Forget any notions of a gentle start to the Tour- Stage 2 is a rough-and-tumble, helter-skelter ride over many of the Pennines’ steepest climbs. This could be a chance for an explosive climber to make an early mark on the race.
In fact it bears more resemblance to the route of a single-day Classic like Liège-Bastogne-Liège than to a traditional Tour de France stage. Normally the race favourites would expect to be able cruise through the first few days- but on the bleakly beautiful Peak District hills they will have to take extra care. The finish up the knee-quiveringly steep Jenkin Road will cause ructions within the peloton, and may even favour a sprinter with climbing power like Cannondale’s Peter Sagan.
No fewer than nine classified climbs dot the winding way from York to Sheffield. Holme Moss is difficult enough to have earned a Category 2 rating from race organisers ASO- that’s the third-highest ranking a Tour climb can be given. Before that the riders must traverse the incongruously-named Côte de Blubberhouses and the ominously-monikered Oxenhope Moor- both prime opportunities for a breakaway to go clear. Expect some lesser-known teams and riders to be allowed a few minutes on the front, before the favourites’ squads of Sky, Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo bring proceedings back together for the climactic stage finish.
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Watch previews for all 21 stages of the 2014 Tour de France on The Independent in the coming days.