Calibre has just sent us details of its new Bossnut — one of the most impressive budget mountain bikes available. The new version of the bike gets up to date geometry and an impressive spec list, and it’s still a good price too at £1,100 with the Go Outdoors Discount Card (which costs a fiver). Best mountain bike 2019, how to choose the right one for you Specialized release sub-8KG Epic hardtail XC bike The Bossnut is, without doubt, one of the most impressive bikes you can buy for around £1,000, and joins the £2,000 Sentry enduro bike which was released earlier this year. Ever since its introduction, the bike has been the one to beat when it comes to pocket-friendly trail-orientated, 130mm travel, full-suspension mountain bikes. Not only was the parts package a lesson in picking decent kit for not much money, but the Bossnut was also a genuinely great bike to ride. There’s an alternative Women’s colour too, which we think looks rather good! Calibre Calibre’s designer, Mike Sanderson, always felt that cheaper bikes shouldn’t be compromised by their geometry or suspension, and so the frame itself was excellent, especially for the money. Calibre has built on this with the new Bossnut, and the bike’s geometry is now longer, lower and slacker — something we talk about all the time. Plus, the introduction of SRAM’s SX Eagle drivetrain makes a ‘proper’ 12-speed, 1x specific drivetrain possible at this price point. The hydroformed aluminium frame gets internal cable routing for a stealth dropper post too. SRAM’s SX Eagle drivetrain provides an 11-50t range. Calibre Almost more impressive is the addition of a bolt-thru rear end. There are distinct performance benefits to having a bolt thru-axle on a full-suspension bike, such as improving stiffness at both ends, and it also makes it a much more attractive prospect to upgrade later when budgets allow, because higher performance wheelsets rarely have a QR option these days. RockShox’s Monarch shock sits inside the frame. Calibre Calibre Bossnut 2020 geometry Calibre branded finishing kit is used, including a 780mm bar. Calibre While far from radical, the Bossnut has a shape that sits right up there with the big players. Reach figures have grown, head angles have slackened and seat tubes are steeper. Here are the key figures for a large Bossnut; Reach: 460mm Seat tube: 480mm Head angle: 66 degrees Seat tube angle: 74.5 degrees Chainstays: 436mm Bottom bracket drop: 24mm Calibre Bossnut spec A RockShox Recon RL fork controls the front of the bike. Calibre The spec is impressive for a £1,100 bike: a 130mm air-spring fork from RockShox is paired with a RockShox shock, while there’s SRAM brakes and a 12-speed drivetrain. Fork: RockShox Recon RL 130mm (non-Boost) Shock: RockShox Monarch R Drivetrain: SRAM SX Eagle, 11-50 12-speed cassette Brakes: SRAM Level T 180mm/160mm rotors Wheelset: Formula hubs, WTB ST i29 rims Tyres: WTB Vigilante High Grip Comp 27.5 x 2.3in front, WTB Trail Boss Comp 27.5 x 2.25in rear Finishing kit: Calibre branded, including 45mm stem and 780mm bars SRAM Level T brakes bring the bike to a halt. Calibre Calibre Bossnut pricing and availability The Go Outdoors Discount Card is a £5 membership card that gets you a range of discounts across the store. With the card, the Bossnut costs £1,100. The previous Bossnut was available for £1,000 with the card and £1,300 without it, so we imagine the vast majority of potential customers will see the value in purchasing the card! WTB Vigilante tyres have a chunky tread for front-end grip. Calibre The Bossnut is available now from your local Go Outdoors and online.
Brand spanking new for 2020, the Specialized Epic HT (that’s the ‘Hardtail’ one) has been fully redesigned from the rubber-up. The 2020 Specialized Epic HT receives a new carbon fibre frame, modernised geometry, and a series of refinements that aim to make this not only the lightest XC mountain bike that the Californian brand has ever made, but also one of the most comfortable and capable too. Err, How Light?! We mean light. As in, super, ultra, mega, stupendously light. Specialized claims the new S-Works Epic HT weighs just 775 grams, give or take half a Mars bar. That is ridonculously light, and over 10% more feathery than the already-svelte 2019 Specialized S-Works Epic HT frame (which wasn’t exactly porky itself at 845g). Now if we’re being pedantic, it isn’t strictly the lightest frame on the market. That’s because while Specialized does include the derailleur hanger, it doesn’t include the axle (32g) or the seat collar (13g) in the claimed frame weight. Those bring it up to 820g for a Medium frame that’s ready to ride. Specialized says this is the lightest production mountain bike frame on the market. All 775g of it. Yikes! For reference, UNNO’s Spanish-made Aora frame is claimed to weigh 790g including hardware. However, it’s important to note that UNNO only makes the Aora in the one frame size. And it only makes 50 of them a year. Oh, and they cost over $6,500 AUD per frame… That isn’t far off double the price of the S-Works Epic HT frame, which is made in vastly greater quantities over four frame sizes, so we’re ok with Specialized claiming this is the lightest production frame in the world. It certainly is when you compare it to the Scott Scale RC (879g), the Canyon Exceed CF SLX (870g), Focus Raven (889g), and the Cannondale F-Si (900g). Speaking of frame weight, it’s worth noting that there will actually be two Epic HT frames for 2020. There’s the aforementioned S-Works frame (made from FACT 12m carbon fibre), and then a standard carbon frame (made with FACT 11m carbon fibre). Both frames share exactly the same shape and geometry, but the FACT 11m version comes in 140g heavier at 915g, which is still bloody light for a mountain bike frame. This cheaper frame is used on all the other models without the S-Works label. The weight is impressive, but the Epic has some much bigger changes elsewhere to make it more comfortable and capable too. Not Just A Welterweight Although the sub-800g frame weight is the headline-grabber, there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff going on elsewhere with the new frame to make it a faster bike down the mountain too. Most noteworthy is the improved geometry, which sees the head angle slackening out to 68.5° and the reach increasing around 12-14mm per size. Specialized has matched the longer top tube lengths by fitting shorter 60-75mm stems across the size range. 2020 Specialized Epic HT Geometry. Additionally, the Specialized Epic HT follows in the footsteps of the current Epic FSR by moving to a reduced-offset fork. For models with RockShox forks, that’s a 42mm offset, while Fox models get a 44mm offset. Along with the slacker head angle, the new Epic gets a much greater amount of trail, which should make the steering a lot more stable on the descents. Those are some pretty progressive geometry numbers for an XC hardtail, which shows that Specialized is keeping a close eye on modern World Cup XCO racing, where the highly technical tracks are putting greater demands on the riders and their equipment. A slacker head angle and reduced-offset fork should deliver more confidence when bombing the descents. Bigger Is Better Specialized has also increased the seat tube diameter from 27.2mm to 30.9mm, which gives you a tonne more options for fitting a dropper post. According to Spesh, the new frame is just as compliant as the old one though. The engineers say this has been achieved by utilising a curved seat tube, which flexes back and fourth like a leaf spring. The seat stays are also significantly slimmer too, and that’s to help filter out trail buzz more effectively. Helping further again is the increased tyre clearance. Despite the back end staying short at 430mm long, Specialized has worked in enough clearance to fit up to a 2.4in rear tyre. The stock bikes will come with 2.3in Specialized Fast Trak tyres, but there’s more room if you wanted to go a little burlier on the build kit. See the curve in the seat tube? That acts like a leaf spring to increase compliance at the saddle – even when running a dropper post. See Ya Later Press-Fit BB! Oh, did we mention the Epic HT now has a threaded bottom bracket? That’s right folks, Specialized has ditched the press-fit BB! In a trend we’ve seen from the Californian brand over the past couple of years, the Epic joins the Stumpjumper, Enduro, Epic FSR and Fuse in moving to a good ol’ fashioned threaded BB. According to Specialized’s engineers, they were actually able to make the bottom bracket junction lighter than the previous PF30 system used on the old frame. During the layup process, two alloy rings are moulded into the frame’s carbon BB shell. Once the frame has been cured, the alloy rings are tapped to ensure proper alignment for the threaded BB cups. The rest of the BB shell is hollow with no need for moulded-in tube, so there’s plenty of clearance for the internal derailleur, brake and dropper lines to route past the crank axle. The smooth tapered head tube uses drop-in bearings to cut down on weight. What Models Will We See In Australia? Globally, Specialized will be offering several different complete Epics, but only one of those will be coming to Oz. That model is the 2020 Specialized Epic HT Comp, which is available to buy as of right now. For $3,900, you’ll get the 915g FACT 11m carbon fibre frameset, a RockShox Reba fork, tubeless ready Roval Control wheelset, and SRAM NX Eagle 1×12 shifting. For those who want to build up their own bonafide superbike, Specialized will be bringing the S-Works Epic HT frame into Australia. And how much for the lightest production MTB frame on the market? A cool $3,700 will get you those bragging rights. Still, we reckon that’ll have a lot of potential customers thinking long and hard about how much 140 grams are really worth to them… Sadly we won’t be seeing the full-noise complete S-Works bike in Australia. It’ll be a frame-only for those who want the S-Works label. For more information on the new 2020 Specialized Epic HT, head over to the Specialized website. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think of this uber-light race hardtail. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below! 2020 Specialized S-Works Epic HT Features 775g claimed frame weight (+/- 15g) FACT 12m carbon fibre Designed around a short (42-44mm) fork offset 68.5° head angle 74° seat tube angle Reach: 405mm (S), 430mm (M), 455mm (L) and 480mm (XL) 430mm chainstay length 63mm BB drop 30.9mm diameter seat tube 73mm English threaded bottom bracket shell 2.4in max rear tyre clearance Internal cable routing Boost 148x12mm rear hub spacing Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large Frame RRP: $3,700 Complete bike RRP: $3,900 (2020 Specialized Epic HT Comp) The post The 2020 Specialized S-Works Epic HT Goes Ultra-Lightweight appeared first on Flow Mountain Bike.
