NEXT year’s Tour de France will be full of surprises with a big switch away from the traditional race formats with five mountaintop finishes and just one individual time trial route of 14km during the 21-day event.
The solo test comes on the very first day of the 102nd Tour, which starts in Utrecht in the Netherlands on July 4, and could mean that unusually the race winner will not be known until almost the last stage, with the penultimate day up the iconic 21 hairpins of the Alpe d’Huez on July 25.
Finishing on the Champs-Elysées on July 26, the race will cover 3,334km and includes seven mountain stages, a prospect that will be particularly pleasing for climbers.
It first takes the peloton from Utrecht to the heart of Brittany via the cobblestone roads of the Paris-Roubaix one-day race – which caused havoc and many crashes last year - and the coast of Normandy before heading south to the Pyrenees and across to the Alps.
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme said the first days will promise much more than a long week of flatlands: “Do not imagine it will be a nagging procession. With arrivals like the Mur de Huy, Mûr de Bretagne or even the atypical team trial at Plumelec, the Tour de France can be played out anywhere”.
He wanted rid of the old dogmas that had made the race almost predictable, adding that no one expected to lose leading riders last year to get a final podium of Vincenzo Nibali, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot and he wants more of that.
Although the Mûr de Bretagne finish is known as the Alpe-d’Huez of Britanny, the first real mountain route will be a new Pyrenean finish on the 167km climb from Tarbes to La Pierre Saint-Martin up the lung-bursting Col de Soudet.
Passing via Muret and Rodez on the way to Mendes airfield, the Tour moves east to the Alps with a return to Pra-Loup.
On July 23, in honour of the 200th anniversary of the Route Napoleon and the emperor’s 100-days return from Elba, the Tour heads from Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne up Col Bayard and the 18 bends of Montvernier.
Britain's Chris Froome, the winner in 2013, does not rate his chances highly due to the high number of mountain finishes and is not even certain to be concentrating on the Tour in 2015 and may not enter – opening the door for Spain’s Alberto Contador and reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Stage 1: Saturday, July 4 - Utrecht - 14km individual time trial
July 5 - Utrecht to Zelande - 166km
July 6 - Antwerp to Huy - 154km
July 7 - Seraing to Cambrai - 221km
July 8 - Arras to Amiens - 189km
July 9 - Abbeville to Le Havre - 191km
July 10 - Livarot to Fougeres - 190km
July 11 - Rennes to Mur de Bretagne - 179km
July 12 - Vannes to Plumelec - 28km team time trial
Monday, July 13 - first rest day
July 14 - Tarbes to La Pierre Saint-Martin - 167km
July 15 - Pau to Cauterets-Vallee de Saint-Savin - 188km
July 16 - Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille - 195km
July 17 - Muret to Rodez - 200km
July 18 - Rodez to Mende - 178km
July 19 - Mende to Valance - 182km
July 20 - Bourg de Peage to Gap - 201km
Tuesday, July 21 – second rest day
July 22 - Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup - 161km
July 23 - Gap to Saint-Jean de Maurienne - 185km
July 24 - Saint-Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles - 138km
July 25 - Modane Valfrejus to Alpe d'Huez - 110km
Sunday, July 26 - Sevres to Paris - 107km
2015 Tour de France map: ASO