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Hills, heat and hosiery - Tour de France 2015 explained

Hills, heat and hosiery - Tour de France 2015 explained
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By Chris Harris with VINCENT COSTE
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Wheels will begin spinning in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday (July 4) as the world’s most prestigious cycling race gets underway.

The 102nd edition of the Tour de France will see the best cyclists tackle 21 stages, totalling 3,360 kilometres.

Twenty-two teams, each with nine cyclists, will battle it out on the tour’s varied terrains, from the flat north to the mythic climbs in the south, such as l’Alpe d’Huez near Grenoble.

The race, informally referred to as La Grande Boucle (The Big Loop), will finish on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on July 26.

If it’s the Tour de France, why is starting in the Netherlands?

In short, money.

While it will return to France for next year’s Grand Depart, the race often begins on foreign shores.

The start of the race in Utrecht this year will be the sixth time it has set-off from the Netherlands, and the 21st time it has departed away from French soil.

Darach McQuaid, a former rider who helped bring the 1998 Tour de France to Ireland, told the BBC organisers know they can get more money from starting the race abroad, but it’s also about growing the brand and sharing something they are proud of with a new market.

McQuaid said Ireland rustled up around £5.5 million (7.7 million euros) to attract the tour. Other estimates put hosting the first stage between 2-10m euros.

What’s the route this year?

The first stage is in the Netherlands. The tour then moves south-westwards, stopping first in Belgium, before moving across northern France to Brittany.

Then for the hills! The tour flies south for three stages in and around the Pyrenees, before heading towards the Alps via Valence.

Wat vind jij van het letour</a> 2015 parcours? Iets voor de Nederlandse toppers? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TDF2015?src=hash">#TDF2015</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TDFutrecht?src=hash">#TDFutrecht</a> <a href="http://t.co/t6AgaQWBUp">http://t.co/t6AgaQWBUp</a></p>&mdash; Le Tour Utrecht (LeTourUtrecht) 22 Octobre 2014

How do the stages vary?

The first week of the tour is in predominately flat regions, The Netherlands, Belgium and northern France.

Here it is all about speed, with races likely to finish with either a few cyclists breaking away to win or a terrifying sprint finish all together.

But while that may scare even the most capable of amateur cyclists, it is the mountain stages that separate the men from the boys, with brutal climbs from sea level to 2,000 metres.

There is also individual time trial stages. Here riders set off separately, at two-minute intervals, and compete against the clock.

What is the yellow jersey?

The yellow jersey is the biggest prize in cycling. If you spot a rider sporting it, it means he is the overall race leader on aggregate time since the beginning of the tour.

Le maillot à pois & le maillot blanc fêtent leur 40 ans /polka dot & white jerseys celebrate their 40th birthday pic.twitter.com/6sZaan61pO

— Le Tour de France (@letour) 16 Avril 2015

The yellow jersey is likely to change hands often during the early, flatter stages of the tour. But, in the mountains, where the overall title is often won or lost, it is much harder to make up time on a rival.

A sliding scale of points is given to the first over the line in each stage and whoever has accumulated the most gets to wear the green jersey.

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A similar system works for the mountain stages, except more points are awarded the harder the hill is. The winner wears the polka dot jersey.

The white jersey goes to the best-placed under-25 rider, while the lanterne rouge term is used to mock the last rider, referring to the red light on trains to mark the last carriage.

Does every rider have a realistic chance of winning?

Not in reality. Team members who are judged unlikely to challenge the leaders, called domestiques, tend to do the donkey work. That can mean fetching drinks for their team’s lead riders from the support car or spending long periods at the front of the peloton (the term for a bunched group of cyclists) to help conserve the energy of those behind.

Who are the main contenders?

Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) are thought to be among the main contenders for the yellow jersey.

Froome and Contador will renew their rivalry, having both crashed out last year in separate incidents.

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Slovakia’s Peter Sagan will be the man to beat for the green jersey – he’s won it the last three years running.

What about Lance Armstrong?

Controversial figure Lance Armstrong, who admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins, will not be far from this year’s race.

He is taking part in a charity event to raise money for Cure Leukaemia. Armstrong will ride stages in mid-July, a day before the real tour rolls into town.