After 23 days, 21 stages and more than 3,000km of racing, there could only be one winner of the 2019 Tour de France — but what were the key numbers behind Egan Bernal’s maiden Tour triumph? The Colombian took the title in Paris, but an extraordinary three weeks saw Julian Alaphilippe light up the race throughout. Throw in elbow-to-elbow bunch sprints, hair-raising descents and brutally high climbs, and the 2019 race produced the kind of spectacle that only the Tour de France can. The Tour’s official technology partner, NTT, has crunched the numbers from the 106th edition of cycling’s greatest race. Read on for some of the key facts and figures. The Tour tech of tomorrow | 3 predictions for the road bikes of the future Oliver Naesen rides final stage of Tour de France on steel Eddy Merckx bike Top recorded speed: 101.5kph (63.1mph) The fastest recorded speed at the 2019 Tour de France came on a white-knuckle descent of the Col de Vars by one of the peloton’s hard men. Katusha-Alpecin’s Nils Politt – a top-five finisher at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders this year – became the first rider to break the 100kph barrier according to the Tour’s official data feed, hitting 101.5kph on a section of the descent with a negative 7 percent gradient. Winner’s average speed: 40.58kph (25.2mph) Egan Bernal conquered the Tour in a cumulative time of exactly 82 hours and 57 minutes. That gives him an average speed a shade above 40km/h for the 3,365.8km race. For the numbers nerds, that’s 0.35kph faster than Geraint Thomas’s average speed at last year’s Tour. Egan Bernal is the first Colombian to win the Tour de France. Alex Broadway/ASO Speed difference between first and last place: 2.11kph (1.3mph) At the other end of the scale, EF Education First’s Dutchman, Sebastian Langeveld, was this year’s Lanterne Rouge – the last rider on the general classification. Langeveld’s cumulative time was four hours, 34 minutes and 23 seconds slower than Bernal’s – making his average speed 2.11kph slower. Average climbing speed: 20.6kph (12.8mph) Of course, the real difference in the 2019 Tour was made when the road pointed skywards – not least in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Bernal was in imperious form in the mountains, following in the footsteps of many of his Colombian countrymen — a nation that has produced many fine climbers — and proving he has a head for heights. Over climbs including the Col du Galibier, Col du Tourmalet and, most tellingly, the Col de l’Iseran, Bernal recorded an average climbing speed of 20.6kph. Fastest Col du Galibier ascent: 22:28 minutes Talking of Colombian climbers, while Bernal claimed the yellow jersey, there was also success for his countryman Nairo Quintana. The Movistar rider ultimately finished eighth overall, failing to make a challenge on the podium, but he did claim a stage win in Valloire – and broke a long-standing Tour record in the process. En-route to the finish, Quintana climbed the iconic Col du Galibier in 22 minutes and 28 seconds (measured over the final 8.5km from the Col du Lautaret). That’s a whole minute faster than the mark Frank Schleck set in 2011. Mike Teunissen was one of 15 stage winners and wore the yellow jersey after victory on the opening day. Alex Broadway/ASO Number of different individual stage winners: 15 Quintana was one of 15 riders to claim a stage win in this year’s Tour de France – two more than there were in last year’s race. Caleb Ewan led the way – his victory on the Champs-Elysees was his third of the race – while Great Britain’s Simon Yates won twice in the mountains. From Mike Teunissen’s opening stage win in Brussels to Ewan’s final triumph, nine different nationalities stood on the podium as individual stage winners in this year’s race. Number of stages won by overall winner: 0 Despite winning the race overall, Bernal wasn’t among those 15 riders. The Colombian earned his maiden Tour de France triumph without winning a stage. Chris Froome was the last rider to do that (in 2017), though the four-time champion does have seven stage wins to his name in total. Number of riders who wore the yellow jersey: 4 Bernal was one of four riders to wear the yellow jersey in all, having claimed the race lead after the shortened stage 19 on the Col de l’Iseran. Bernal took over from Julian Alaphilippe, who claimed 14 yellow jerseys across two spells as race leader. In between, Italian Giulio Ciccone led the race for two stages while the only other rider to pull on the maillot jaune was stage one winner Mike Teunissen. Julian Alaphilippe ignited the race, taking the yellow jersey for the first time after victory on stage three. Alex Broadway/ASO Age of winner: 22y, 196d Bernal’s triumph not only made him the first Colombian to win the Tour de France, but he is also the youngest winner for 110 years. Francois Faber was 22 years and 187 days old when he won the Tour in 1909 – just nine days younger than Bernal – while the youngest champion remains 19-year-old Henri Cornet in 1904. Number of classifications won by Egan Bernal: 2 Bernal’s age means he not only won the yellow jersey but the white jersey for best young rider, too — only the fifth time since the youth classification was introduced in 1975 that has happened. Bernal joins Laurent Fignon (1983), Jan Ullrich (1997), Alberto Contador (2007) and Andy Schleck (2010) in the record books. Number of finishers: 155 Some 176 riders set out from Brussels for the 106th Tour de France on Saturday 6 July, with 155 making it all the way to the Paris finish line. Thibaut Pinot, who had to climb off the bike during stage 19 having been in overall contention, was the last of 19 riders to abandon this year’s race. A further two – Tony Martin and Luke Rowe – were disqualified after an altercation on the way to the stage 17 finish line.
The previous iteration of Scott’s Gambler first debuted in July 2012 and featured a radical-looking linkage-actuated single pivot. Back then, it also featured a bonkers stock 62-degree head angle that you could adjust with headset cups from 60 to 64 degrees, a high and low shock setting and chainstay length adjustment. The bike certainly set a new precedent with its adjustability and potential to grab headlines with its geometry figures — even compared to today’s bikes. Rad, red Maverick joins Juliana, and Santa Cruz Hightower gets an update Best cycle computer for 2019 | GPS cycle computers for riding, training, touring and navigation After a few years and several iterations that incrementally increased compatibility for 650b and 29-inch wheels, along with changes to the linkage, it became pretty clear more recently that the Gambler was up for a full refresh. Scott’s recent form shows great promise — the Spark, Genius and Ransom bikes all seem to be pleasing our testers, so we were all excited to see what they’d come up with for the new Gambler that we’ve seen Brendan Fairclough and the rest of the Scott team racing at world cups over the past year. 2020 Scott Gambler 900 Tuned frame details The graphics are simple and classy. Alex Evans The Tuned models in Scott’s range sit at the top end of the spectrum, normally made from the highest-tech carbon materials in a bid to create lightweight, maximum performance kit. The 900 bikes across Scott’s range usually come equipped with the plushest parts, too. So it’s safe to assume that the Gambler 900 Tuned is the range-topping, halo model. Stiffness was the objective What tech do you get, then? Both the front and rear triangles are made from carbon, as is the rocker link. The rocker link uses a traditional carbon layup that, Scott claims, weighs just 160g. The main frame is made using Scott’s Evolap layering technology, which it’s manipulated to generate what it claims is a perfect balance between stiffness and compliance. This balance is carefully generated by managing both lateral and torsional stiffness values. The idea is to maintain torsional stiffness along the bike’s length while being able to introduce lateral compliance that should, it claims, reduce rider fatigue. The latest iteration of the Gambler is the result of plenty of testing, and in a bid to investigate where the right sort of stiffness comes from, Scott built Gamblers in varying frame material configurations. The 900 Tuned Gambler tops the DH bike range. Alex Evans Scott’s findings revealed that a bike needs to be consistently stiff from front to back — if the rear end is particularly flexy, but the front is mega stiff, the bike will ride in an unruly way. But if the bike’s stiffness is uniform then the bike will corner and ride better. Scott says it worked hard to create a Goldilocks front to rear stiffness ratio after correlating bench testing with real-life feedback. That particular ratio is on a need to know basis though. The result is a bike that has boosted torsional stiffness with improved lateral compliance, or at least that’s what Scott claims. The other point it was keen to raise is that the bike’s compliance comes from its chassis — particularly the tubes and overall construction — not its pivots or pivot bearings. The chassis is easier to tune than a joint between two tubes, such as a pivot bearing. It decided to use double row bearings on the pivot that connects the seat and chainstays, and the pivot that attaches the seatstay to the linkage plate. This, it says, should help to improve the stiffness of the pivots. The suspension’s rocker is mega-light. Alex Evans Thanks to the bike’s overall construction Scott was keen to point out that, unlike some other bikes on the market and the previous Gambler, you don’t have to ride it to within an inch of its life to get the most from it — it’s just as happy cruising as it is being pummeled downhill over the gnarliest terrain by Brendan Fairclough. Proprietary chain device and bash guard The chain device’s mounts have rubber to help reduce shock transfer from impacts into the frame. Alex Evans In a bold but totally understandable move, Scott has decided to ditch the ISCG05 chain device mounting standard with the aim of having more freedom to design the best, strongest and stiffest chainstay to main frame link, shedding weight and not being constrained by the nature of where the mounting holes need to be. Normally, an engineer is forced to reduce the main pivot’s width and then shape the chainstay tube around the ISCG05 mounts, but not so with this proprietary design. The chain device is designed to be run with 32-, 34- or 36-tooth chainrings only. The bash guard is not mounted using a tradition ISCG05 system, instead using Scott’s own method. Alex Evans Scott was also keen to point out that it’s not designed and isn’t trying to implement a new standard here — the chain device and mounting system are bespoke for the new Gambler, so don’t expect to see it popping up on any other manufacturer’s bikes. Doing away with the in-frame threads that add considerable weight to the bike, Scott’s new chain device mounts using rubber shock absorbers that should reduce shock transmissions to the frame. As a bonus, it’s possible to remove the chain guide without taking the cranks off or having to creep an Allen key through the holes in the chainring. The chain guide attaches to the bike using the main pivot. Alex Evans The other key benefit is that the main pivot has been made as wide as possible, which should help the bearings to last for longer and make the pivot stiffer. Scott claims that the whole system weighs 113g. It was also very keen to point out that the chain device and its parts are going to be readily available from Scott’s website and retailers for a yet to be confirmed price. Flip chip geometry adjustment and wheelbase options The new Gambler has an impressive array of geometry adjustment options. There are four different shock mounting points: a high and low mode and more and less progressive modes that can be used in both bottom bracket height settings. Scott’s tuning guide has details on which settings are suitable for which tracks. It’s also possible to adjust the bike’s wheelbase thanks to two positions on the chainstay for the rear wheel, and Scott says you can use both short and long settings with 29- and 27.5-inch wheels. The 900 Tuned Gambler comes with a +/- 1-degree headset cup so you can further adjust the geometry, and a plus 15mm stack bottom headset cup if you want to run 27.5-inch wheels to reclaim some of the lost height that you get from changing to 650b from 29-inch hoops. The devil is in the detail You also get an integrated carbon down tube protector, internally-routed cables, fork bump stops and driveside chain and seatstay protection to help reduce noise. The integrated down tube protector is a nice touch. Alex Evans 2020 Scott Gambler 900 Tuned geometry Head tube angle: 62.9 degrees (low setting) / 63.2 degrees (high setting) Head tube length: 110mm/4.3in Horizontal top tube: 621mm/24.4in (low setting) / 618.9mm/24.4in (high setting) Standover: 712.1mm/28in (low setting) / 705.8mm/27.8in (high setting) Bottom bracket height: 345.4mm/13.6in (low setting) / 342.6mm/13.5in (high setting) Wheelbase: 1,270mm/50in (low setting) / 1,272.8mm/50.1in (high setting) Seat angle: 63.8 degrees (low setting) / 64.2 degrees (high setting) Chainstay: 438.7mm/17.3in (low setting) / 435mm/17.1in (high setting) Reach: 460.4mm/17.3in (low setting) / 465mm/18.3in (high setting) Stack: 633.5mm/24.9in (low setting) / 631.3mm/24.9in (high setting) *All geometry figures for size large. Low setting for 29-inch wheel. High setting for 27.5-inch wheel. Thanks to the bike’s flip chip, wheelbase adjustment and the headset cups, it’s possible to modify the bike’s geometry. The standard bike’s figures look good, too, and it’s nice to see a long wheelbase figure, a solid reach number and relatively long chainstays that can be made longer. The yellow pops! Alex Evans Seat angle issues Scott has increased the seat angle on the small and medium bikes to help smaller riders use bigger wheels. It thought that the biggest issue smaller riders had with running 29-inch wheels was that they couldn’t get the seat low enough without it buzzing the tyre. Scott’s solution to this problem is neat — essentially the seat has been moved forward away from the rear tyre by increasing the seat tube angle by three degrees on the smaller-sized bikes. The stubby seat helps to reduce contact with the back tyre at full suspension compression if you run your seat particularly low. Alex Evans Scott has also designed a custom saddle for the bike that should help to reduce tyre buzz even more. The seat’s rear has been made much shorter to help shorter people feel at home on big wheels. The seat is specced on the Gambler but will feature on the Ransom soon and will be available as an aftermarket purchase in the not too distant future for €99.90 — international pricing TBC. 2020 Scott Gambler 900 Tuned suspension The Fox X2 DH shock uses a coil spring and is highly tuneable. Alex Evans The most notable change to the Gambler is its silhouette — gone is the intricate linkage of the old bike. It has been replaced with a Horst link system that has the same look and technology as the rest of Scott’s full suspension lineup. With the ultimate aim of reducing anti-rise numbers (how much the bike’s suspension squats under braking, effectively countering the forward motion of your mass and preserving your bike’s geometry) compared to the old Scott Gambler, the engineers at Scott settled on the Horst-link design that, in this configuration, produces around 40 to 50 percent anti-rise. The most notable benefit of lower anti-rise is more active suspension under braking, which in theory helps improve control. Some people disagree with this statement, saying that it’s better to preserve the bike’s geometry and sacrifice suspension performance under braking because it makes the bike more predictable and reduces the feeling of being pitched forward. The two trains of thought are at odds with one another, but Scott clearly believes that lower anti-rise numbers are better — the old Gambler had a high figure (around 100 percent), while the new one is reduced. It has a striking yellow paint job that could be seeing its way on to all of Scott’s Tuned mountain bikes. Alex Evans The Horst-link system, it says, is also easy to tune and is structurally efficient, providing a stable and stiff rear end. It did experiment with high pivot points, and given how popular they’ve become in recent times we don’t blame Scott. Its research concluded that the benefits of a high pivot don’t outweigh the pitfalls of designing the system. Plus, high pivot bikes generate high levels of anti-rise, something Scott wanted to avoid. The flip chip lets you change BB height and how progressive the suspension is. Alex Evans The adjustable progression rate that’s dictated by the flip chip’s position changes the bike’s progression from 30 percent in the more linear mode to 35 percent in the most progressive mode. The progression curve is virtually straight for both settings so it makes the shock easier to tune — there are no abrupt changes to the bike’s inherent kinematic. To top it off, if you change the bottom bracket setting from high to low the progression rates remain virtually identical. This also means Scott was able to opt for a coil shock that’s inherently more linear than an air-sprung equivalent. 2020 Scott Gambler 900 Tuned specifications and pricing The Fox 49 fork is a DH stalwart. Alex Evans Frame: Carbon front and rear, Horst-link suspension, adjustable geometry, 12x157mm dropout, BB107, 27.5- and 29-inch wheels compatible Fork: Fox 49 Factory, 203mm travel, Kashima stanchions, GRIP2 damper, 20mm Boost axle Rear shock: Fox DH X2 Factory, 225x75mm, 500lbs spring (size large) Headset: Syncros DH adjustable +/- 1-degree Rear mech: SRAM X01 DH 7-speed Shifter: SRAM X01 7-speed Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors (front and rear) Cranks: SRAM X01 DUB, 34-tooth chainring, 165mm arm length Chain device: Scott DH custom Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB MTB107 Handlebar: Syncros Hixon iC DH carbon, 15mm rise, 8-degree sweep, 800mm wide Seatpost: Syncros DH1.5, 31.6 diameter Seat: Syncros Comox 1.5, titanium rails Chain: KMC X11-1 Cassette: SRAM CS PG-720 DH 11-25 teeth Tyres: Maxxis Assegai 29X2.5-inch, Kevlar bead, DH, TR, 3C Maxx Grip Wheels: Syncros Revelstoke DH1.5, 32 spoke, tubeless ready Weight: 15.7kg / 34.61lb (size large, without pedals, actual weight) Price: €7999 The Hixon bar’s shape looks good to us. Alex Evans The all-in-one Hixon bar and stem certainly look the part. Alex Evans The bar and stem might not be to everyone’s taste though. Alex Evans The front end of the bike looks purposeful. Alex Evans The Hixon stem has an effective 50mm length. Alex Evans The X01 DH cranks are fitted with SRAM’s new rub protector. Alex Evans The 7-speed X01 DH mech is sturdy and compact. Alex Evans SRAM’s Code brakes have exceptional power. Alex Evans You’ll find stopping a doddle with the SRAM Code brakes and 200mm rotors. Alex Evans The integrated Syncros fender is tidy and well-designed. Alex Evans The mounting points on the back of the fork’s arch line up with the fender’s holes. Alex Evans The Greg Minnaar-designed Assegai tyres are a favourite among racers. Alex Evans The Syncros wheels are DH-specific but aren’t made from carbon like the bike’s frame. Alex Evans They’re tubeless-ready so you can run DH-casing tyres without the weight penalty of tubes. Alex Evans The 900 Tuned model is dripping in the best, latest and highest performing kit around that includes the fantastic 29er Fox 49 fork with the GRIP2 damper, a matching Fox X2 DH rear shock that, like the fork, boasts high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment and a thoroughbred selection of SRAM X01 DH drivetrain kit. You also get DH-casing tyres and a smattering of Syncros (Scott’s in-house component manufacturer) parts including seatpost, wheels, bar, stem and saddle. The all-in-one Hixon iC DH bar and stem combo is quite the looker and as an aftermarket product will set you back €349.90. The one-piece system is seen across Scott’s mountain bike and road range under different monikers and it’s interesting to see one on a DH bike. Scott openly admits that it’s a love it or hate it affair. There’s a lack of bar roll adjustment, so if you’re into freaky angles it might not be the one for you. Syncros has made an integrated front mudguard for the Fox 40 fork that looks incredibly sleek and is compatible with both 27.5- and 29-inch wheeled versions of the fork. The fender will be available to buy aftermarket for €19.90. 2020 Scott Gambler 900 Tuned frame kit The integrated fork bumper acts as the internal cable routing port Alex Evans A frame kit of the 900 Tuned version is available and is supplied with headset cups, geometry and suspension kinematic adjustment and chain device. It doesn’t come with the Hixon bar or Fox 49 fork, however. The integrated, internal cable routing looks smart Alex Evans The frame kit retails for €4,199 including shock. The bike will be available to buy in shops from mid-November 2019.
There’s a new bike in the Juliana mountain bike line-up. It’s a long-travel 29er trail bike with 140mm rear travel, 150mm fork travel, a low shock position, up-to-date geometry, a flip-chip and a bad-ass red paintjob, and she’s called the Maverick. Juliana Maverick CC X01 RSV first ride review Best women’s mountain bikes Juliana Furtado C review Juliana Bicycles, sister brand to Santa Cruz, has been growing every year since it launched as its own entity in 2013. This is the second bike announced for 2020 after news of its new adventure/gravel bike, the Quincy, back in May. While it’s a good climber, this is a bike that feels like it’s aching to go downhill, and on rough terrain too Juliana Bicycles Built for aggressive riding, the Maverick satisfies the needs of enduro riders who prefer big wheels to 27.5, and is essentially the 29er equivalent of the Roubion. And since Juliana and Santa Cruz bicycles share frames, and the Maverick is the Juliana version of the Hightower, what this also tells you is that the Hightower has had a serious update too. New Juliana Maverick and Santa Cruz Hightower key points New lower shock position Slacker head angle, steeper seat-tube angle Longer wheelbase, longer reach New suspension tune New RockShox Reverb seatpost with shorter insertion length and smoother action Shorter seat tube Flip chip so geometry can be tweaked to high and low positions The Santa Cruz Hightower gets an update The shock on the Maverick sits in a low position in the frame; for the Hightower, this is an update Juliana Bicycles If the bike looks or sounds a little familiar that’s because it’s essentially the Hightower in Juliana livery. Juliana makes no secret of the fact it shares frames with Santa Cruz based on its view that women don’t need a specific geometry, just a well designed one. For Juliana, the difference lies in the suspension tune, which has been developed to suit riders in a lighter weight range than Santa Cruz equivalents, as well as contact points such as the women’s-specific Juliana saddle. So, as the two bikes are essentially the same, that also means that the Hightower has had some serious tweaking. The most obvious difference is the shock position, which is now attached much lower on the down tube, bringing with it a lower centre of gravity and adjusted leverage curve. The shock is now driven by the lower link, previous models were driven by the upper link. Juliana/Santa Cruz have made this change on a number of bikes in recent years, most notably the Roubion/Bronson, which got the update early in 2018. Don’t expect to see it across the whole range, though. For the shorter travel, more playful trail bikes, such as the Furtado/5010, Juliana and Santa Cruz state that the higher shock position can’t be beaten. Handy additional elements include the fact that the frame can fit a water bottle in all sizes, so those who like to ride light and fast don’t have to go thirsty. Juliana Maverick / Santa Cruz Hightower geometry The Maverick comes in three sizes, and for comparison we’ve included the previous Hightower which will be replaced by this release Immediate Media Co Juliana and Santa Cruz tend to update their bicycles every few years, so rather than tweaking things a little here and there, the only real changes year to year are the colours. Then, every three or four years or so, a whole reworked model will come out. This bike (or these bikes if you prefer) is no exception, and it’s thoroughly up to date, but doesn’t exactly push the envelope. A now rather retro 430mm reach, 67-degree head angle and 74.3-degree seat tube angle has been replaced by a 450mm reach, slacker 65.2-degree head angle and steeper 76.6-degree in the low setting. The Maverick/Hightower includes a geometry flip chip which allows the bike to be tweaked to a slightly more upright, or high, position. This steepens the head angle to 65.5 degrees, the seat tube angle to 77 degrees, lengthens the reach to 453mm and increases the standover from 713mm in the low position to 718 mm in the high position. Reach has increased, as has the wheelbase though the standover is higher, and the chainstay length has decreased fractionally. New RockShox Reverb seatpost Another great