Here's all the information you need on cycling's most prestigious race.
When and where is the Tour de France?
The 2014 Tour de France will kick off in Leeds, England on Saturday, July 5. Three stages will take place in the U.K. over the course of three days before the race continues on the mainland. The race will move to Belgium, Spain and France, making it one of the most geographically diverse races in years. The race lasts a total of 23 days, including two rest days (i.e. 21 days of actual cycling). It will end on July 27 in Paris. The entire race will play live on NBC.
How do the teams work?
The teams have nine members. The team includes a leader, sprinters, climbers and domestiques—members who get water from the team car and protect the leader by chasing down breakaways and riding in front of him to create draft in which the leader can ride. Drafting can save 20% to 40% of the team leader's energy.
The riders take turns being at the front of the tight formation called a peloton, allowing the other cyclists to benefit from drafting. When the rider at the front—the puller—grows tired, he will drop to the back and someone else will take his place. If a rider from another team "attacks" by breaking away from the peloton to gain distance, its a few team members' job to quicken the pace of the whole peloton to catch the opponent.
How hard are the various stages?
Traditionally the race is easier at the beginning, which contains a lot of flat stages. These stages are usually won in a sprint where the sprint specialists will compete to close out the race with a last kick, riding about 40 miles per hour. These sprinters compete for both stage wins and sprint points in intermediate springs. The first few riders to cross the "sprint line" are awarded points.
Next, the race moves into the mountains, where the climbers excel. The first riders over the the top of various climbs win climber's points.
The third part of the race is a time trial where riders sprint for intervals of around two minutes from lowest to highest place and try to finish first, solo, at the finish line.
Who is favored to win?
Chris Froome, a Kenyan-born British cyclist won the Tour de France last year and is expected to do so again this year. Much of Froome's success can be credited to his Team Sky teammate and number two, Richie Porte.
Froome's biggest competition this year is Tinkoff -Saxo’s Alberto Contador, a Spanish cyclist. He has won the Tour de France twice (in 2009 and 2007). Contador recently beat Froome in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
What do the jersey colors mean?
The yellow jersey is awarded to the rider with the fastest overall time (when the stages are added up); the green jersey to the fastest sprinter; the red polka-dotted jersey to the best climber; and the white jersey to the best young rider. Whoever wins the race gets to don the yellow.
Is there a women's race?
For the first time this year, there is a women's race called La Course by Le Tour de France. It will coincide with the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France on July 27. The race will be a circuit in Paris.
For the curious, here's the full schedule of the Tour de France:
|1||July 5||Leeds||Harrogate||190.5 km||Flat|
|2||July 6||York||Sheffield||201 km||Hill|
|3||July 7||Cambridge||London||155 km||Flat|
|4||July 8||Le Touquet-Paris-Plage||Lille||163.5 km||Hill|
|5||July 9||Ypres||Arenberg Porte du Hainaut||155.5 km||Flat|
|6||July 10||Arras||Reims||194 km||Flat|
|7||July 11||Epernay||Nancy||234.5 km||Flat|
|8||July 12||Tomblaine||Gerardmer La Mauselaine||161 km||Hill|
|9||July 13||Gerardmer||Mulhouse||170 km||Hill|
|10||July 14||Mulhouse||Planche des Belles Filles||161.5 km||Mountain|
|/||July 15||Rest Day|
|11||July 16||Besancon||Oyonnax||187.5 km||Flat|
|12||July 17||Bourg-en-Bresse||Saint-Etienne||185.5 km||Hill|
|13||July 18||Saint-Etienne||Chamrousse||197.5 km||Mountain|
|14||July 19||Grenoble||Risoul||177 km||Mountain|
|15||July 20||Tallard||Nimes||222 km||Flat|
|/||July 21||Rest Day|
|16||July 22||Carcassonne||Bagneres-de-Luchon||237.5 km||Mountain|
|17||July 23||Saint-Gaudens||Pla d'Adet||124.5 km||Mountain|
|18||July 24||Pau||Hautacam||145.5 km||Mountain|
|19||July 25||Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour||Bergerac||208.5 km||Flat|
|20||July 26||Bergerac||Perigueux||54 km||Time Trial|
|21||July 27||Evry||Paris||137.5 km||Flat|