The former Tour de France winner, Pedro Delgado, has told Cyclingnews that the format of the 2015 Tour route is not so different to those adopted by the Vuelta in recent years - and that it does no favours at all to 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome (Team Sky).
"If I was writing for a British newspaper about the route, I'd have 'an anti-Froome Tour' as my headline," Delgado, a longstanding cycling commentator for state television TVE, told Cyclingnews.
"The kind of terrain Froome will have to face is not at all favorable for him. They've taken away the long individual time trials, and there are a lot of very steep ascents, sometimes finishes which - as a rider who does better on long, steady uphill climbs - won't be to his liking either."
"That said, I don't think it would be wise for him to reject doing the Tour, because sometimes the route will be better for him, sometimes worse, but it's still the Tour."
Delgado sees the route as one which will do no harm to the French contenders - Jean Christophe Peraud (AG2R), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) - when they battle for top overall classifications in 2015.
"You'd have to add in Nairo Quintana, but actually I think he's a better time triallist than the French, so they'll benefit the most."
"It's an anti-Froome Tour, but in any case I think the French are currently at a level below him, Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). If one of them falls off or doesn't take part, their chances will improve dramatically."
As for the Spanish, Delgado believes that "It's good for Contador, he likes those sharp uphill finishes - you could see that in this year's Vuelta. With this kind of route, you're obliged to be ambitious and hotblooded about your racing, you can't just take this route into a laboratory and calculate how much time you'll lose and gain on each stage. It'll be decided day by day."
After years where the Tour tended to be the reference point for other Grand Tours, Delgado now believes the Tour is actually taking a leaf out of the Vuelta's book. For examples of cross-fertilization in terms of the route, he points specifically at the 2015 Tour's shorter, punchier stages, as well as the plethora of mountain top and summit finishes. The route, he says, is designed to shake up the overall classification and ensure riders with conservative racing styles who like waiting for the setpiece time trial and high mountain battles don't automatically have the upper hand.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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