addition is the new RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost. Designed to have a shorter overall length, this means that on bikes such as the Maverick and Hightower, which have an interrupted seat tube due to the new position of the pivot, which in turn limits the insertion length available, a post with long travel is now an option. In practice, this means that whatever size Maverick you go choose, you’ll be able to drop the saddle right out of the way for those technical descents. The internals on the Reverb Stealth have also been re-engineered, so it requires less force to make it drop and returns at a quick pace. New RockShox Reverb Stealth promises more travel, shorter length and less maintenance Juliana Maverick full bike range and sizing There are four builds available, based around either the top-of-the-line CC grade carbon or the slightly cheaper C carbon, which brings with it a slight weight penalty. All bikes are available in small, medium or large. Alas, though perhaps unsurprisingly, Juliana isn’t bringing the Maverick out in a size XS citing the inherent engineering difficulties in developing a frame that works for smaller riders with those big 29er wheels. However, the Juliana team tells us that Amy Nelson, Juliana and Santa Cruz’s 5ft1in/155cm product manager, rides a size small Maverick, which has a reach of 425mm and a standover of 699mm in the low setting, or 428mm and 704mm in the high setting. In addition to the full builds, there is a frame-only option on the CC version in some territories, which costs £3,299 or AU$5,499. Juliana Maverick C R 29 Frame: Carbon C 29in 140mm Travel VPP Forks: RockShox Yari RC, 150mm, 29in Shock: FOX Float Performance DPS Drivetrain: SRAM NX Eagle, 12spd with SRAM PG1230 11-50t cassette and SRAM NX Eagle 148 DUB, 30t-170mm Wheelset: WTB ST i29 TCS 2.0 29in rims with SRAM MTH hubs and DT Swiss Competition spokes Brakes: SRAM Guide R with Avid Centerline 180mm rotors Bar/Stem: Race Face Aeffect R 780mm handlebars with 50mm Race Face Ride stem Seatpost/saddle: Race Face Aeffect dropper with Juliana Segundo saddle Sizes: S, M, L Price: £4,499 / €4,699 / $4,299 / AU$N/A Juliana Maverick C S 29 Frame: Carbon C 29in 140mm Travel VPP Forks: RockShox Lyrik Select+ 150mm, 29in Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle, 12spd, with SRAM XG1275 Eagle cassette and SRAM Stylo 7k 148 DUB, 30t-170mm crankset Wheelset: RaceFace AR Offset 30 29in rims with DT Swiss 370 and DT Swiss Competition spokes Brakes: SRAM Code R with Avid Centerline 180mm rotors Bar/stem: Race Face Aeffect R 780mm handlebars with 50mm Race Face Aeffect R stem Seatpost/saddle: RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1x Lever dropper seatpost with Juliana Segundo saddle Sizes: S, M, L Price: £5,399 / €5,499 / $5,199 / AU$8,499 Juliana Maverick CC X01 29 Frame: Carbon CC 29in 140mm Travel VPP Forks: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 150mm, 29in Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select Ultimate Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd with SRAM XG1295 Eagle cassette and SRAM X1 Eagle 148 DUB crankset Wheelset: RaceFace ARC Offset 30 29in rims with DT Swiss 350 and DT Swiss Competition Race Brakes: SRAM Code RSC with Avid Centerline 180mm rotors Bar/stem: Santa Cruz AM Carbon 900mm handlebars with 50mm Race Face Aeffect R stem Seatpost/saddle: RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1x Lever, MatchMaker dropper seatpost with Juliana Primiero saddle Sizes: S, M, L Price: £6,599 / €7,399 / $7,099 / AU$10,899 Juliana Maverick CC X01 29 RSV Frame: Carbon CC 29in 140mm Travel VPP Forks: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 150mm, 29in Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select Ultimate Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle, 12spd, with SRAM XG1295 Eagle cassette and SRAM X1 Eagle 148 DUB, 30t-170m crankset Wheelset: Santa Cruz Reserve 30 29in Carbon rims with DT Swiss 350 hubs and DT Swiss Competition Race spokes Brakes: SRAM Code RSC with Avid Centerline 180mm rotors Bar/stem: Santa Cruz AM Carbon 800mm handlebars with 50mm Race Face Aeffect R stem Seatpost/saddle: RockShox Reverb Stealth, 1x Lever dropper seat post with Juliana Primiero Saddle Sizes: S, M, L Price: £7,799 / €8,59999 / $8,299 / AU$N/A
Computer navigation is great, but a paper map gives you your bearings like nothing else Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Canal towpaths are one of the tamer strands to gravel riding in the UK Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Farm tracks are a feature of the British countryside which open up to you on gravel bikes Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Roadie Mark Bailey explores narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Shifting weight is key to manoeuvring your bike over uneven, rocky ground Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel bikes allow you to explore more than roads Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Keep an eye on your map’s contours, otherwise this might happen Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding will test your limits Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media In the second instalment of our Adventure Addicts series in association with Scott Sports, roadie Mark Bailey joins former British CX champion Nick Craig in his Peak District playground to learn the way of the gravel. Adventure Addicts part 1: Introduction to gravel riding Why road cyclists should try gravel riding Humans are creatures of habit, but can also thrive on change. With that in mind, I’m in the Peak District for an introduction into gravel riding, a trip designed to help me escape my usual road-riding routine and explore narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents in pursuit of a wilder off-road experience. But, like all the best bike journeys, this one begins in a cosy kitchen, with an Ordnance Survey map spread across the table, a military-style debate over kit and the buzz of a new adventure. Roadie Mark Bailey explores narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media The kitchen belongs to Nick Craig, a former professional cyclist who lives in the old mill town of Hayfield, which sits just beneath the iconic gritstone cliffs of Kinder Scout. Having won three national cyclocross titles and four national mountain bike titles, he is the perfect guide to gravel riding. “Road cyclists will find gravel riding a lot of fun because gravel bikes open up a whole new world of interesting places to ride,” he insists. When I first read about gravel bikes – which combine race-ready road frames with thick tyres and disc brakes, liberating you to tackle tarmac and trails on the same bike – I was intrigued. As a road cyclist I love epic 100km rides and the thrill of speed, but I instinctively seek out scenic spots and quieter backroads. To fuse adrenaline with adventure – blasting along a road at 40km/h then darting off-road to explore some trails – sounds like something that I could quickly embrace. Canal towpaths are one of the tamer strands to gravel riding in the UK Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Scott Addict Gravel 30 I’m riding a Scott Addict Gravel 30. Its 35mm Schwalbe G-One Allround knobblies are a whole 12mm wider than my road tyres, and its confidence-boosting Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, should give me all the stopping power I’ll need. What’s more it has an adventure-ready 11-34 rear cassette, which, since the biggest sprocket on my road bike is a 28, feels huge in comparison. Scott Addict Gravel 10 review How to plan a gravel ride The bike may be ready, but I have no idea how to plan a gravel adventure, which is why Nick and his OS map are here to help. “As well as normal roads, you can ride on gravel trails, bridleways, mountain bike trails, disused railway lines and towpaths,” explains Nick, tracing our planned route with his finger. “You just connect them up to make your own route.” Whereas road cyclists are limited to riding the pink and orange road lines on an OS map, gravel bikes enable you to explore the dotted green and orange bridleways, footpaths and byways, as well as any trails running through the green and brown smudges of moorland, forests and mountains. You can also explore unsurfaced roads, Forestry Commission tracks and easier mountain bike trails, which are graded green or blue. New gravel riders can use route-planning tech such as Strava and Garmin Connect, which list many off-road trails, as well as the OS Maps app which includes aerial 3D imagery. The Komoot app harnesses the input of local riders to provide a detailed analysis of routes, elevations and profiles. “Komoot is great for off-road routes because it shows all the local trails which make gravel riding so much fun,” says Nick. “But I find it best to combine maps and websites to work out the best routes.” Computer navigation is great, but a paper map gives you your bearings like nothing else Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media What to take on your first gravel ride Before we head out, Nick talks me through the kit required for gravel riding. Road cyclists can wear all their usual clobber: with the thicker tyres, you don’t need extra padding in your bib-shorts, and you won’t ride anywhere which requires knee pads or a full-face helmet. You have to carry the usual back-up kit of tyre levers, inner tubes, tyre plugs, a multi-tool and some food and drink. In more remote terrain it’s best to also pack a compact chain tool, spare link (Shimano Speed Quick Link and SRAM Power Link both offer tool-free assembly) and repair patches. Mountain bike shoes and pedals, and a tubeless tyre setup, are the two major kit upgrades you can make and there’ll be more about this in next month’s instalment. Keep an eye on your map’s contours, otherwise this might happen Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding in the Peak District When we start riding through the sun-drenched lanes of Hayfield, I immediately forget I’m riding a gravel bike. The geometry is almost identical to my road bike and the 35mm tyres, which feature tiny dimples, purr smoothly on the road. The bike feels racy and agile, just like a road bike. “I ride the same setup on the road and on trails,” says Nick. “But a newcomer might want to drop the saddle 5mm to feel more comfortable on the terrain.” Of course, you can always install a new-fangled electronic dropper seatpost so you can change your position while you ride. Without much warning, we suddenly veer off the road and onto the Sett Valley Trail. The scenic track follows a disused railway line and forms part of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail. The road cycling devil on my shoulder starts worrying about falls and punctures, while the gravel cycling angel on my other shoulder reminds me that my bike’s chunky tyres can handle it. “It can take a while for road cyclists to adapt their mindset,” says Nick. To prove the point, he darts off the track. Just when I think he’s about to plough into a tree trunk, he disappears onto a hidden trail and emerges back onto the main path a few seconds later. “When you get used to them, gravel bikes change your whole perspective,” he says. On a normal road ride, I stay alert for potholes and wet leaves but on a gravel bike I’m soon ploughing through puddles and bumping over stones. After a short time we reach the old cotton-spinning town of New Mills. Shifting weight is key to manoeuvring your bike over uneven, rocky ground Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding tips 1. Don’t venture too far I’d assumed we’d be out in the hills all day but Nick says for the best gravel experience it’s better to aim for variety. “It’s usually good to find places on the edges of towns and cities because that’s where you get all the interesting canal paths, bridleways and old railways, as well as the typical trails mountain bikers would follow. That’s when you’ll get the most out of a gravel bike and really see what it can do.” 2. Stay seated on steep climbs We take a sharp turn and emerge on a muddy uphill trail. I’m in too big a gear, which leaves my back wheel slipping. “Reading the route up ahead is important so you can prepare for what’s next,” advises Nick, who reminds me to stay seated on steep climbs to weigh down the back wheel. I try it and successfully wriggle up the slippery track. 