What else is new this year?

The first week of the 102nd Tour de France is likely to be sweltering conditions, as a heatwave grips Europe.

Cycling Weekly has lifted the lid on the range of tricks cyclists use to keep themselves cool in such heat.

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At one end of the scale there are ice vests, at the other women’s tights.

Rider Jack Bauer told Cycling Weekly: “The team car has a cool box of cheap pantyhose full of ice and knotted up at both ends, that’s generally how we do it, and that can be a big help.

“Those ice socks help a lot, down your gloves, down your neck, or cubes of ice in your h your helmet.”

The other issue looming over the tour is terrorism, a week on from an attack near Lyon and half a year since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

Some 20,000 police, and firefighters have been mobilised to keep the tour safe.

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Pierre-Henry Brandet, French interior minister spokesman, told AFP: “Vigilance will be enhanced on the course to identify abnormal behaviours. It will also be strengthened at the start and finish points, where controls over access will be particularly reinforced.”

The teams

Ag2r La mondiale / France

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)0; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));> Posted by Equipe cycliste AG2R LA MONDIALE on Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Astana Pro Team / Kazakhstan

2015 Tour de France startlist - 4-26.7.15 – Pre-race interview with lars_boom</a> &#10;<a href="https://t.co/7Oxs3HM0lc">https://t.co/7Oxs3HM0lc</a> <a href="http://t.co/QIv26uFX1P">pic.twitter.com/QIv26uFX1P</a></p>&mdash; Astana Pro Team (AstanaTeam) 29 Juin 2015

BMC Racig Team / USA

Have you downloaded the BMC Racing Team's #TdF2015 roster card? Get it (PDF): http://t.co/0snOCGMLRVpic.twitter.com/DojV2WlCBW

— BMC Racing Team (@BMCProTeam) June 26, 2015

BoraArgon18 / Germany

. LeTourUtrecht</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/letour">letour Our 9 guys surely are. See you next week! pic.twitter.com/AIG0LHwck4

— BORA – ARGON 18 (@BoraArgon18) June 25, 2015

Bretagne-Séché Environnement / France

Notre équipe pour letour</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tour2015?src=hash">#Tour2015</a> Sepulveda, Brun, Delaplace, Fédrigo, Brice Feillu, Fonseca, Gérard, Périchon, Vachon <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BSE2015?src=hash">#BSE2015</a></p>&mdash; Bretagne-Séché (EquipeBSE) June 28, 2015

Cofidis / France

Voici donc les 9 coureurs qui participeront au Tour de France à partir de samedi prochain ! #TDF2015#TDFpic.twitter.com/L5wS4AtWfL

— Team COFIDIS (@TeamCOFIDIS) June 29, 2015

Etixx – Quick-Step / Belgium

FAN EXCLUSIVE: Our #TDF2015 selection video! ReTweet to spread the news! https://t.co/AL6m2UUCx2#OurWay

— Etixx – Quick-Step (@Etixx_QuickStep) June 26, 2015

FDJ / France

Découvrez la composition de l'équipe #FDJ pour le #TDF 2015 : pic.twitter.com/sxCCR0DGmx

— Equipe FDJ (@EquipeFDJ) 24 Juin 2015

IAM Cycling / Switzerland

#IAMTDFletour</a> | BRÄNDLE | PANTANO | WYSS | CHAVANEL | FRANK | ELMIGER | CLEMENT | COPPEL | HOLLENSTEIN | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TeamIAM?src=hash">#TeamIAM</a> <a href="http://t.co/Eq9n7ag0xV">pic.twitter.com/Eq9n7ag0xV</a></p>&mdash; ✚ Team IAM Cycling (IAM_Cycling) June 24, 2015

Lampre Merida / Italy

Our Guys for #TDF2015letour</a> thx to <a href="https://twitter.com/sakartdesign">sakartdesign#Suomypic.twitter.com/cnZIcCqirW

— Team Lampre Merida (@lampre_merida) June 30, 2015

Lotto-Soudal / Belgium

These nine riders will represent Lotto_Soudal</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/letour">letour! #TDF2015#liveyourdreampic.twitter.com/XSv46S9dV0

