UCI WorldTour: Tour de France expected to shake up UCI WorldTour rankings
The Tour de France is the biggest race in the UCI WorldTour calendar and is set to mark a turning point in this year’s UCI WorldTour rankings and indicate who is most likely to go on and win this year’s individual and team rankings.
The winner of the Tour de France scores 200 ranking points, with points awarded to the top 20 riders overall on a sliding scale. Stage victories are worth 20 points, making each day of racing hugely prestigious and important for the UCI WorldTour rankings. Whoever wins the Tour de France often goes on to win the UCI WorldTour rankings.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) currently leads the individual rankings with 397 points thanks to his dominant performances in the spring stage races. Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is second with 345 points, with road race World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) third (268 points) after his recent overall victory at the Tour de Suisse. Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is sixth in the individual ranking with 262 points, while 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) is 15th with 163 points.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep leads the team rankings with 796 points and hope that Mark Cavendish’s success in the sprint stage will help them defend their lead. However the Movistar team is a close second with 781 points and Tinkoff-Saxo is third with 647 points. Spain dominates the nations ranking, ahead of Colombia, the Netherlands and Australia.
A Yorkshire start, the Alps and then the Pyrenees
This year’s race is the 101st edition of the Tour and follows a clockwise direction around France, starting on Saturday July 5 and ending on Sunday 27.
The Grand Departs celebrates the success of British cycling with a start in Yorkshire, in northern England. Stage one and two twist and turn through the Yorkshire countryside with an expected sprint stage in Harrogate on Saturday July 5 on stage one followed by a much more selective day of racing on stage two to Sheffield. A third stage to central London ends the opening action in Britain, with the race continuing in northern France and Belgium, including a taste of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles on stage five.
The serious mountain stages, where time gaps are often created, begin on stage nine to Mulhouse and especially stage 10 to La Planche des Belles Filles, which includes six nasty climbs and then the first summit finish.
The riders head to the Alps mid-race with a 177km mountain stage to Risoul that includes the legendary Col d’Izoard. The decisive mountain stages are in the Pyrenees this year with a short but intense 124km 17th stage finishing with the 8.3% climb to Saint-Lary, Pla d’Adet. Stage 18 is also short at just 145km but includes the Col du Tourmalet and finishes on the slopes of Hautacam.
Whoever loses precious time in the mountains will have to try to take it back in the final 54km stage 20 time trial from Bergerac to Perigueux before the final yellow jersey and overall winner is decided in Paris.
Can anyone beat Froome and Team Sky?
Chris Froome will wear race number one as defending champion but knows he faces a fierce battle with big rival Contador if he wants to win a second consecutive yellow jersey. Froome has struggled with injury and illness in the spring, while Contador has returned to his best form and won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco.
Both were beaten by talented young American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) at the more recent Critérium du Dauphiné but Froome suffered after a crash and Contador made a tactical error by not chasing Talansky. There will be no room for similar errors at the Tour de France, with Talansky leading a pack of outsiders and rivals for spots on the final podium in Paris. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) showed his form by winning the Italian national title, while Valverde, Costa, the USA’s Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) are all names to be considered.
As ever, the Tour de France will be about more than just the fight for the yellow jersey and overall victory, with each stage finish offering a thrilling day of racing and a backdrop to the green jersey points competition, the polka-dot mountain’s competition and the white jersey best young rider competition. Cycling and the Tour de France is special in that every rider will have a story to tell, whether they finish first or last in Paris.
It promises to be a great Tour de France. Vive Le Tour!