3. Use your weight to stay in control The first major obstacle of the day looms into view: a steep-sided canal bridge. The thought of bombing down the other side, however, leaves me terrified. “Standing up over the saddle will allow you to use your body to counter the terrain,” advises Nick. It’s against all my road-cycling instincts to stand up on a descent, but those chunkier tyres make it possible. I keep my weight towards the back of the bike and feel much more agile and in control. “Think about how a cat walks gently on a roof, carefully adjusting its weight and balance,” says Nick. “Those subtle shifts are what you are aiming for.” 4. Keep a high cadence Having survived the steep ramp, I’m annoyed when a few moments later I tumble sideways on an innocuous muddy slope in a park. “A smooth and steady cadence is always best on unstable terrain so you don’t create excessive torque and cause wheel spin,” says Nick. 5. Use the momentum A key lesson I’ve learned from watching Nick all day is the importance of momentum. As a road cyclist, I instinctively get nervous at the sight of any hazard up ahead and I’m quick to brake or swerve. “On gravel, speed is usually your friend,” says Nick. “When your wheels are rolling you have better traction and grip.” When we encounter our first gravel section, I toy with different speeds: as soon as I slow down I start sinking into the stones, whereas at speed the bike dances over the gravel. 6. Work on your core We swing onto a stony path to climb the ominously-named Mount Famine. I watch, fascinated, as Nick makes countless micro-adjustments as he rides up the trail, picking his way around boulders to find the smoothest path. The wider handlebars of a gravel bike make this much easier, but a few planks and sit-ups at home would really help because your core muscles get taxed much more out on the trails than on the road. 7. Choose your kit well As my saddle bag bounces around chaotically, Nick points out some of his own Syncros gadgets: a bottle cage with an integrated multitool slot and a saddle bag which screws directly into the saddle, which both serve to keep you light and well balanced on the trails. From the top of Mount Famine we enjoy sweeping views of the moorland terrain, which is neatly carved up by stone walls into a vast patchwork quilt of browns and greens. I realise once again how thick the silence is up here, far removed from the traffic down below. 8. Know your limits A few mountain bikers pass by and say there are some crazy descents we could try nearby. But it’s important to know your limits. Unlike them, I’m not on a chunky downhill bike with full suspension. “When you are planning your route, keep an eye on the contour lines to make sure it’s not too steep,” advises Nick. “There are usually different ways to get down a mountain. But you can always get off and walk for a section if you need to.” 9. Descend with confidence I knew the long and bumpy descent into Hayfield would be the hardest part of the day and it doesn’t disappoint. As a road cyclist, the sight of small rocks and loose stones has all my synapses blinking on red alert. Nick gives me a few pointers: keep your head up to help identify the smoothest route down, and try not to go so slow that you lose your balance – easily done if you are feeling nervous. I successfully trundle down the stony path but when I reach a section of thick mud I unclip and walk. 10. Enjoy the versatility We emerge onto a main road and I realise how peaceful our ride has been so far. After the tranquillity of the trails and canal paths, riding next to cars feels strange, although it’s nice to see how easily these versatile bikes switch from grinding over gravel to slicing along tarmac again. Gravel riding will test your limits Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media What you’ll learn from gravel riding Gravel biking is about testing – but also recognising – your limits. And being able to connect different trails by walking a few segments is what liberates you to reach places you wouldn’t otherwise visit. When we arrive back in Hayfield for some toasted teacakes at Millie’s Tea Rooms, I am amazed to hear that we have only cycled around 25km, despite being out on the trails for hours. But in that short loop we’ve enjoyed a kaleidoscope of rugged peaks, dazzling green valleys, peaceful canal paths, adrenaline soaked gravel dashes, muddy falls, and lots of spontaneous debates over which path to take next. Planning your route is crucial, but making impromptu decisions along the way is all part of the fun. Gravel cycling is one activity where to say “get lost” is an invitation, not an insult. This article was produced in association with Scott Sports. Navigation and mapping assistance courtesy of Komoot.
The 106th edition of the Tour de France starts in Brussels with the Grande Départ on Saturday 6 July and concludes on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday 28 July. Over the course of those weeks, the riders will endure 3,480km of riding spread over 21 stages, including seven mountain stages, with five summit stage finishes, five hilly stages, seven flat stages and an individual and team time trial. This stage-by-stage breakdown will tell you what to expect and what to look out for each day, plus give you an insight into the history of each stage. How to watch the Tour de France 2019 live World Tour Team bike guide 2019 The Tour de France 2019 route map https://www.letour.fr Stage 1: Bruxelles — Brussels Date: 6 July Distance: 194.5km — Flat Did you know? This will be the fifth time Belgium has hosted the Grand Départ (one behind the record of six, held by the Netherlands) The ones to watch: Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo – Visma), a big name absentee from the Giro, to open his account early. The Grand Départ for the 2019 Tour de France will be in Belgium Getty / PHILIPPE LOPEZ / Contributor Billed as the highest Tour de France in history, the race begins decidedly low with this loop in Brussels (elevation: 13m). It’s the second time the Belgian capital has hosted the Grand Départ, the first being 1958, which was won by ace sprinter and Frenchman André Darrigade. You’d be hard-pressed to bet against one of the fast men taking the first yellow jersey. No rider has spent more days in yellow than Eddy Merckx (111), and The Cannibal is the reason why the race is back in Brussels on his local roads. Merckx won a record-equaling five Tours in his career and 2019 marks the 50th anniversary since his first. A highlight of the opening stage, which dips, symbolically, into all three of Belgium’s regions – Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders – is an ascent of the cobbled Mur de Grammont, better known as the Muur van Geraardsbergen, a legendary climb of the Tour of Flanders. Along with another Flanders favourite, the Bosberg, it appears too early (43.5km) to play a significant role in today’s proceedings, but it’ll add a bit of stardust. In further homage to Merckx, the finale goes through the Brussels municipality of Woluwe- Saint-Pierre, where his Faema team won the team time-trial of 1969. Stage 1 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Bruxelles – 11:25 43.5km: Cat 3 Mur de Grammont climb – 12:27 47.5km: Cat 4 Bosberg climb – 12:32 125km: Les Bons Villiers sprint – 14:24 194.5km: Arrive in Brussels – 16:02 The first stage of the 2019 Tour de France takes place in Belgium Stage 2: Bruxelles Palais Royal – Brussel Atomium Date: 7 July Distance: 27.6km — Team time-trial Did you know: Orica-GreenEDGE hold the world record for the fastest TTT, winning the 25km stage 4 in 2013 at a speed of 57.841km/h The ones to watch: Deceuninck–Quick-Step to repeat its 2018 Innsbruck World Championship win, ahead of Team Ineos Whoever ends up wearing yellow today it’ll be a good one to win, for the maillot jaune celebrates its centenary in 2019. The jersey was introduced during the 1919 addition by race director Henri Desgrange, to better distinguish the race leader (yellow was the colour that the race’s sponsor, the newspaper L’Auto-Vélo, was printed on). After a flat and fast opening 4km, the route loops round the Watermael-Boitsfort suburb before bisecting the opening of the course with 10km remaining. From there the course is short on technical turns, aside from a sharp lefthander in the final kilometre, before the finish at the Atomium, the city’s most-popular tourist site. Built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, it stands 102m tall and represents a single unit of iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Team time trials are infrequent and hard to predict. At last year’s race, BMC Racing prevailed, though its demise and reemergence as a lesser-funded outfit, CCC, will mean it won’t begin as favourites. The usual TTT suspects, Team Ineos and Mitchelton-Scott, will be heavily tipped, particularly as they’ll want to keep their team leaders close to the sharp end of the general classification. Stage 2 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Bruxelles Palais Royal – 13:30 to 15:15 13.2km: Split 1 – 13:44 to 15:29 20.1km: Split 2 – 13:52 to 15:37 27.6km: Arrive in Brussel Atomium – 14:00 to 15:45 After a flat start in Stage 1, the elevation starts to pick up a little in stage 2 Stage 3: Binche – Épernay Date: 8 July Distance: 215km — Hilly Did you know? In 2018 Champagne exports totalled €2.9bn. Great Britain was the largest importer, with 26.7m bottles The ones to watch: Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), fresh from Giro success, likes a rising finish and this will suit him down to the ground Caleb Ewan took stage 11 of the 2019 Giro d’Italia — what can he do at the Tour? Getty / NurPhoto / Contributor Once again we begin in Belgium, this time Binche, though not for long, because 10km in, France gets its national race back. Binche has been a recent start (though not this year) of La Flèche Wallonne, the one-day classic of the hilly Ardennes, sandwiched midweek between the Amstel Gold race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But it’s the end of today’s stage, once we’re well into northern France and east of Paris, that’ll cause the most problems. Skirting around the western edge of the Ardennes, the route sends the peloton south to Épernay, a prosperous town built on its link to the Champagne trade and the self-proclaimed capital of the world’s most famous fizz. Its Avenue de Champagne, filled with champagne houses and cellars, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stretches for almost a kilometre. The winner of today will no doubt be furnished with a magnum and they’ll deserve a glass at dinner, with a tough finish perfect for the faster riders with a penchant for climbs. There are four in the final 30km, bisecting the Montagne de Reims natural park, which is home to much of the region’s Champagne production. Into Épernay, and there’s a further ramp into the finish line to complicate matters for the sprinters. Stage 3 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Binche – 11:20 102km: Dizy-le-Gros spring – 13:49 173km: Cat 4 Côte de Nanteuil-la-Forêt climb – 15:32 185.5km: Cat 3 Côte d’Hautvillers climb – 15:51 190km: Cat 3 Côte de Champillon climb – 15:58 199km: Cat 3 Côte de Mutigny climb – 16:11 215km: End in Épernay – 16:34 Back to Belgium briefly for stage 3 with a day that finishes with a series of punchy climbs to test the riders’ mettle Stage 4: Reims – Nancy Date: 9 July Distance: 213.5km — Flat Did you know? Despite only taking part in three Tours, the legedary Fausto Coppi won twice in Nancy (1949 and 1952) The ones to watch: After a poor season by his standards, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) must