Apparently sick of Peter Sagan winning the maillot vert at a canter, ASO has rebalanced the points system in a move that tries to reposition the classification. A massive 50 points is now on offer for the first over the line in any "flat" stage, with a quick drop-off to second (30) and third (20), putting a premium on winning stages over high finishes. The last two years has seen one solitary stage victory and a lot of seconds, thirds etc. deliver Peter Sagan the maillot vert, meanwhile Marcel Kittel, who notched up eight in the same period, finished fourth. The sentiment of the new system is good, the green jersey should be a sprinters classification to retain its relevance, but while the revisions will likely shake things up, there's every chance Sagan could still win.
Time bonuses return to the Tour for the first time since 2007. The 10, 6, 4 bonuses on offer at the finish and 3, 2, 1, at the intermediates aren't dramatic amounts but they do allow yellow to move around in the first week. A good move, and less chance of Fabian wearing yellow for the entirety of the first nine stages.
A deceptive first week
With no Vosges and no high mountain stage until Stage 10, when the race first hits the Pyrenees, it's easy to think the Tour is returning to a formulaic first week of sprints. Not so. Two of the first nine stages are time trials, the Mur de Bretagne and Mur de Huy stages are built for the puncheurs and Stage 4, from Seraing to Cambrai, is not just long, but also throws in some cobblestones. That leaves just four stage stages which could end in sprints, and that's assuming the race's trek through the north of France delivers little in the way of its usual tempestuousness. Don't be fooled, there's no relaxing here.
Time trials not in vogue
As pointed out over at the Inner Ring, "never have there been so few time trial kilometres, at least in the modern era." Considering that the bulk of those kilometres come in a 28 km team time trial and it's clear the chrono tests will have little effect on the destination of yellow in Paris. It's a big move from Prudhomme that highlights the importance of the mountains, but the race may miss something in omitting the penultimate day's chrono test. The suspense, the nervousness of the riders ahead of the final time trial always add another layer to the Tour, but then perhaps that's made up for in the finale Prudhomme has designed instead.
In this week's Podcast we discussed the Tour's route at length, and Anthony Tan, pointed out the Julia Gillard-esque repetition of the words 'climbers' and 'climbs', in appraisals by riders after the announcement - and rightly so. There are seven high mountain stages in 2015, and five summit finishes, the equal most this century. The course is purpose built for a pure climber to shine, Nairo Quintana already top of many favourites lists. But interesting too is the race's final week which includes plenty of climbing - four days straight in the Alps - but over short, exciting stages.
A bridge too far or just right?
Anything can happen in July but the sum of Prudhomme's design is in re-invigorating the race, and keeping it exciting for a television audience throughout. Shorter time trials, shorter mountain stages, retaining a cobbled element, novel inclusions like the Mur de Huy and Bretagne, the changes to the points system; it all helps in keeping the race fresh, constantly renewing over the Tour's three weeks. It's a strong route on paper, but don't forget it is just that. It's only the canvas, the riders will paint the picture.
There was a lot in the 2015 Tour de France route unveil to take in. Al Hinds takes a look over some of its critical points.