

The third of the time trials takes its usual place, on the penultimate day, between Bergerac and Périgueux, with a reverse of the 1994 stage where the current crop of time trial specialists will be able to compare themselves against Miguel Indurain.

Much of the rest of the speculation centres on where the race will pass after its three British stages. With several discussions over the possibility of including some of the fearsome Pavé du Nord, the first stage on the European mainland looks set to finish at Villeneuve d’Ascq, a suburb of Lille just to the south of Roubaix. There will then be a stage between Lille and nearby Bouvines, which could feature yet more cobbles, before the race heads into Belgium for a day.

To commemorate the centenary of the start of World War I, there will be a stage start in the ancient cloth-trading town of Ypres/Ieper - which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the four-year conflict - but the finish looks to be more of a celebratory one in the Champagne capital of Reims. Further tributes will be paid to the victims of the Great War, as the next day passes by the city of Verdun - which saw some of the French army’s worst casualties, shortly before the peace that now exists between those then hostile nations is emphasised with the race’s visit to Germany.

Much of the speculation in the French media is based on research into local media outlets, hotel bookings etc, and generally turns out to be largely accurate. Nothing will be officially confirmed until tomorrow, however, when the 2014 course is presented in Paris, by organiser ASO.

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