Six days from now 198 riders will take it in turn to set off around the short prologue course in the Belgian city of Liege to complete the first 6.4km of 3,497km of the best-attended annual sporting event on the planet, in search of a skin-tight yellow jersey. Have you got Yellow Fever yet? If not, here are a few videos to whet your appetite as the first instalment of our week of previews of the 2012 Tour de France.
A quick visual fly-through of this year’s parcours:
2011 race recap
How the 2011 race was won – in three minutes. [The caption suggests these are highlights of the 2012 race – do they know something we don’t? – Ed]:
A fan tribute to Cadel Evans‘ historic yellow jersey, as he became the first rider from the southern hemisphere to win the Tour:
Cavendish wins the green jersey
HTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish (now with Sky, of course) finally clinches the green jersey by winning for the third consecutive year on the Champs Élysées. Here is the final kilometre and his post-stage interview with ITV:
As well as providing the first two videos above, the official letourdefrance YouTube channel also includes highlights of previous races (back to 2002), a look at the geography of key stages and an overview of the stage towns, with content in multiple languages. Well worth a look!
For the next best thing to be there, visit Cycling the Alps’ interactive stage-by-stage fly-throughs here.
Watch out for more in-depth previews of the 2012 Tour de France this week on VeloVoices, with full in-depth race coverage and analysis to come throughout the race.
At the beginning of the season, each member of the VeloVoices team selected one ProTeam to follow for the duration of 2012. Here’s an update on how each squad is progressing before the start of the Tour de France.
WorldTour ranking: 9th, 432 points.
Giro del Trentino: Team time trial – 1st. Taylor Phinney – one day in leader’s jersey.
Flèche Wallonne: Philippe Gilbert – 3rd.
Giro della Roscana: Alessandro Ballan – 1st.
Giro d’Italia: Taylor Phinney – 1st in stage 1 ITT, three days in maglia rosa and white jersey. Marco Pinotti – 1st in stage 21 ITT.
Amgen Tour of California: Yannick Eljessen – most aggressive rider in stage 4. Six of the top ten places on GC were BMC riders, with Tejay van Garderen 4th overall.
Tour de Suisse: Mathias Frank – Best Swiss Rider. Martin Kohler – most aggressive rider in stage 4. Klaas Lodewyck – most aggressive rider in stage 5.
Critérium du Dauphiné: Cadel Evans – 3rd overall, 1st in stage 1, points classification winner.
The past two months for BMC seemed like a slow build for July with moments of brilliance. Philippe Gilbert didn’t win any of the Ardennes Classics this year – his highest placement was the third podium spot for Flèche Wallonne but Alessandro Ballan took the Giro della Roscana, building on his good showing in the cobbled Classics. BMC also had a fairly successful Tour of California, with a most aggressive rider award for Yannick Eljessen in stage four and six of the top ten places in the final standings, with Tejay van Garderen fourth overall. This was good news for van Garderen, as he was injured by a falling branch and had to abandon the Tour of Romandie in April.
The Giro d’Italia was a very good race for BMC, with young Taylor Phinney keeping the spotlight trained on him and his team for the first week. Phinney took stage one and the first maglia rosa, a jersey he would keep, along with the white jersey, for the next three stages. Marco Pinotti closed the Giro in the manner that Phinney started it, by winning the final stage’s ITT in Milan.
Cadel Evans and the team took on Bradley Wiggins and Sky at the Critérium du Dauphiné in what may prove to be a dress rehearsal for next week’s Tour de France. Evans showed that his form was improving, often animating the stages with attacks and counterpunches, but the Sky team proved too strong. Evans did, however, win stage one of the race, the overall points jersey and ended on the third step on the podium. Here is what he told CyclingNews about his preparation for the Tour:
The main thing for most riders is just getting to a good level, a level you know you need to be at to race – avoiding injuries, health issues and so on. This year it’s been a good progression for me into the Tour and in some ways, not having some race results, it keeps people’s attention away from me. That also helps make life a little bit easier.
