Reigning champion Chris Froome said he was delighted by the 2014 Tour de France route, despite it seemingly favouring pure climbers.
And having seen the route, revealed on Wednesday by organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) at a presentation ceremony in Paris, including five summit finishes and a 54km time-trial, Froome said he was delighted.
Yet despite featuring just the one time-trial, as opposed to the two individual trials and one team time-trial this year when there was also one fewer summit finish, Froome still thinks the course will favour him, rather than the likes of Quintana or Alberto Contador.
Froome said, “Having the time-trial at the end is so the climbers don’t have to chase but can ride in front and not become demoralised.”
“We’ve got five mountain top finishes, that’s more than this year. That’s a good thing for me and also with the penultimate stage being a 50+ kilometre individual time-trial, that’s something that suits me,” said Froome.
“If there is one worry, it’s the cobblestones on the fifth stage from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, although Froome says he is not concerned about losing time over that section, merely of being able to stay out of trouble.
“Cobblestones add to (the excitement) by adding an aspect we’re not used to in the Tour de France,” said the 28-year-old Team Sky rider.
“I don’t think it will be too different, we still have to go away and analyse the route and build the team around it.
“I don’t see anything that takes it too far away from this year’s Tour, apart from the aspect of not having the team time-trial in next year’s route.
“I haven’t done much on cobblestones, it’s going to be a challenge and that’s something we’ll have to look at specifically and prepare for specifically.
“I don’t think I’m any worse than Nairo Quintana or Alberto Contador on the cobbles. I probably won’t be able to follow the likes of Fabian Cancellara or Tom Boonen, but as long as I’m within the group of the GC riders, or it could even be somewhere we take time.
Stage seven, from Epernay to Nancy, is the longest, covering a gruelling 233km.
The first summit finishes come in the Vosges region with the 161km stage eight from Tomblaine to Gerardmer and then the return of La Planche des Belles Filles at the end of stage 10.
It was there on the final 20km ramp that Froome earnt his first stage victory in 2012 and the 161km stage, with a final 5.9km climb averaging a punishing 8.5 percent gradient, could shake up the race and suit the likes of punchy finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.
The first Alpine summit finish arrives on Stage 13 at Chamrousse at the end of 200km with an 18.2km climb averaging 7.3 percent.
The high Alps beckon the following day with a 177km stage that crests the Cols du Lautaret and D’Izoard before finishing on the Risoul.
Stages 17 and 18 are relatively short, at 125km and 145km respectively, but both have Pyreneen summit finishes at Saint-Lary-Soulan and Hautacam.
The time-trial comes a day before the survivors roll onto the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 26.
The 21 stages of the 2014 Tour de France, as revealed by race organisers on Wednesday:
Stage 1: Saturday, July 5 – Leeds, England, to Harrogate, England, 191 kilometres (119 miles)
Stage 2: Sunday, July 6 – York, England, to Sheffield, England, 198km
Stage 3: Monday, July 7 – Cambridge, England, to London, 159km
Stage 4: Tuesday, July 8 – Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille, 164km
Stage 5: Wednesday, July 9 – Ypres, Belgium – Arenberg Porte du Hainault, 156km
Stage 6: Thursday, July 10 – Arras to Reims, 194km
Stage 7: Friday, July 11 – Epernay to Nancy, 233km
Stage 8: Saturday, July 12 – Tomblaine to Gerardmer, 161km
Stage 9: Sunday, July 13 – Gerardmer to Mulhouse, 166km
Stage 10: Monday, July 14 – Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, 161km
Rest day: Tuesday, July 15
Stage 11: Wednesday, July 16 – Besancon to Oyonnax, 186km
Stage 12: Thursday, July 17 – Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne, 183km
Stage 13: Friday, July 18 – Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse, 200km
Stage 14: Saturday, July 19 – Grenoble to Risoul, 177km
Stage 15: Sunday, July 20 – Tallard to Nimes, 222km
Rest day: Monday, July 21
Stage 16: Tuesday, July 22 – Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 237km
Stage 17: Wednesday, July 23 – Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan, 125km
Stage 18: Thursday, July 24 – Pau to Hautacam, 145km
Stage 19: Friday, July 25 – Mauborguet Pays du Val d’Adour to Bergerac, 208km
Stage 20: Saturday, July 26 – Bergerac to Perigueux, 54km individual time-trial
Stage 21: Sunday, July 27 – Evry to Paris Champs-Elysees, 13
The key stages of next year’s Tour de France:
Stage 5 – Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainault, 156 kilometres (96.9 miles)
Race organisers have decided to spice up the 2014 race with cobblestones, which will strike fear into the main contenders.
There may be only 15.4km of cobblestones compared to the 50km that form part of the “Queen of the Classics”, Paris-Roubaix, which passes through the same territory.
But it only takes one little section of bumps to bring riders crashing down and sending some home with a broken collarbone.
The cobblestones are spread out over nine separate sections so expect the overall contenders’ teams to be jittery during the last 70km of this stage, which is where the cobblestones make their appearance.
The Tour may not be won here but it can certainly be lost.
Stage 10 – Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, 161km
The 5.9km finish up to La Planche des Belles Filles made its Tour debut last year but proved so popular and spectacular that it has been brought back.
Although the average gradient is only 8.5 percent — a punishing challenge in itself — it starts with a 13 percent section and the final ramp is an incredible 20 percent.
It was here in 2012 that defending champion Chris Froome gained his first ever Tour stage victory having chased down an attack by Cadel Evans, who was then reigning champion.
Froome will not be the favourite, with the finish more suited to the likes of Nairo Quintana or Jaoquim Rodriguez.
Either way, this will be the first real chance for the contenders to take time out of each other.
Stage 14 – Grenoble to Risoul, 177km
The first stage in the High Alps includes more than 65km of climbing, including the final 12.6km slope up to Risoul at an average gradient of 6.9 percent.
The first climb is not tough at an average 3.9 percent but it labours on for 34km.
Perhaps the real damage will be done in the middle climb, the Izoard, which at 19km and six percent will really test the contenders’ legs.
The previous day sees a mountain top finish at the end of a gruelling 18.2km, 7.3 percent climb and if anyone is tired or struggling after that, then it is the 14th stage that could see them lose serious time.
Stage 17 – Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan, 125km
This may be the shortest stage of the race apart from the time-trial but it is not going to be easy. Any difficulty the Alps can present, the Pyrenees can better.
This has four categorised climbs ranging from 8.3km to 13.2km in length and at between 7 and 8.3 percent average gradient.
The short length of the stage suggests this one could be tackled at speed, meaning those with heavy legs and weary bodies will likely wilt in the mountain sun.
Expect a breakaway on this stage a long way from home that may go all the way, even though the true fireworks will take place amongst the contenders.
Stage 20 – Bergerac to Perigueux, 54km time-trial
The one and only time-trial in the 2014 edition comes in the penultimate stage.
With no team time-trial and only this one race against the clock, it will likely be a last chance, probably for Froome, or perhaps even Alberto Contador, to snatch victory from the more specialist climbers.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said organisers deliberately left this stage until late in the hope of encouraging the climbers to fight right to the end.
If things go to plan, this could be the stage for a dramatic see-saw battle with Froome, or Contador, chasing down Vincenzo Nibali or Quintana in the battle for overall success.