— Lotto Soudal (@Lotto_Soudal) 24 Juin 2015

Movistar / Spain

Unzué: "The most balanced group we could bring to letour</a>&quot; - <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TDF2015?src=hash">#TDF2015</a> dossier and info: <a href="http://t.co/823IQxm8kl">http://t.co/823IQxm8kl</a> <a href="http://t.co/iAy4B8iMyO">pic.twitter.com/iAy4B8iMyO</a></p>&mdash; Movistar Team (Movistar_Team) 29 Juin 2015

Mtn-Qhubeka / South Africa

#ICYMI we announced our letour</a> team today! Announcement: <a href="http://t.co/dEZfBz3caW">http://t.co/dEZfBz3caW</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BicyclesChangeLives?src=hash">#BicyclesChangeLives</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AfricasTeam?src=hash">#AfricasTeam</a> <a href="http://t.co/UGIY1BTYit">pic.twitter.com/UGIY1BTYit</a></p>&mdash; Team MTN-Qhubeka (TeamMTNQhubeka) 23 Juin 2015

Orica GreenEDGE / Australia

ICYMI: We announced our 9-rider line up for letour</a> earlier today. More: <a href="http://t.co/bgajFNn2Ck">http://t.co/bgajFNn2Ck</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TDF2015?src=hash">#TDF2015</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OGErocks?src=hash">#OGErocks</a> <a href="http://t.co/SVAt7Ooj2U">pic.twitter.com/SVAt7Ooj2U</a></p>&mdash; ORICA-GreenEDGE (ORICA_GreenEDGE) 30 Juin 2015

Cannondale-garmin / USA

ICYMI. We named our #TDF2015 team + unveiled our CannondalePro</a> bike + <a href="https://twitter.com/CastelliCycling">CastelliCycling kit: http://t.co/XlG8FVJDV6pic.twitter.com/i7MdrXjEkj

— Cannondale-Garmin (@Ride_Argyle) 29 Juin 2015

Europcar / France

Découvrez les 9 coureurs qui participeront au Tour de France 2015 ! #TDF2015#TDF#TwittCyclos#AllezLesVertspic.twitter.com/YkvJrBtgTT

— Team Europcar (@TeamEuropcar_fr) 29 Juin 2015

Giant-Alpecin / Germany

#TDF2015 We are pleased to announce our final nine-rider line-up for letour</a>: <a href="http://t.co/a5RWSklUyS">http://t.co/a5RWSklUyS</a>. <a href="http://t.co/XjMORDrKel">pic.twitter.com/XjMORDrKel</a></p>&mdash; Team Giant-Alpecin (GiantAlpecin) 25 Juin 2015

Katusha / Russia

#TDF2015Kozonchuk Guarnieri Haller Paolini Kristoff Rodriguez Machado Caruso Losada #katushateampic.twitter.com/9LUYGyjqK5

— Katusha Team (@katushacycling) 25 Juin 2015

Lotto NL – Jumbo / The Netherlands

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)0; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));> Line-up Tour de FranceOur team line-up for this Le Tour de France

Posted by Team Lotto NL Jumbo Cycling on Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Team Sky / United Kingdom

Find our more about our #TDF2015 team, plus reaction from chrisfroome</a> &amp; Sir Dave Brailsford: <a href="http://t.co/NhN7zepv9w">http://t.co/NhN7zepv9w</a> <a href="http://t.co/xMjHgNoKNT">pic.twitter.com/xMjHgNoKNT</a></p>&mdash; Team Sky (TeamSky) 29 Juin 2015

Tinkoff-Saxo / Russia

Did you know that our letour</a> squad has a total of 88 Grand Tour starts? Read more here: <a href="http://t.co/lb8zlIgHyh">http://t.co/lb8zlIgHyh</a> <a href="http://t.co/jquZkmgM3K">pic.twitter.com/jquZkmgM3K</a></p>&mdash; Tinkoff Saxo (tinkoff_saxo) 29 Juin 2015

TrekFactory / USA

ICYMI, fans are first on this team: https://t.co/Pf5toF3B62

— Trek Factory Racing (@TrekFactory) 23 Juin 2015

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