The route of the 2014 Tour de France will be officially unveiled in Paris on Wednesday morning, but leaks in two European newspapers and on the Internet have already revealed many of the stages and key climbs of the race.
The 101st edition of the Tour de France will start in Yorkshire and will follow a clock-wise route with the Alps coming in the second week, with the Pyrenees offering the decisive mountain stages.
The centenary edition was one long celebration of legendary Tour de France climbs and cities. It seems the 2014 route will be more experimental and original, with the mountains standing out for their severity rather than just their former winners. There is also no trace of a team time trial.
According to both La Depeche newspaper in southern western France and Tuttosport in Italy, the Tour de France route will include five mountain finishes at La Planche des Belles Filles in the eastern Vosges, at Chamrousse and Risoul in the Alps, then at Pla d’Adet and Hautacam in the Pyrenees.
The British stages in Yorkshire are already well known, with the third stage running from Cambridge to central London before the transfer via the Channel Tunnel to France.
Stages in northern France are expected to remember the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war, while also remembering Tour de France riders Octave Lapize, Francois Faber and Lucien Petit Breton, who all died in the conflict.
Up to six sectors of pave could be included in the stage according to Tuttosport, possibly including the terrible long section of the Forest of Arenberg.
The sprinters and breakaways will have their chances on the trip south with stage finishes expected in Reims, Nancy and Mulhouse.
The mountains beginning on Bastille day on Monday July 14 with the steep climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. Chris Froome won here in 2012 when he accelerated away insight of the line. He could take the yellow for the first time in 2014 if he wins again.
The Alps will apparently host just two stages, to Chamrousse near Grenoble and to Risoul after climbing the Col du Lautaret, Col d'Izoard and passing through Queyras.
The riders will cross the south of France via Nimes, with the second rest day in Carcassonne on Monday, July 21.
La Depeche, which knows the Pyrenees well. said that the first of three mountain stages will finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon after climbing the Portet d’Aspet and the Port de Balès.
The following day's finish is at Pla d’Adet, where eternal second Raymond Poulidor won one of his best ever stage victories in the year Eddy Merckx won his fifth Tour de France. The stage is likely to include the Col du Portillon and the Col de Peyresourde.
The triple whammy in the Pyrenees ends with the climb to Hautacam after climbing Tourmalet. Riccardo Ricco was the last winner here in 2008. Lance Armstrong set up his second Tour de France victory on the climb, but both he and Ricco were later disqualified for doping and lost their victories.
As widely reported, the key individual time trial will come after the final mountain stages, with a 50km contre la montre between Bergerac and Périgueux remembering Miguel Indurain's victory in 1994.
The riders will then transfer to Paris for the final procession stage on the Champs Elysees and the expected sprint finish and the crowning of the 2014 Tour de France winner.
Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the Tour de France presentation in Paris, with interviews with riders and officials and analysis of the race route.
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