What you need to know ahead of the Tour de France

We’re just a couple of days away from the biggest race on the cycling calendar. It’s the only time of the year when you can celebrate all things ‘bike’ without being scorned by your nearest and dearest as you don your favourite Lycra and tune into ITV4 all day, every day for the next three weeks.

We’re just a couple of days away from the biggest race on the cycling calendar. It’s the only time of the year when you can celebrate all things ‘bike’ without being scorned by your nearest and dearest as you don your favourite Lycra and tune into ITV4 all day, every day for the next three weeks.

We are, of course, talking about the Tour de France. Let’s take a quick look at the key stages and the riders to watch out for at the 106th edition of this great race…

Stages you won’t want to miss

The Belgian capital of Brussels hosts this year’s Grand Depart, the riders tackling a long, lumpy stage through the heartlands of Belgium on their way to a probable bunch sprint. Stage two, the first real test of this year’s race, also takes place in Brussels, but this time on a tough and twisting 27km circuit around the city centre. This is the first and only team time trial of the race and while it won’t create massive gaps, it will sort the GC hierarchy for the following weeks.

From Brussels, the race heads down towards the Vosges Mountains – the location for stage six’s gruelling summit finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles, the region’s toughest climb. Again, this stage won’t create massive gaps in the GC, but it should start to show us who’s a serious contender and who’s just a yellow pretender.

The riders will head into the heart of the Pyrenees during the second week, but not before a long and lumpy individual time trial around the city of Pau on stage 13. This time trial is immediately followed by a short yet incredibly snappy stage that finishes atop the infamous Col du Tourmalet – a formidable duo of stages that may just crack a few riders.

The climbing continues relentlessly into week three, the riders heading deep into the French Alps for a nasty trio of stages that include the mythical climbs of the Col d’Izoard, Col du Galibier and Val Thorens just to name a few. It’s on these gruelling mountain stages that we’ll see the winner of the 106th edition emerge – who will it be?

Riders to look out for

With the four-time winner, Chris Froome, out of the race and the defending champion, Geraint Thomas, suffering a nasty crash at the recent Tour de Suisse, the door has been left wide open for one of the lesser favourites to sneak in and steal the overall victory.

One of those riders who may finally get his chance to snatch yellow is Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte. The Tasmanian is a talented climber and will relish this mountainous route, especially with the super lightweight and incredibly stiff Trek Emonda beneath him – this climbing machine has taken numerous Grand Tour stages in recent years, it’s time it took an overall title.

Other riders looking to swoop in and mount an assault on the GC include the Bora-Hansgrohe duo of Emmanuel Buchmann and Patrick Konrad. Both of these youngsters have proven themselves this year, taking a handful of podiums and top-10 placings in week-long stage races between them. 2018 Vuelta a España runner-up, Enric Mas, will also be hoping to freelance his way to the top when not helping his Deceuninck-QuickStep leaders chase stage wins. They’ll all be riding the versatile S-Works Tarmac around France, a bike that’s just as formidable uphill as it is down.

The yellow jersey isn’t the only prize up for grabs this July, there are also the green and polka-dot jerseys for the riders to fight over. Peter Sagan and Elia Viviani are the two stand-out favourites for the green jersey of the points classification, especially after their dominant performances at the recent Tour de Suisse. Both will ride the blisteringly quick S-Works Venge in the sprint stages – but who will ride it faster?

Julian Alaphilippe, the 2018 King of the Mountains winner, will be aiming to defend his polka-dot jersey, but he’ll face fierce competition from a couple of other riders who are partial to day-long breakaways. Riders like Greg Van Avermaet and Alessandro de Marchi, both of CCC Team, will be looking to infiltrate the daily breakaways aboard their Giant TCR Advanced all-rounders, hoping to steal a stage win or two along the way.

Excited for the Tour de France? We sure are! If all this talk of flashy bikes has got you hungry for a new machine, then why not check out our full range of road bikes right here.