The Tour de France officially gets underway in Leeds on Saturday as Chris Froome aims to defend his 2013 crown. The world’s most famous cycling race departs on British soil for only the second time in history and thousands of fans are expected to take to the streets to cheer on Froome and his fellow Britons with cycling more popular in the UK than ever before.
The first stage will depart close to Leeds Town Hall, stretches 190km up through the Yorkshire Dales and finishes back down in Harrogate. Being a road stage rather than a prologue, it is likely to suit British sprinter Mark Cavendish who is among the favourites to claim the yellow jersey after the first phase providing he can fend off the competition of rivals such as Marcel Kittel. Alongside other riders such as Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel and Arnaud Demare, Kittel is likely to prove one of Cavendish’s main rivals as he looks to reclaim the green jersey overall.
Two more stages are to take place in Britain. Stage two on Sunday sees the riders travel from York to Sheffield, before they cycle from Cambridge to the Mall in London on Monday.
Froome is being tipped as the favourite to claim his second maillot jaune; however there are a number of contenders that will also be vying for the top prize. Froome has outlined former Tour de France champion Alberto Contador as his biggest rival. The Spaniard has had a successful season and performed better than Froome at the Dauphiné-Libéré warm-up race in June. Vincenzo Nibali turned down the opportunity to defend his Giro d’Italia title this year in order to concentrate on the Tour and could provide a big threat, while other prominent riders including Thibaut Pinot, Rui Costa and Andrew Talansky are all hoping that they can mount a challenge. There will be no Sir Bradley Wiggins this year as Team Sky have opted for a squad that they believe has the greatest credentials to guide Froome to victory.
Across just over three weeks, 198 riders will take on perilous hill climbs, narrow descents, flat sections, cobbled sections, simple road races and prologue time trials as they tackle 21 stages within England, France, Belgium and Spain. This year’s tour has the makings to be one to remember; let’s just hope the event can detract from the topic of illegal substances and that Froome can bring the trophy back to Britain for the third year in a row.
Featured image: metro.us