The three days you really need to see of TdF 2014
Stage 14, Saturday 19 July, Grenoble – Risoul, 177km
With three major climbs and a summit finish, the second stage in the Alps, promises to be one of the highlights of the tour. Practically from the beginning, riders start the assent of the Col du Lautaret (2,058m) which may not be steep but since the route climbs for 80kms before reaching the summit, it's going to be a tough day.
Then the riders cross the highest point in this year's Tour – the Col d'Izoard (2,360m) before the 13km first category climb to the finish at Risoul (1,855m). Coming the day after a 198km stage with a HC (the toughest category) summit finish at Chamrousse where the overall general classification (GC) contenders will already have been forced to show their cards. Today's stage promises to find any weak points which will be exploited to the full before the flat stage the following day.
Stage 18, Thursday 24 July, Pau – Hautacam, 145.5km
This is the final stage in the Pyrenees but more importantly the last big mountain stage in this year's race. The road rises from the start and tops out 95kms later on the Tour's most used climb the 17km HC climb of the Col du Tourmalet (2,115m). From here it's downhill for 35km before the last summit finish of this year's Tour, the 14km HC climb to Hautacam (1,520m).
This stage will keep the suspense of not just the stage but the entire Tour right until the final climb. Climbers in the bunch with anything left or time to make will know this is their last chance and will have to do it here as there are no more climbs and only the 54km individual time trial left to try and gain time and influence the overall. They'll all be tired but they'll all be trying so it's going to be a good one to watch!
Stage 20, Saturday 26 July, Bergerac - Perigueux, 54km Individual Time Trial
Placement of the only time trial in the Tour is what makes it particularly interesting. At 54km, and with no real hills it will favour the stronger time traillists, and coming the day before the finish is bound to affect the outcome of the GC.
Riders will still be tired after three hard days in the mountains which finished two days previously so this is one last push. Anyone keen to make up or save their place will be working very hard here and over 54km the good time triallists can carve out quite a sizeable advantage. This really is the last chance to make up time so expect the top 10 to be a very closely fought affair right to the line.