When does Tour de France 2014 start? Race preview, where to watch it and everything you need to know as Chris Froome defends title

A look ahead to the 2014 Tour de France, which starts in the United Kingdom for only the second time

When does it begin?

For only the second time in its 111-year history, the Tour de France will kick off on British soil when Leeds plays host to the Grand Départ on Saturday, 5 July. Unusually, this year’s race begins with a road stage rather than a prologue, giving an opportunity for Mark Cavendish or his great German rival Marcel Kittel to slip into the leader’s yellow jersey. And were Cavendish to require any extra motivation, his mother used to live in Harrogate - within spitting distance of the first stage finish.

Where can I watch it in the UK?

For a glimpse of the riders before the race even begins, head to Victoria Gardens in Leeds town centre, where the teams will be signing in on the morning of the Grand Départ.

Of the three British-based stages, the second from York to Sheffield should provide the most scenic delights. The 201 kilometres cross the Pennines and take in some of this country’s most iconic hills. The climb of Holme Moss in particular is expected to attract thousands of people- but the stage will be decided atop the brutally steep Jenkin Road, where you will be able to see the likes of Slovak powerhouse Peter Sagan in full flow.

The best vantage point for Stage 3 is obvious- the finish is on The Mall in London, as it was the first and last time the Tour visited Britain back in 2007. The long drag up to Buckingham Palace was also the site of the finish to the 2012 Olympic Road Race, when the Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov spoiled Mark Cavendish’s party with a hugely unpopular victory.

What are the key stages?

The favourites for the yellow jersey will have been having recurring nightmares about Stage 5. That’s because it features cobbles- many of the same sections used in the Spring Classic Paris-Roubaix, otherwise known as the ‘Hell of the North,’ which can end a contender’s race in an instant.

Stage 10 is the first major mountain test- and it ends at La Planche des Belles Filles, the site of Chris Froome’s maiden Tour win in 2012. On its way from Mulhouse, the stage passes over the Petit Ballon- the very first mountain ever used in the Tour de France.

If the yellow jersey contenders have not been separated by the Alps and Pyrenees, then Stage 20’s 54 kilometre time-trial to Bergerac will be crucial.

Team Sky's Chris Froome of Great Britain, centre, celebrates with team mates as he crosses the line to win the 2013 Tour de France in Paris Team Sky's Chris Froome of Great Britain, centre, celebrates with team mates as he crosses the line to win the 2013 Tour de France in Paris Where can defending champion Chris Froome win it and lose it?

A rider of Froome’s build will have to watch out for those cobbles - in 2010, they ended the Luxembourger Frank Schleck’s race via a broken collarbone. The defending champion will relish the ‘Queen Stage’ that takes in the legendary climb of the Tourmalet before a summit finish atop Hautacam, the scene of many memorable Tour battles over the years. And with Alberto Contador in ominous form, Froome will be grateful for the length of the Stage 20 time-trial which suits his abilities better than the Spaniard’s.

Who are the main contenders?

Froome is the undoubted favourite, despite a patchy season thus far. But Contador is not far behind- he was superior to the Briton at the Dauphiné-Libéré warm-up race in June.

Alberto Contador (in the yellow) is tipped to pose the biggest threat to Froome(in green) Alberto Contador (in the yellow) is tipped to pose the biggest threat to Froome(in green) Behind those two sit a group of riders surrounded by uncertainty. Alejandro Valverde will head the powerful Movistar team’s challenge and will expect a podium place. However he has never won the Tour and Froome may be thankful that his teammate, the diminutive Colombian climber Nairo Quintana is not riding after winning the Giro d’Italia in May. Joaquim Rodriguez of Team Katusha who finished third last year will ride for stage wins rather than overall glory this time around, after an injury-disrupted season.

Who could surprise the front-runners?

Perhaps this may be the year the French finally produce at their own race. The 2013 race was a Gallic annus horribilis saved only by Christophe Riblon’s memorable win on Alpe d’Huez, but in 2014 home prospects look brighter. Pierre Rolland performed strongly at the Giro d’Italia to finish 4- the highest Grand Tour placing by a French rider in 3 years- whilst the youthful Romain Bardet turned in a series of strong performances at the Dauphiné.

French cyclist Pierre Rolland French cyclist Pierre Rolland For an American surprise of the nice rather than Lance Armstrong-flavoured kind, look to Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky. The man nicknamed ‘Pitbull’ by his team manager Jonathan Vaughters finished 10 last year, and returns in 2014 with a team fully committed to riding for him in the mountains.

If it's a British outside bet you're after, look no further than Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Yates. The first-year pro was a late inclusion in the Australian squad- but the steep hills of Stage 2 into Sheffield should suit his talents well.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm that there was a 'minor disturbance'

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher Cornwall

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teachers ...

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album