come good at some point The race caravan retraces its wheel tracks, heading back north to Reims. Bigger than Épernay in size and contribution to the Champagne trade, Reims has some 200km of cellars in the caves and tunnels, mined for its chalk, 20–40m beneath the surface, which were converted to age the tipple in uniquely cool temperatures. Only the fans will have time to sample its many grandes marques – Champagne houses – as the peloton hot foots to Nancy. It’s another excellent opportunity for the sprinters, who need to make hay while the sun shines this year. All the action today is back loaded into the Nancy finale, with the 3.2km, 5 percent Côte de Maron in the final 15km. It’s a mere speed bump for a Tour peloton, however, and a large bunch will have it all to play for on the flat finish. Nancy has been a Tour de France staple since the third edition in 1905. Fausto Coppi’s won twice here (1949 and 1952), despite only racing the Tour de France three times. Another Italian, Matteo Trentin, shone during the most recent visit to the city in 2014, pipping Peter Sagan in a blistering sprint to the line. It was a year of second places for the Slovak who, like Chris Froome winning yellow in 2017 despite not winning a stage, still managed to snaffle a third green jersey. Stage 4 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Reims – 11:25 121km: Cat 4 Côte de Rosiéres climb – 14:14 147km: Lérouville sprint – 14:50 198.5km: Cat 4 Côte de Maron climb – 16:02 213.5km: Arrive in Nancy – 16:23 Enjoy the countryside of the Champagne region, then gear up for a fast finale as the Tour rolls into Nancy Stage 5: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges – Colmar Date: 10 July Distance: 175.5km — Hilly Did you know? Sheltered by the Vosges, Colmar is the second driest town in France, ideal for Alsace wine production The ones to watch: Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Pro Team) is a big man but has enjoyed success on such parcours in the past The peloton viewed betwen the vines in the countryside outside Colmar, during the 2009 Tour de France Getty / Jasper Juinen / Staff We’re into another major wine region, Alsace, on the edge of the Vosges mountains. The peloton spends a large chunk of time today on the flatter roads north of the hills ahead of the longer stuff of tomorrow. From the start, locally known as Saint-Dié, it’s not far, as the crow flies, to Colmar – another self-proclaimed wine capital of its region, but adding a huge loop to the north of the Vosges boosts its length. Heading back south to the finish in Colmar, the route gets complicated, with three 4.6km–5.9km climbs in the second half of the stage, the first significant chance for the climbers to stretch their legs. It’s nowhere near as tough as the 2009 stage from Vittel to Colmar, where Heinrich Haussler overcame longer Vosges climbs and horrid weather to win by over four minutes. The summit of the final climb, the 6.1 percent Côte des Cinq Châteaux, arrives just under the 20km to go mark, then there’s a fast descent followed by a long, straight and flat run-in to Colmar. Perhaps for the first time this year, escape artists will have their eye on the prize today but that finale does them few favours. Despite tomorrow being a big day for the teams chasing yellow, it’ll still be a twitchy peloton because the Tour always is in the first week, so there’s a chance a big bunch will arrive en-masse. Stage 5 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Saint-Dié-des-Vosges – 12:25 44km: Cat 3 Côte de Grendelbruch climb – 13:28 71km: Heiligenstein sprint – 14:06 109.5km: Cat 2 Côte du Haut-Kenigsbourg climb – 15:01 140.5km: Côte des Trois-Épis – 15:45 156km: Côte des Cinq Château – 16:08 175.5km: Arrive in Colmar – 16:35 Could the complicated nature of Stage 5 favour a breakaway? Stage 6: Mulhouse – La Planche des Belles Filles Date: 11 July Distance: 160.5km — Mountain Did you know? It’s not the case, but Ballon d’Alsace has gone down in Tour lore as its first mountain pass in 1905 The ones to watch: Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), using his time with local amateur team CC Etupes, to take his first Tour win To La Planche des Belles Filles, and the first summit finish of a race that contains five. The climb is a comparatively recent inclusion to the race, first appearing during Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 triumph, and it’s the climb where Chris Froome won the first of seven career stages. Whoever ends up in yellow after today’s stage will take solace that on all three previous finishes on this climb, the resultant yellow jersey (Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali and Froome) has gone onto win the overall in Paris. A 100 percent conversion is perhaps more than coincidence and speaks to the attritional nature of the modern Tour; while there’s still a hell of a long way to go until Paris, the form a rider shows on the first summit finish augurs well for them. It’s one of the steeper summit finishes and is tougher this year, bolstered by the addition of a dirt road in the final kilometre that’s 20 percent at the very top. The Vosges are a low mountain range, but race director Christian Prudhomme is testing riders early in the race, taking them over – via the 1st category climb to Le Markstein ski station – the highest point of the region in the Grand Ballon (1,336m). Following that there’s also the Ballon d’Alsace (1,178m), a climb used sparingly since WWII, climbed from its eastern side in Sewen. Stage 6 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Mulhouse – 12:25 29km: Linthal sprint – 13:07 43.5km: Cat 1 Le Markstein climb – 13:40 50.5km: Cat 3 Grand Ballon climb – 13:49 74km: Cat 2 Col du Hundsruck climb – 14:22 105km: Cat 1 Ballon d’Alsace climb – 15:16 123.5km: Cat 3 Col des Croix climb – 15:42 141.5km: Cat 1 Col des Chevréres climb – 16:09 160.5km: Arrive in La Planche des Belles Filles – 16:42 The first summit finish of the 2019 Tour is bound to be a spectacle Stage 7: Belfort – Chalon-sur-Saône Date: 12 July Distance: 230km — Flat Did you know? 230km is a long stage in 2019 but the longest ever came in 1919 – 482km from Les Sables-d’Olonned to Bayonne! The ones to watch: Any break has little chance of succeeding. The smart money is on fast man, and with Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) out of the running it could be a good opportunity for Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) to get a win Today is the sort of post-mountain stage transition day that some fans will question belongs in a 21st century race. A break will go. It’s got a small chance of staying away. For long stretches, nothing much may seemingly happen. Such stages, however, remain totally valid in the context of a three-week Grand Tour. At 230km it’s by some distance the longest stage of the race, so with its direct route it eats up plenty of ground in search of more enticing terrain for the approaching weekend. It also gives the main contenders a much-needed breather, after – and before – more rigorous challenges. Above all, it’s part of the wearing down process of a Grand Tour, adding nearly six hours on the clock of riders participating in one of the world’s great endurance challenges. The events of today may well catch up with one or two of the main contenders further down the line. Riders depart early from Belfort on the southern tip of the Vosges, navigating a route that features a lumpy first half and a flat second. The Jura mountains are tantalisingly close in the background but out of contention, with the 4th category Côte de Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne the last of the climbs in this stage before the long, flat run-in to Chalon-sur-Saône. Stage 7 route profile, highlights and times 0km: Depart Belfort – 10:35 37.5km: Cat 4 Col de Ferriére climb – 11:28 95.5km: Cat 3 Côte de Chassagne-Saint-Denis climb – 12:51 119.5km: Cat 4 Côte de Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne climb – 13:26 196.5km: Mervans sprint – 15:15 230km: Arrive in Chalon-sur-Saône – 16:03 At 239km, this is the longest stage in the 2019 Tour de France Stage 8: Mâcon – Saint-Étienne Date: 13 July Distance: 200km — Hilly Did you know? Mâcon, in a time trial, is where Lance Armstrong cruised to his fourth (now stripped) Tour — his lead was huge! The ones to watch: Alejandro Valverde may be on stage-hunting form this year and he’ll like the look of this parcours The start of the second weekend of the Tour de France can only mean one thing: spectacle. Sure, there are no showpiece famous cols or summit finishes – that can wait for the final two Saturdays – but the stage’s near 4,000m of vertical is the equal of many mountain stages. We’re in wine country again, this time Beaujolais, a light red made from the Gamay grape — a young wine that doesn’t keep for many years. Let’s hope the same doesn’t apply to this stage. Leaving Mâcon and heading south through the small Beaujolais region, the first of five category 2 climbs arrives after 43.5km. Its 7 percent over 6.1km is fairly typical of what the peloton can expect today, and from here the climbs come thick and fast, in a Liège-Bastogne-Liège kind of way. The route skirts the western edge of Lyon through the Monts du Lyonnais, low altitude mountains in the eastern foothills of the Massif Central, the vast mountain range in southern, central France that spans 15 percent of the country. The climbs get progressively shorter as we close in on Saint-Étienne, and the finale should be a corker, with a short ramp and descent within the final 4km. It’s the sort of stage that the general classification contenders have little to gain, but plenty to lose. Stage 8 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Mâcon – 11:25 33km: Cercié sprint – 12:13 51km: Cat 2 Col de la Croix Montmain climb – 12:45 71km: Cat 2 Col de la Croix de Thel climb – 13:16 84.5km: Cat 2 Col de la Croix Paquet climb – 13:34 133km: Cat 2 Côte de la Croix de Part climb – 14:51 148.5km: Cat 2 Côte d’Aveize climb – 15:15 187.5km: Cat 3 Côte de la Jaillère climb – 16:10 200km: Arrive in Saint-Étienne – 16:27 The climbs may not be epic, but they are punchy and plentiful on Stage 8 Stage 9: Saint-Étienne – Brioude Date: 14 July Distance: 170.5km — Hilly Did you know? Warren Barguil’s win on Bastille Day in 2017 ended a record 12-year wait for a home victory on France’s day The ones to watch: A Frenchman, maybe David Gaudu (FDJ), to continue the home revival and make it two Bastille Day wins in three. Romain Bardet is one to watch for this stage, seen here at the 2019 Criterium de Dauphine Getty / Tim de Waele / Staff It’s Bastille Day, France’s national holiday. It usually means a day off the clock for French workers, but it’s a Sunday, so most would have had it off anyway. The Bastille was a medieval prison in Paris that was stormed on this day in 1789 by troops at the beginning of the French Revolution that overthrew the monarchy. Celebrations include military parades in Paris and families getting together around the country. For the Tour de France, that often means spectators lining the roadside watching a thrilling bike race, featuring prominently – and ideally won by – a Frenchman, and both of those things were true in 2017 when Warren Barguil (now Arkéa–Samsic) won in the Pyrenees to Foix. Perhaps Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) will try something – Brioude is his hometown and he recce’d the final kilometres in May, and the downhill into the finish very much favours his skillset as a buccaneering descender. It will depend on how the race pans out, because the route does favour a breakaway. The route goes higher than the previous stage, breaking 1,000m on the Côte des Guillaumanches, but it’s shorter and not nearly as difficult. It is, however, the riders who more often than not make the race, and a less daunting parcours may just make for more aggressive racing. Stage 9 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Saint-Étienne – 12:25 36.5km: Cat 1 Mur d’Aurec-sur-Loire climb – 13:20 92km: Arlanc sprint – 14:39 106km: Cat 3 Côte de Guillaumanches climb – 14:59 157.5km: Cat 3 Côte de Saint-Just climb – 16:15 170.5km: Arrive in Brioude – 16:31 14 July is Bastille Day, a national day of celebration in France, and the locals will be hoping for a French stage winner Stage 10: Saint-Flour – Albi Date: 15 July Distance: 217.5km — Flat Did you know: Alexandre Vinokourov won the 2007 time trial in Albi a few days before he – and his team – were booted out The ones to watch: Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) for the stage in his debut Tour de France (if he hasn’t already won one) There’s no more stressful a week in cycling than the opening week of the Tour de France and the riders will welcome the downtime of the first rest day in Albi. It’s not so much about putting their feet up — rides to keep the legs ticking over and media duties for the guys in demand are still required — but the rest day at least allows riders to climb off the race’s stressful merry-go-round. It’s in an appropriate place, too: Albi was named as the sports capital of France in 2012 by sports daily L’Equipe. Before that, however, there’s still business to be done and this transition stage takes us through the dying embers of the Massif Central and south west, ever closer to the Pyrenees. The first third of today sees the peloton hovering at around 1,000m altitude, before descending down into the town of Espalion. The absence of altitude doesn’t ease up the difficulty, however; while this is nominally a ‘flat’ stage in the roadbook, this is ‘French flat’ we’re talking about. A couple of category 3 climbs punctuate a very rolling course and it’s only in the final few kilometres into the finish at Albi where things truly flatten out. It’s for that reason why the sprinters’ teams will be eyeing up today, though you can’t discount a breakaway going the distance. Stage 10 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Saint-Flour – 11:25 22km: Cat 4 Côte de Mallet climb – 11:57 40.5km: Cat 3 Côte de Chaude-Aigues climb – 12:24 95.5km: Cat 3 Côte d’Espalion climb – 13:44 128.5km La Primaube sprint – 14:33 164.5km: Cat 3 Côte de La Malric climb – 15:25 217.5km: Arrive in Albi A rolling profile with a few cat. 3 climbs thrown in for good measure on stage 10 Stage 11: Albi – Toulouse Date: 17 July Distance: 167km — Flat Did you know? Toulouse hosted the finish of the third ever Tour stage in 1903 and was won by Hippolyte Aucouturier The ones to watch: Sentimental, rather than smart money, perhaps, but Mark Cavendish to win his 31st Tour de France stage win Will Mark Cavendish (pictured here at the 2019 AMGEN Tour of California) take a stage victory this year? Getty / Sean M. Haffey / Staff The day after a rest day is notorious for catching GC contenders cold, so they’ll be content indeed looking at the road book today to find a decidedly unthreatening parcours – short and flat! Crosswinds might be their only threat. It’s surely a day for the sprinters and there’ll be pressure to perform, given this year’s race is so backloaded with mountain stages. It was around this juncture of the 2018 race when many of the top sprinters in the world were being unceremoniously booted out of the race, with a succession of time cuts missed. Aside from a stage in Nimes, it’s mountains and time trials from here until Paris, so if a sprinter hasn’t notched a win by Toulouse, their number might be up. Again, it’s rolling terrain, rather than pan-flat, and it’s hard to imagine anything other than a sprint win by Toulouse’s ‘Capitole’ building (its town hall). While Toulouse, France’s 4th biggest city, is in the top 20 stage hosts of all time (this will be its 26th), it’s not hosted one since 2008, when a young Mark Cavendish won his second Tour de France stage in a race that began north of Albi in Figeac (this came three days after his first win in Châteauroux). Going back a little bit further, Toulouse hosted the finish of stage 3 in 1903, the first ever edition of the Tour. Stage 11 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Albi – 12:45 32km: Cat 3 Côte de Tonnac climb – 13:29 77km: Cat 4 Côte de Castelnau-de-Montmiral climb – 14:30 87km: Gaillac sprint – 14:44 167km: Arrive in Toulouse – 16:32 The profile on stage 11 favours sprinters so look out for high-paced riding Stage 12: Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre Date: 18 July Distance: 209.5km — Mountain Did you know? The 1910 race introduced the broom wagon. Back then, if you ended up in it, you could still expect to start the next day The ones to watch: Julian Alaphilippe, to showcase his climbing and descending skills and win from a small stage group The Col de Peyresourde brings up the curtain on the Pyrenees. A perennial Tour climb, it first featured in the 1910 edition – the first time the race went into the Pyrenees and started a truly monstrous 326km stage that also included the Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque cols. It’s a tough stage today, but not quite on that level. From the start in Toulouse, its largely false flat all the way to the sprint in Bagnères-de-Luchon, host of the race on 60 occasions (it’s merely passing through in 2019). Despite its frequency of use, the Peyresourde is often a priming climb, used at the start of stages that begin in Luchon, and it’s not especially pretty, given it’s a busy road that connects Luchon and Saint-Lary-Soulon. The same can’t be said for Hourquette d’Ancizan, a recent Tour inclusion (it made its debut in 2011) and a classically Pyrenean climb on a narrow road that has a truly wild feel to it. The climb from the east in Ancizan, which is the route the race takes this year, is tree lined but it opens up beautifully towards the 1,569m summit and continues throughout its peach of a descent. The stage finishes on the descent into Bagnères-de-Bigorre, bypassing the right turn in Payolle that would, if you were a tourist, take you up another Tour fave, Col d’Aspin. Stage 12 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Toulouse – 10:50 62.5km: Cat 4 Côte de Montoulieu-Saint-Bernard climb – 12:19 130.5km: Bagnères-de-Luchon sprint – 13:56 146km: Cat 1 Col de Peyresourde climb – 14:32 179km: Cat 1 Hourquette d’Ancizan climb – 15:29 209.5km: Arrive in Bagnères-de-Bigorre – 16:09 The Tour heads into the Pyrenees and a classic Tour climb, the Col de Peyresourde Stage 13: Pau – Pau Date: 19 July Distance: 27.2km — Individual time-trial Did you know? This year’s La Course women’s race takes place today on the same course as the time trial (five laps over 120km). The ones to watch: Rohan Dennis, the time trial World Champion, to win the stage. World Champion time triallist Rohan Dennis is a hot tip for the solo TT stage Getty / Heinz Zwicky / Stringer There have never been as few solo time trial kilometres as there have been in recent Tours de France (2015’s 14km being the all-time low). The reason is simple: in an age of often attritional racing in the mountains, where a cigarette paper can separate the leaders, a long time trial has too significant a bearing on the overall result of a race that the majority of people are tuning into for the road stages. The answer is a trend for shorter time trials, on hillier courses. How much this is done to favour home favourite Romain Bardet, a rider who often ships large amounts of time in races against the clock, and how much is to benefit the race as a whole, we don’t know, but we do know that the French would dearly love a homegrown winner. After all, it’s been 34 long years – Chris Froome was two months old! – since it last happened (Bernard Hinault in 1985). The course, which heads south of the city in a loop, is rolling from the start, reaching a max elevation of 372m in Medout at 11.8km (Pau is at 182m), before flattening out in the final third. The time gaps come the close of play won’t be huge, but in the context of the modern Tour significant enough, and Christian Prudhomme will be hoping it leaves things delicately poised, with a generous helping of mountains still to come for the climbing specialists. Stage 13 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Pau Le Tour des Géants – 13:00 to 16:19 7.7km: Split 1 Cériset – 13:10 to 16:29 15.5km: Split 2 Côte d’Esquillot – 13:20 to 16:39 21.9m: Split 3 Jurancon – 13:28 to 16:47 27.2km: Arrive in Pau – 13:35 to 16:54 Racing fans rejoice! The women’s La Course race also takes place today, so there’s more action to get stuck into Stage 14: Tarbes – Tourmalet Date: 20 July Distance: 117.5km — Mountain Did you know? 100 years of the yellow jersey will be celebrated on the Tourmalet, the race’s most historic mountain The ones to watch: A Romain Bardet win would delight the home fans and be an appropriate way to celebrate the journey After the (failed) experiment of the ultra-short 65km Pyrenean stage last year, Christian Prudhomme has reverted back to what used to constitute a short mountain stage with this finish on the Tourmalet. The 65km stage failed because it was too hard. Today has two, rather than three cols, and while it finishes on the massive 19km, 7.4 percent Tourmalet, the peloton might not be so cowed by it. After being primed on the category 1 Col du Soulor, the race climbs the Tourmalet from the western Luz-Saint-Sauveur side; it’s the equal in terms of average gradient (7.4 percent) as the La Mongie side from the east, but it’s the lesser of the two in terms of satisfaction (this western side is preceded by a huge stretch of false flat in the valley from Argeles- Gazost). This will be the 81st time the Tourmalet has featured in the race – more than any other climb – but it’s just the third summit finish (the lack of infrastructure at the top makes it problematic). The last time they finished here, in 2010, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck shadow-boxed their way to the summit, as Schleck attempted — and failed — to shake the stubborn Spaniard off his wheel. Schleck would win the stage (or rather gifted from Contador) with his opponent content with his overall lead. Stage 14 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Tarbes – 12:45 18km: Cat 4 Côte du Labatmale climb – 13:10 60.5km: Cat 1 Col du Soulor climb – 14:24 86km: Pierrefitte-Nestalas sprint – 14:55 117.5km: Arrive in Tourmalet – 16:02 This edition marks 100 years since the introduction of the Yellow Jersey, and there will be celebrations aplenty today Stage 15: Limoux – Foix Prat d’Albis Date: 21 July Distance: 185km — Mountain Did you know? Prat d’Albis has never been climbed by the race, continuing a search for new, untested climbs to showcase The ones to watch: Dan Martin (Team UAE Emirates) loves the Pyrenees. This is a final climb he can get his teeth stuck into Hot on the heels of the novelty of a Tourmalet finish comes a totally new climb, on Prat d’Albis, for what is, with close to 5,000m of climbing, the toughest stage of this year’s Pyrenees sojourn. On any other day the soothing sound of cowbells would greet a cyclist at the summit of the second climb, the 11.4km Port de Lers – today the noise will be drowned out by the Tour de France circus. Soon after, the 9.3km Mur de Péguère gets steep – and narrow – towards its summit, with its final 3.5km between 11 and 13 percent. It was just a couple of years ago that the Tour last came to the Péguère, as Warren ‘Wawa’ Barguil sealed his place in the affections of the French public by out-sprinting Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alberto Contador on Bastille Day in Foix. Today, however, the peloton aren’t nearly done once they reach Foix; instead they must winch themselves up Prat d’Albis, a narrow, Vueltaesque dead-end road to seemingly nowhere, 800 metres further above the Ariège town. Team Ineos, including Geraint Thomas and Wout Poels, recce’d the new climb in May, which is said to have terrific, far-reaching views on a good day. With a rest day tomorrow, and a 300km transfer to Nîmes, it’s time for the riders to leave everything on the road. Stage 15 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Limoux – 11:10 60.5km: Cat 2 Col de Montségur climb – 12:47 93.5km: Tarascon-sur-Ariége sprint – 13:35 120.5km: Cat 1 Port de Lers climb – 14:29 147km: Cat 1 Mur de Péguére climb – 15:18 185.5km: Arrive in Foix Prat d’Albis – 16:23 Today a new climb, the Prat d’Albis, joins the Tour de France Stage 16: Nîmes – Nîmes Date: 23 July Distance: 177km — Flat Did you know: Nîmes is another happy hunting ground of Mark Cavendish, and the site of his fourth stage win in 2008 The ones to watch: Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) to take another win before a torried Alpine mountain grind It’s rather unusual for Tour de France host towns to get a start and finish of a road stage on the same day and it’s likely got something to do with the deal negotiated when Nîmes hosted the start of the Vuelta a España in 2017 (such deals often come as part of a package). Yet the city’s association with the Tour goes back well over a century, hosting its first start and finish in 1905, the third edition. Nîmes is a city of 150,000 people, sandwiched inland between the larger coastal cities of Montpellier and Marseille. It’s heralded as the ‘Rome of France’ , the ‘most Roman’ city outside of Italy and it’s easy to see why with its marvellous amphitheatre, the Arena of Nîmes. The clockwise loop today sticks within the boundaries of the Gard department and serves as something of a solitary respite between an almost exclusive barrage of mountains that have passed in the Pyrenees and remain in the Alps. It’s the final chance for the sprinters, or what remains of them if they haven’t succumbed to the brutal time cuts, before Paris, but again, it’s one of those ‘French flat’ stages, more rolling than pan flat. There’s a short, sharp climb around 17km from the finish, but it shouldn’t pose an issue for even the most flat track of bullies. Stage 16 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Nîmes – 12:30 65km: Vallérargues sprint – 13:56 96km: Cat 4 Côte de Saint-Jean-du-Pin climb – 14:38 177km: Arrive in Nîmes – 16:26 It’s unusual to see a day of racing during the Tour start and end in the same town Stage 17: Pont du Gard – Gap Date: 24 July Distance: 200km — Hilly Did you know? French fave jean-François Bernard won his first stage in 1986 by over three minutes in a stage from Nîmes to Gap The ones to watch: Simon Clarke (EF Education First) is enjoying his best season and might be let off the leash Simon Clarke in action at the Criterium du Dauphine 2019 Getty / Tim de Waele / Staff Today has solo move written all over it, as the peloton finally heads into the Alps ahead of three successive gruelling stages. We begin at the Pont du Gard, a magnificent first century structure — France’s most-visited ancient monument — that was once the highest (48m) aqueduct of the Roman world, built to supply water to nearby Nîmes, then a hub of the empire. It served as an aqueduct until the 6th century before becoming a tollgate in the Middle Ages and a road bridge from the 18th to 20th century. Now it’s been restored to its former glory, free of tyranny of motor vehicles. As for the stage, the peloton climbs gradually over 70km to reach a height of 883m just after the half way point at the summit of the Col de Mévouillon. The course then plateaus somewhat for another 75km before the final challenge of the Col de la Sentinelle, a 5.2km 5.4 percent climb topping out 8.5km before the finish, with a descent into Gap punctuated by a couple of small rises. The town often favours long-distance attacks, from Jean-François Bernard in 1986 to most recently, in 2015, Rubén Plaza, and with three huge stages on the trot starting tomorrow, the leaders will be happy to let unthreatening riders go to the finish. Stage 17 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Pont du Gard – 11:40 62km: Vaison-la-Romaine sprint – 13:09 104.5km: Cat 4 Côte de la Rochette-du-Buis climb – 14:09 191.5km: Cat 3 Col de la Sentinelle climb – 16:13 200km: Arrive in Gap – 16:25 The profile – gradual climbs and a punchy finish – is likely to mean this is an action-packed day of racing Stage 18: Embrun – Valloire Date: 25 July Distance: 208km — Mountain Did you know? The Galibier, so often the highest Tour climb, is 128m lower than the Co d’Iseran of tomorrow’s stage The ones to watch: Nairo Quintana (Movistar), a native of high altitude in Colombia, often thrives on the long, towering climbs When Christian Prudhomme declared at the race’s launch last October that this was the ‘highest Tour in history’, this is one of the stages that backs that claim up. We still think 1998’s race, that of the Festina drugs scandal, was the highest, but it depends on your definition of high. Tomorrow’s stage actually sees the race go higher, over Europe’s highest pass (Col d’Iseran), but today has something unusual for the Tour – three increasingly higher climbs over the 2,000m mark. First comes the tougher side of the Col de Vars from Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye (9.3km at 7.5 percent), moving swiftly onto the Col d’Izoard, home to some of the most dramatic scenes in the Alps – and the scene of so much dramatic racing. On its last visit in 2017, it hosted its first-ever summit finish (Warren Barguil winning to complete his remarkable Tour), but today the race continues, following a familiar route down to Briançon, France’s highest city. From there it’s a long, steady drag up the wide roads of the Col du Lauteret (2,058m), before a right-turn onto the early slopes of the imposing Galibier (2,642m). Many of the main contenders would be grateful for a summit finish. Instead, the best descenders will seize upon the long 19km descent. Stage 18 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Embrun – 10:25 13km: Côte des Damoiselles Coiffées cat. 3 climb – 10:47 45km: Les Thuiles sprint – 11:34 82.5km: Cat 1 Col de Vars climb – 12:45 133km: HC Col d’Izoard – 14:12 189km: HC Col du Galibier – 15:56 208km: Arrive in Valloire – 16:17 Three passes over 2,000m categorise this day’s racing Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes Date: 26 July Distance: 126.5km — Mountain Did you know? The first to the summit of the race (Col d’Iseran) wins the Souvenir Henri Desgrange – and €5,000 to boot! The ones to watch: Colombian Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) often fares well at high altitude Egan Bernal of Colombia, pictured here at the 2019 Tour of Colombia Getty / Maximiliano Blanco / Stringer Today has the feel of a ramp test with near incessant climbing in one form or another, from the start in Saint- Jean-de-Maurienne (585m), all the way up to the summit of the Col d’Iseran (2,770m) – the highest mountain pass in Europe – 89km into the stage. There’s nothing particular sinister about the 7.5 percent average gradient of the 12.9km Iseran, besides the toughest kilometre (10.2) being its penultimate. Rather, it’s the towering altitude this late in the race that will be of most concern to the GC contenders. The Colombians tend to fare best, given their altitudinal heritage. Despite its status as Europe’s highest pass, it’s infrequently employed – this is only its third appearance since 1963, and just the second time ever it’ll climb the south side from Bonneval-sur-Arc. From the summit, there’s a 15km descent into the popular ski resort of Val d’Isere, then a further drop before a final ascent through the various towns of neighbouring Tignes, finishing at 2,113m – the fifth time in two days that the race has broken 2,000m. The contenders for yellow will have to manage their resources wisely ahead of tomorrow. Stage 19 route profile, highlights and times 0km: Depart Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – 12:55 25km: Cat 3 Côte de Saint-André climb – 13:35 38km: Cat 2 Montée d’Aussois climb – 14:01 63.5km: Cat 3 Col de la Madeleine climb – 14:40 68.5km: Bessans sprint – 14:48 89km: HC Col de l’Iseran – 15:36 124.5km: Cat 1 Montée de Tignesclimb – 16:32 165.5km: Arrive in Tignes – 16:35 Stage 19 sees some huge elevation as the Tour reaches 2,770m on the Col d’Iseran Stage 20: Albertville – Val Thorens Date: 27 July Distance: 130km — Mountain Did you know? The road to Val Thorens will be the seventh time the race has passed above 2,000m altitude this year The ones to watch: The yellow jersey on the defensive, a minor contender to take the spoils – perhaps someone like Rigoberto Urán This is it. The final chance for the yellow jersey to hold their nerve, for his challengers to deliver a telling blow, for the also rans to salvage their race and for the remaining sprinters to simply survive one more day of toil before Paris. Everyone still in the race has something to play for. What a way for mountain stages to bow out too. After the lovely Cormet de Roselend comes new kid on the block, the Côte de Longefoy (6.6km at 6.5 percent). The meat in today’s sandwich, however, is the mammoth climb up to the Val Thorens ski resort, the fifth and final summit finish of the 2019 Tour de France. From Moutiers at 539m, Val Thorens sits at 2,365m (once again, we’re over 2000m) and when you take into account the four sections of descent you’re looking at, all done, 2,000m of elevation gain. It’s a climb, like the similarly interminable Col de la Croix de Fer, where the average gradient of 5.5 percent over its 33.4km doesn’t begin to do it justice. While it only briefly gets into double digit gradients, strip out the descents and you’re staring at a sturdy 7 percent. Riders of the 2019 Etape du Tour will have ridden this route six days earlier, the majority in twice the time as the predicted four hours of today’s winner, putting their efforts into some perspective. Stage 20 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Albertville – 12:45 11.5km: Villard-sur-Doron sprint – 13:03 36km: Cat 1 Cormet de Roselend climb – 13:57 75.5km: Cat 2 Côte de Longefoy climb – 14:55 130km: Arrive in Val Thorens – 16:44 If it’s not all wrapped up by now, stage 20 is the last opportunity for to make a bid for the Maillot Jaune Stage 21: Rambouillet — Paris Champs-Élysées Date: 28 July Distance: 128km — Flat Did you know? Greg LeMond won the best Tour finish in 1989. He beat Laurent Fignon in the 24.5km time trial to leapfrog him The ones to watch: Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won last year here and has the engine to overcome the mountains As in 2018 (and many years before it) the 2019 Tour de France will conclude on the streets of Paris Getty / Tim de Waele / Staff One of these days, Christian Prudhomme, the race director, ought to keep the racing going through the final stage. This Paris procession, where the yellow jersey isn’t attacked at any point in the stage, is a long-held tradition, but it turns what should be a showpiece occasion into a bit of a damp squib. Is that too harsh a view? Perhaps. There is spectacle in the final sprint on the Champs-Élysées – a bucket list victory for all the top sprinters – and the recently introduced evening finish has added atmosphere into the final, but for many the race has already finished the day before. The yellow jersey has already had their ‘winner’s’ press conference, allowing an early bath for many of the media (to be fair, they deserve it after three weeks of overlong days and unwashed clothes). For those who do make it, the sprint is one of the best of the year, with the teams winding it up over eight laps of the Champs-Élysées. Surviving this far is an achievement for the pure sprinters and there was a time when they’d be voluntarily on the beach by now, such was their reluctance to suffer through the mountains. But they get judged on results – and this is one their team managers and sponsors will have had marked for them since the start of the season. Stage 21 highlights, times and route profile 0km: Depart Rambouillet – 17:10 34km: Cat 4 Côte de Saint-Rémy-lés-Chevreuse climb – 18:12 38km: Cat 4 Côte de Châteaufort climb – 18:18 89.5km: Paris – Haut de Champs-Élysées sprint – 19:36 128km: Arrive in Paris, Champs-Élysées – 20:19 As ever, the grand finale is located on the Champs-Élysées in Paris