It’s the most important cycling race of the year. All of the biggest names are involved. Eternal glory is on the line. Le Tour de France is the Super Bowl of cycling — if the Super Bowl ran for 21 days straight. It’s a physical and mental test that challenges even the fittest of riders. Mechanical doping, regular doping, poop doping(?) and a host of other scandals are near-guaranteed to surface. It’s a spectacle, and one worth tuning into whether it’s for one stage or the full race.
Le Tour de France in Bullet Points
First Year: 1903
Length: 21 days; 2,000 – 2,200 miles
Why It’s Great: This is the Big Dance — the one race that, without fail, is contested by all of the world’s top riders. In fact, in relation to the Tour, every race beforehand almost becomes training, and every one afterwards a recovery ride.
Distinguishing Traits: Challenged by all of the world’s top riders. A straight week of pancake-flat stages at the start gives sprinters a good crack at the maillot jaune, but also contributes to overly conservative, formulaic racing by the all-rounders competing for the final podium. A wildly international peloton. Off-the-hook parties along the route, especially along alpine passes.
Riders to Keep an Eye On
The most exciting cyclists in Le Tour.
Mark Cavendish: This year, Cavendish is attempting to break Eddie Merckx’s all-time Tour de France stage win record (34). Cavendish is just four stage wins away — this could be the year.
Peter Sagan: There’s no question that Sagan is one of the most exciting cyclists today. Wheelies? Bunny hops? Hairy legs? What will Sagan do this year? On a more serious note, look for Sagan to take home the Green Jersey for winning the most sprints.
Froome/Porte/Quintana: Who will take home the overall win this year? Could Froome triple? Will this finally be Quintana’s year? Porte is riding strong and could be the one to crash the party.
Gear to Watch Out For
Sneak peeks at yet-to-be-released gear.
Giro Prolight Techlace: American Taylor Phinney teased these in an Instagram photo. Ultralight, ultra-white, and an innovative lacing system.
Team Sky Ford Focus RS: Could Team Sky have picked a cooler car as their support vehicle? Custom suspension, custom white Team Sky livery and a plethora of bike racks make it the slickest support vehicle in the pack.
Look 785 Huez RS: Named after one of the most famous climbs in the world, Look’s new Huez RS is a mega-light climbing bike gunning for the polka dot jersey (awarded to the King of the Mountains).
Peter Sagan’s New S-Works Tarmac: Sagan has a number of personal tweaks on his new S-Works Tarmac including an incredibly long carbon Zipp stem. Keep an eye on Sagan’s groupset as well. He’s been spotted riding the previous iteration of Shimano’s Dura-Ace.
The Stages to Watch
If nothing else, tune in for these.
Stage 5: Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles — this stage could make or break a contender’s chances at the yellow jersey. La Planche is quickly becoming an iconic climb after first being introduced in the 2012 Tour.
Stage 13: Saint-Girons to Foix — the interesting thing about stage 13 is that it is extremely short — just over 100km. The idea behind this stage is to encourage a challenge to the status quo at that point in the race. There will be plenty of room for attacks and it will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting stages of the Tour.
Stage 19: Embrun to Salon-de-Provence — after lots of climbing, the riders return to a mostly flat section. While the beginning is hilly, with some steep descents, this stage will belong to the attackers. It’s also the longest stage of the Tour at 222.5km.
How to Watch
It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
The full broadcast schedule: Head over to VeloNews who has an exhaustive guide to where to watch the tour.