Tour de France 2015
Tour de France Defending Champion Vincenzo Nibali (R) in a practice session in Utrecht ahead of the main raceReuters

The Tour de France 2015 is set to kick off at Utrecht, Netherlands on Saturday, and it is a record sixth time that the annual multiple stage bicycle race starts in the Western European nation.

This year's tour, which comes to an end in Paris on 26 July, features six summit finishes to test the 198 riders in the 21-stage race. It includes mountainous routes, individual time trial, cobbled roads, crosswinds, short, sharp climbs and a team time trial.

The opening day features the only individual time trial of the race. It covers about 8.5 miles, shorter than most amateur races against the clock.

A total of 2088 miles will be covered by the riders from 22 teams, and the prize winner will pocket £320,602.

Billed as the top four this year, the race includes three former Tour winners: Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, who won last year; Alberto Contador of Spain, who has won three times but lost one of his victories after failing a doping test; and Chris Froome of Britain, the winner in 2013.

With them will be Nairo Quintana, a Colombian made for the mountains, who finished second to Froome in 2013.

The first 19 stages of the race can be mooted to be relatively easy, but there could be a do-or-die situation on Stage 20 -- the last contest before the largely ceremonial final run into Paris the next day.

Rerouted because of a landslide, Stage 20 will still finish up the switchbacks that climb to the Alpe d'Huez ski resort. The switchbacks are as famous for luring crowds as they are for the difficulty they present to riders.

"You could be good for 19 stages of the race," says Andrew Talansky, an American rider with the Cannondale-Garmin team. "But if you're a little bit off or a little bit tired on Stage 20, you could lose everything."

Britain's Froome also expects the tour not to be an easy one at all, and he exclaims that the battle to finish as the top rider is going to be the biggest in years.

"The way the Tour's structured this year it is going to be the biggest battle we've seen for years," the 30-year-old told BBC Sport.

"That first week is going to be crucial, the first nine days actually until we get up in the mountains on stage 10.

"In my mind, it's almost as if each one of these nine stages is like a classic race in its own right."

Stage two of the race, which will largely be raced along the Belgian coast with the threat of crosswinds, is also seen as one of the more tough stages for the riders this year.

The second and third weeks are predominantly spent in the Pyrenees and Alps, culminating in the famed 21-hairpin ascent of Alpe d'Huez on the penultimate day of the race.


In India, the 21-day race will be LIVE on Ten Sports (7 pm IST), with the option of LIVE streaming as well on

Viewers in the UK can catch it on Eurosport. ITV4 will be broadcasting from Holland with programmes starting at 1pm BST while S4C's live coverage starts 30min later at 1.30pm.

Highlights: Eurosport2 6-7pm & 9-10.30pm; ITV4 7-8pm; S4C from 10pm

Live TV: British EurosportITV4S4C

Viewers in the US can catch it on NBC - broadcasting four to five hours of live coverage every stage on its NBC Sports channel. 

NBC Sports will also air a slightly compressed three-hour broadcast of each stage in primetime, starting at 8 p.m. ET each night. 

Also read