A six-strong Great Britain Cycling Team will start the 2014 Tour de l’Avenir on Saturday, the final event in the UCI Under 23 Nations’ Cup.
The eight-day stage race begins with a four-and-a half kilometre prologue in Saint-Flour and concludes at La Toussuire on Saturday 30 August.
The ‘Tour of the Future’, reaching its 51st edition this year, is now considered a Tour de France for developing riders and has been a part of the UCI Under 23 Nations’ Cup since 2007.
Owain Doull, Scott Davies, Dan Pearson, Dan McLay, Jake Kelly and Tao Geoghegan Hart make up Great Britain’s squad and road manager Keith Lambert believes he has a well composed team.
“There’s no doubt we have a strong team,” Lambert said. “The way the team is made up, it’s a good and balanced team - there are some climbers in there and some finishers so you would hope and expect to get something out of the race.”
The prologue and first three stages will act as a prelude to four consecutive summit finishes, the last a hors-categorie climb on the seventh stage.
With the stark contrast between the opening and concluding stages of the race, Lambert will wait to see how the race unfolds to select a team leader.
“I think we’ll see how it develops because if you look at the format of the race the first half of the race would favour the sprinters and all-rounders whereas the last part of the race they are all mountain-top finishes,” Lambert explained.
“If the race is together you’d have to be a good finisher to succeed. There are some serious climbs in there - you’d need to be a good climber to succeed in the overall.”
Last year Adam Yates finished second overall with twin brother Simon winning two stages in the colours of Great Britain. Both now ride for Orica-GreenEDGE in the UCI WorldTour.
The stages (click profile map for full size)
At just under four-and-a-half kilometres, the prologue starting and finishing in Saint-Flour will see minimal time gains with a small ascension at the midway point in the course at the Av. du Sailhant.
With five categorised climbs in the opening 63km, the 144.6km stage from Saint-Flour to Brioude could fracture in the early stages. After the Col du Mont Mouchet, a long flat run to the finish might see any breakaway reined in.
Three more categorised climbs over 142.6km from Brioude to Saint-Galmier. The second category Cote de Medeyrolles is sandwiched between the third-category Cote de la Chaise-dieu and Cote De la Chaulme. A final ramp at Saint-Galmier comes three kilometres before the finish.
A flat 150.7km from Montrond-les-Bains to Paray-le-Monial features just one categorised climb, the fourth-category Cote de Cordelle.
The first of four successive summit finishes comes on the Montee Plateau de Solaison, after a 154.4km ride to the foot of the category one climb. Before then the category-four Cote De Premeyzel and category-three Cote de Cruseilles will act as a prelude on the journey from Saint-Vulbas to Plateau De Solaison.
At 101.6km from Bons-en-Chablais to Les Carroz D'arache, the final ascent starts at 87.8km with a brief flat at Saint-Sigismond before more climbing to the finish. The second-category Col de Saxel comes first, 42.4km in.
Three challenging climbs are squeezed into a 108.4-kilometres parcours from Saint-Gervais to La Rosiere-Mont Valezan. Before riders can focus on the first-category summit finish at Montee de la Rosière, they must negotiate the Col Des Saisies and the hors-categorie Cormet De Roselend, a brutal 20.5-kilometre effort.
Unlike the Tour de France, there is no ceremonial ride on the final stage. Instead, the peloton faces a final 95.1-kilometre examination starting at an altitude of 711m in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne. Before they can focus on the hors-category summit finish on Montee de la Toussuire, they must negotiate the Tour de France giants of the Col du Mollard and Col de la Croix de Fer. The former comes just 4.4km into the stage, the latter reaching a height of 2066m. Then the race end asks riders to rise for 18.6km to La Toussuire.