And finally, Mathias Frank, Martin Kohler and Klaas Lodewyck helped keep BMC’s colours prominent in the Tour de Suisse with the overall award for Best Swiss Rider, and stage four and five’s Most Aggressive Rider award respectively.
WorldTour ranking: 12th, 374 pts.
Amstel Gold: Samuel Sanchez – 7th.
Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and Vuelta a la Rioja: Pablo Urtasun – 3rd overall in both.
Vuelta a Madrid: Mikel Landa – 4th in stage 2.
Volta a Catalunya: Samuel Sanchez – 2nd overall, won stage 6, 4th in stage 5.
Vuelta Ciclista Asturias: Jon Izagirre – won stage 2b.
Giro d’Italia: Mikel Nieve – 10th overall, 9th in stage 7, 8th in stage 19. Jon Izagirre – won stage 16.
Tour de Suisse: Mikel Nieve – 5th overall, 3rd in stage 2, 2nd in stage 8.
In what will definitely be their final season in their current format, the Carrots have been muy agresivo[very aggressive – Ed], animating every race they’ve taken part in. This has not been without consequences as a number, including leaders Sammy Sanchez and Igor Anton, have come to grief respectively in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The good news is that the points are being spread around the team – although Sammy still accounts for 252 – with Mikel Nieve finishing well overall in both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de Suisse, while young sensation Jon Izagirre racked up his first – and it won’t be his last – stage win in his maiden Grand Tour. Afterwards team manager Alvaro Gonzalez de Gladeano said:
The revelation of the team has been Jon Izagirre, not just for victory but for his consistency in helping Mikel Nieve in difficult times in the mountains. He’s performed really well in the third week of his first Grand Tour and looks set to become one of the strong men in a three-week tour.
More good news as it appears Euskaltel are prepared to continue and even incease their sponsorship of the team. The Euskadi foundation will drop out of the picture though will still support the Orbea and Naturgas feeder and amateur squads. There have also been unconfirmed reports that Festina will return to the pro peloton as co-sponsor. All these additional funds have arrived just in the nick of time as Samuel Sanchez reportedly has three offers on the table while other teams have been sniffing around the team’s young talent pool.
Sammy’s sufficiently recovered from his fall in the Dauphiné and, with other team members, has been altitude training in the Sierra Nevadas in order to mount a robust defence of his King of the Mountains spotted jersey in the forthcoming Tour de France.
WorldTour ranking: 17th, 79 pts.
Circuit de Lorraine: Nacer Bouhanni – 1st overall, 1st in stage 1.
Critérium du Dauphiné: Arthur Vichot – 1st in stage 5.
Route du Sud: Arnaud Demare – 1st in stage 2.
Halle–Ingooigem: Nacer Bouhanni – 1st.
21-year-old Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni has continued his spectacular season by winning both the Circuit de Lorraine and Halle–Ingooigem, following on from a stage win at the Étoile de Bessèges earlier on in the season. There’s a very distinct youthfulness about FDJ recently, with 23-year-old Arthur Vichot and 20-year-old future Classics star Arnaud Demare the other riders to collect wins since our last update.
Elsewhere, fan favourite and resident breakaway madman Jeremy Roy rode an exceptional time trial in the recent French national championships, where he finished in second place, just 13 seconds in arrears of eventual winner Sylvain Chavanel. Roy has spoken of how he’s improved his time-trialling over the last few years:
I learned to better manage my effort, especially with the coaching staff and with power sensors that allow me to correct errors in the climbs where I should not get into the red. And it’s a circle, the results breeds confidence and confidence can get results.
FDJ are one of the few teams yet to announce their Tour de France outfit, something expected to be announced after the French national road race later today. Ahead of that prestigious event, Roy has commented:
The team has two in-form sprinters and we will assume the role of favorites. In this race, all scenarios are possible. There may be a race with a lot of nervous attacks. Everyone will believe they can win, and if a good breakaway goes, we should not miss it.
