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Here's the route for the 2014 Tour de France -- and where it could be won and lost

Next year’s Tour will start with three English stages before moving to France.

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PA Graphics/Press Association Images

Stage 5 – Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainault, 156 kilometres (96.9 miles)

Race organisers have decided to spice up the 2014 race with cobblestones, which will strike fear into the main contenders.

There may be only 15.4km of cobblestones compared to the 50km that form part of the “Queen of the Classics”, Paris-Roubaix, which passes through the same territory.

But it only takes one little section of bumps to bring riders crashing down and sending some home with a broken collarbone.

The cobblestones are spread out over nine separate sections so expect the overall contenders’ teams to be jittery during the last 70km of this stage, which is where the cobblestones make their appearance.

The Tour may not be won here but it can certainly be lost.

Stage 10 – Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, 161km

The 5.9km finish up to La Planche des Belles Filles made its Tour debut last year but proved so popular and spectacular that it has been brought back.

Although the average gradient is only 8.5 percent — a punishing challenge in itself — it starts with a 13 percent section and the final ramp is an incredible 20 percent.

It was here in 2012 that defending champion Chris Froome gained his first ever Tour stage victory having chased down an attack by Cadel Evans, who was then reigning champion.

Froome will not be the favourite, with the finish more suited to the likes of Nairo Quintana or Jaoquim Rodriguez.

Either way, this will be the first real chance for the contenders to take time out of each other.

Stage 14 – Grenoble to Risoul, 177km

The first stage in the High Alps includes more than 65km of climbing, including the final 12.6km slope up to Risoul at an average gradient of 6.9 percent.

The first climb is not tough at an average 3.9 percent but it labours on for 34km.

Perhaps the real damage will be done in the middle climb, the Izoard, which at 19km and six percent will really test the contenders’ legs.

The previous day sees a mountain top finish at the end of a gruelling 18.2km, 7.3 percent climb and if anyone is tired or struggling after that, then it is the 14th stage that could see them lose serious time.

Stage 17 – Saint-Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan, 125km

This may be the shortest stage of the race apart from the time-trial but it is not going to be easy. Any difficulty the Alps can present, the Pyrenees can better.

This has four categorised climbs ranging from 8.3km to 13.2km in length and at between 7 and 8.3 percent average gradient.

The short length of the stage suggests this one could be tackled at speed, meaning those with heavy legs and weary bodies will likely wilt in the mountain sun.

Expect a breakaway on this stage a long way from home that may go all the way, even though the true fireworks will take place amongst the contenders.

Stage 20 – Bergerac to Perigueux, 54km time-trial

The one and only time-trial in the 2014 edition comes in the penultimate stage.

With no team time-trial and only this one race against the clock, it will likely be a last chance, probably for Froome, or perhaps even Alberto Contador, to snatch victory from the more specialist climbers.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said organisers deliberately left this stage until late in the hope of encouraging the climbers to fight right to the end.

If things go to plan, this could be the stage for a dramatic see-saw battle with Froome, or Contador, chasing down Vincenzo Nibali or Quintana in the battle for overall success.

- © AFP, 2013

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