Leeds will host the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France on Saturday as Chris Froome attempts to defend the title he won last year and make it three consecutive British winners in Paris at the end of July.
Harrogate, York, Sheffield, Cambridge and London will also be seeing the action in the first three stages of the famous race before the peloton finally makes its way toward France.
The 101st edition of this storied race is likely to be as hard fought as ever with a winner eventually emerging after 21 stages of gruelling battle.
Here is the full schedule for the race, as well as full television and live streaming information.
|1||5 July||Leeds/Harrogate||190.5 km|
|2||6 July||York/Sheffield||201 km|
|3||7 July||Cambridge/London||155 km|
|4||8 July||Le Touquet-Paris-Plage/Lille||163.5 km|
|5||9 July||Ypres/Arenberg Porte du Hainaut||155.5 km|
|6||10 July||Arras/Reims||194 km|
|7||11 July||Epernay/Nancy||234.5 km|
|8||12 July||Tomblaine/Gerardmer La Mauselaine||161 km|
|9||13 July||Gerardmer/Mulhouse||170 km|
|10||14 July||Mulhouse/Planche des Belles Filles||161.5 km|
|/||15 July||Rest Day|
|11||16 July||Besancon/Oyonnax||187.5 km|
|12||17 July||Bourg-en-Bresse/Saint-Etienne||185.5 km|
|13||18 July||Saint-Etienne/Chamrousse||197.5 km|
|14||19 July||Grenoble/Risoul||177 km|
|15||20 July||Tallard/Nimes||222 km|
|/||21 July||Rest Day|
|16||22 July||Carcassonne/Bagneres-de-Luchon||237.5 km|
|17||23 July||Saint-Gaudens/Pla d'Adet||124.5 km|
|18||24 July||Pau/Hautacam||145.5 km|
|19||25 July||Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour/Bergerac||208.5 km|
|20||26 July||Bergerac/Perigueux||54 km|
|21||27 July||Evry/Paris||137.5 km|
Dates: Saturday, July 5 to Sunday, July 27
TV Info: Available live on ITV4 (UK) and NBC (US)
Froome Facing Tougher Test
Although still the favourite to win this year's Tour de France, the 29-year-old Froome faces tough competition for the yellow jersey, and he will be well challenged in 2014.
Last year was almost a procession from Stage 8 when the Team Sky rider stamped his authority on the race and never really looked like losing control.
Froome has not been in as irresistible form in the lead up to the 2014 race and neither has his trusted wing-man, Richie Porte—as cycling journalist Mike Tomalaris alludes to—who was so crucial last year for Team Sky's victory:
Anyone else feeling for Richie Porte at the moment. TdF looks a long way. Fingers crossed he'll come good. #Dauphine— Michael Tomalaris (@miketomalaris) June 9, 2014
Sky will also be without 2012 champion Sir Bradley Wiggins after he was omitted from the nine-man squad, reports suggesting Froome preferred Porte to be his No. 2 per BetVictor:
Reports suggest that Chris Froome would prefer Australian Richie Porte as his number 2 rather than Bradley Wiggins - meaning no #TDF for him— BetVictor (@BetVictor) June 2, 2014
However, despite the possibly disrupted preparations, Froome has proven quality and will no doubt be in the mix come the later stages.
The penultimate stage is the only time-trial of the race and could be key for Froome who made up a great deal of time in the two time-trials last year. It is the first time since 1953 that the Tour has had only a single time-trial stage.
His closest challenger is likely to be Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, with many billing the 2014 edition as a straight shootout between the pair.
Will Froome win the 2014 Tour de France?
The Spaniard is a two-time previous winner—most recently in 2009—and he has shown terrific form this season, beating Froome in the recent Criterium du Dauphine, a key Tour warm-up.
Contador has a strong team around him who can help him through the mountains where he can stay in touch with Froome and potentially overcome the Kenyan-born rider.
His weaknesses lie in the time-trial, thus the presence of only one such stage in the race this year gives Contador an edge over Froome.
The Tour de France rarely fails to live up to the hype, and along Froome and Contador's battle, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel will all be fighting to be the top sprinter.
As the Sunday Times' David Walsh notes, the Stage 1 finish has significance for Cavendish, and he will no doubt be desperate to get off to a winning start in Harrogate this year:
Will write about Cavendish in this week's S Times. As kid he holidayed in Harrogate, loved Betty's cafe close to finish of TdF opening stage— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) June 12, 2014
It's all set up for a fascinating few weeks of cycling through Britain and France with battles to be won all through the field. However, it remains to be seen whether Froome can once again win the Tour de France for Team Sky.