With Pierrick Fedrigo and Sandy Casar likely joining Roy in the team, Marc Madiot will no doubt be sending the plucky trio into near-daily breakaway charges, in a bid to retain the Prix de la Combativité Roy won at last year’s race.
WorldTour team ranking: 7th, 440 pts.
Flèche Wallonne: Michael Albasini – 2nd.
Tour of Turkey: Matt Goss – 2nd in stages 1, 2, 4 & 6.
Giro d’Italia: Matt Goss – won stage 3, 2nd in stages 2 & 5. Tomas Vaitkus – 3rd in stage 11.
Tour of California: Pieter Weening – 10th overall. Leigh Howard – 4th in stage 1, 3rd in stage 2.
Tour of Norway: Simon Clarke – 2nd overall, 2nd in stages 4 & 5. Aidis Kruopis – won stage 3.
Bayern Rundfahrt: Allan Davis – 2nd in stages 1 & 5.
Critérium du Dauphiné: Luke Durbridge – won stage 1 ITT. Pieter Weening – 11th overall, 5th in stage 7, 6th in stage 8.
Tour de Suisse: Michael Albasini – won stage 8, 3rd in stage 4, 4th in stage 6. Baden Cooke – 2nd in stage 3. Allan Davis – 3rd in stage 6.
Tour of Slovenia: Daryl Impey – won stage 2.
Orica-GreenEDGE’s strong debut season continues as they have consolidated their position in the upper half of the team rankings. Former individual WorldTour leader Simon Gerrans was unable to add to his Milan-San Remo win through the remainder of the Classics season, finishing a disappointing 20th and 19th at Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liègerespectively. However, Volta a Catalunya winner Michael Albasini has continued to impress in uphill races, claiming second behind solo winner Joaquim Rodriguez at Flèche Wallonne and adding a breakaway mountain victory at his ‘home’ Tour de Suisse this month.
The team entered their first Grand Tour at May’s Giro d’Italia with the aim of delivering stage victories, and lead sprinter Matt Goss duly obliged. Having warmed up with four second places (behind four different rivals) at the Tour of Turkey, Goss was edged out by Mark Cavendish on stage two in Italy before claiming victory the next day. He added another second place (again behind Cav) on stage five, before Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus took third on stage 11.
Luke Durbridge claimed a notable victory in the short opening time trial of the Critérium du Dauphiné, while Daryl Impey and Aidis Kruopis have also taken stage wins in Slovenia and Norway respectively. Pieter Weening claimed good GC finishes at both the Tour of California (1oth) and the Dauphiné (11th). And the team have shown off their sprinting depth with a string of top three finishes from Aussies Simon Clarke, Allan Davis, Leigh Howard and Baden Cooke. Clarke also finished as runner-up in the general classification of the Tour of Norway, behind Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.
GreenEDGE will now look to repeat their Giro success by sending a sprint-focussed team to support Goss at the Tour de France.
We’re introducing a new permanent section on the VeloVoices blog which we’re calling Peloton Primer.
Cycling is a wonderful sport, but one whose terminology and tactics can be bewildering even to experienced followers, let alone relative newbies. And while the sport’s most dedicated and knowledgeable fans can tell you from memory who won the queen stage of the Tour of Beijing or predict a team’s tactics before they have even been uttered by the directeur sportif in the team car, such people are relatively few in number – and far more expert than any of us at VeloVoices Towers would ever claim to be!
Peloton Primer is not targeted at those expert few, however. It is meant for ordinary fans like you and us, ranging from those who only tune in to watch the daily highlights of the Tour de France to those who regularly spend their afternoons looking for jerky, pixellated internet feeds or wondering when Eurosport will switch away from the tennis so we can watch live coverage of the Tour de Suisse.
Whether you are brand new to the world of cycling, or are just in need of a quick brush-up on the finer points of race strategy, Peloton Primer will hopefully contain useful nuggets for everyone.
We will be adding to this section leading up to and during the Tour de France, so if you have any suggestions for topics you would like to know more about please leave a comment or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do what we can to oblige.
Peloton Primer can be accessed via the permanent links on the far right-hand side of the main menu at the top of the page.