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2014 Tour de France: Chapter 1 – England

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With the Tour’s Grand Depart only days away, we preview the route and take a look back at the last time the Tour began in the UK, 2007 – a time when Cavendish had yet to stand a top a Tour podium, Bradley Wiggins was considered a pretender to the throne of Tour champion and Peter Sagan was  17year old junior. McEwen, Cancellara and Boonen were at the height of their powers and Contador was battling Rasmussen, Vinokourov and Evans for the yellow jersey. 

Ben Atkins/peloton/Yuzuru Sunada

Stage one sees the race depart from Leeds, Yorkshire’s latest city, and take a circuitous and picturesque route to nearby Harrogate. The stage passes through the town of Ilkley early on, close ti the famous Ilkley Moor, which has given rise to the song “On Ilkla Moor Baht’at” (On Ilkley Moor Without a Hat), which is the unofficial “National Anthem” of Yorkshire Dales; including Wensleydale, the home of the favorite cheese of Wallace and Grommit (Although the two of them come from Wigan, way across the border in Lancashire – ed.)

With just three classified climbs and the rest of the stage predominantly flat, Peter Sagan, along with Mark Cavendish, whose mother hails from Harrogate, Marcel Kittle and the rest of the Tour’s sprinters will be looking at this one. The finishing straight won’t be easy though, as it rises for most of the final half kilometer.

Interestingly, Harrogate is twinned with Bagneres-de-Luchon – which will host the finish of stage 16 – although the winners of the two stages will be very different riders indeed!

Stage two sets out from the County town of York, on a far hillier route, through the Dales, the West Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District – including the locally notorious Holme Moss – on its way to the Steel City of Sheffield. The peloton will pass through the village of Haworth, home to the Bronte sisters – although its cobbled high street is not classified as a climb. With five 3rd and 4th cat climbs inside the final 60km, however – including Jenkin Road with just 5km to go – the stage could have the feel of an Ardennes Classic. The sprinter that takes the yellow jersey on stage one may lose it here.

Further south, stage three, Cambridge to London will be a prestigious end to the Tour’s British leg, but should do little to the general classification. Setting out from the historic university city, it will evoke images of both the London Olympic Games of 2012 and the 2007 Tour’s Grand Depart, as it passes Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in Stratford, n its way to a prestigious, probable sprint finish on The Mall.

Look for Chapter 2 tomorrow – The Western Front and the Hell of the North

For much more on the 2014 Tour pick up a free digital copy of the July Cannondale Gazette.