Tour de France 2012: You ultimate guide to this year's race
14:37 GMT, 22 June 2012
14:40 GMT, 22 June 2012
The Tour de France starts at the end of this month – and here is your complete lowdown on the big race across the Channel…
Contenders for the yellow jersey
Team: BMC Racing
Previous appearances (finishes): 2005 (8), 2006 (4), 2007 (2), 2008 (2), 2009 (30), 2010 (26), 2011 (1)
Stage wins: One (2011: stage four)
After twice finishing runner-up, Evans became the first Australian winner of cycling's most prestigious race in 2011 with a supreme display. Will be highly fancied to succeed once again.
Team: Team Sky
Previous appearances (finishes): 2006 (124), 2007 (withdrawn after stage 16), 2009 (fourth), 2010 (24), 2011 (abandoned during stage seven)
Stage wins: None
The three-time Olympic champion turned himself from track thoroughbred to mountain goat to equal the best finish by a Briton in 2009 with fourth place. After winning Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine in 2012, he is in the form of his life.
Team: RadioShack-Nissan Trek
Previous appearances (finishes): 2006 (10), 2007 (17), 2008 (6), 2009 (5), 2010 (abandoned during stage three), 2011 (3)
Stage wins: Two (2006: stage 15; 2009: stage 17)
With brother Andy, the 2010 champion, absent through injury, Frank Schleck is poised to assume leadership of the RadioShack-Nissan Trek team. Will have to make his gains in the mountains due to inferior time-trialling ability.
Previous appearances (finishes): 2008 (20), 2009 (7)
Stage wins: None
An outside bet, but proficient in the mountains and against the clock, the Italian has won the Vuelta and twice placed third in the Giro d'Italia.
Prologue: Saturday, June 30 – Liege to Liege (6.4-kilometres)
Do not bet against Spartacus. Fabian Cancellara will fancy the yellow jersey on a route which favours power and includes plenty of straight sections, plus some tricky turns.
Stage one: Sunday, July 1 – Liege to Seraing (198km)
The first road stage finishes at the top of the day's fifth fourth category climb, a 2.5km rise to the finish which will favour explosive riders such as Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, rather than the likes of sprinter Mark Cavendish.
Stage two: Monday, July 2 – Vise to Tournai (207.5km)
A flat stage which is likely to favour the mass sprint finish in which Cavendish thrives. The likes of Andre Griepel, Tyler Farrar and Peter Sagan will also seek success.
Stage three: Tuesday, July 3 – Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer (197km)
Another day for Gilbert and his ilk, with six short, sharp climbs in the final 60km, including a 700m ascent to the finish line.
Stage four: Wednesday, July 4 – Abbeville to Rouen (214.5km)
The route follows the coast, where the winds could cause disruption for the peloton. The overall contenders will need to be aware of the potential for time losses.
Stage five: Thursday, July 5 – Rouen to Saint-Quentin (196.5km)
A day which the sprinters will relish after a challenging first week for the fast men of the peloton.
Stage six: Friday, July 6 – Epernay to Metz (207.5km)
Cavendish and co will seek further success in Metz on another day across the flat.
Stage seven: Saturday, July 7 – Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles (199km)
The overall contenders will be whittled down as the first major changes in the general classification standings occur on the 6km long finishing ascent at an average gradient of 8.5%.
Stage eight: Sunday, July 8 – Belfort to Porrentruy (157.5km)
A medium mountain stage features the Cote du Passage de la Douleur and the Col de La Croix, with the final climb, coming around 20km from the line, set to be decisive.
Stage nine: Monday, July 9 – Arc-et-Senans to Besancon (41.5km individual time-trial)
'The City of time' will host the Tour's first time-trial where Bradley Wiggins will seek to enhance his prospects of becoming the first Briton on the Paris podium.
Rest day: Tuesday, July 10
Stage 10: Wednesday, July 11 – Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (194.5km)
Following a day's rest, the Tour climbs again, with the first hors categorie (beyond category) ascent of the 2012 race, the Col du Grand Colombier.
Stage 11: Thursday, July 12 – Albertville to La Toussuire-Les Sybelles (148km)
The host city of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games is the starting point for a potentially momentous day in the Alps, featuring the Col de la Madeleine, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Mollard before the first summit finish of the Tour.
Stage 12: Friday, July 13 – Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux (226km)
A day which begins with two category one climbs could end in a sprint unless an early breakaway opens up a commanding lead.
Stage 13: Saturday, July 14 – Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Le Cap d'Agde (217km)
The peloton must again be wary of the wind as the race heads towards the Mediterranean, with the sprinters again expected to be active.
Stage 14: Sunday, July 15 – Limoux to Foix (191km)
The first Pyrenean day takes place with some challenging climbs, including the Mur de Peguere, where riders face gradients nearing 14%.
Stage 15: Monday, July 16 – Samatan to Pau (158.5km)
Two category four and a category three climb towards the end of the day's racing should not present too many difficulties for the sprinters.
Rest day: Tuesday, July 17
Stage 16: Wednesday, July 18- Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon (197km)
The race for the maillot jaune is sure to accelerate with the fabled climbs of the Tourmalet, the Aubisque, the Aspin and the Peyresourde.
Stage 17: Thursday, July 19 – Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes (143.5km)
Another challenging day in the mountains could shake up the overall rankings further with climbs of the Col de Mente, Col des Ares and the Port de Bales, as well as a bumpy finish.
Stage 18: Friday, July 20 -Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde (222.5km)
If they have survived the Pyrenees, the sprinters will seek success in Brive as the yellow jersey hopefuls get their breath back.
Stage 19: Saturday, July 21 – Bonneval to Chartres (53.5km, individual time-trial)
The Tour will be decided in the final time-trial and if the climbers will be hoping they have made enough gains to hold on to their positions.
Stage 20: Sunday, July 22 – Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Elysees (120km)
The traditional finale favouring the sprinters and a celebration for the maillot jaune. Will it be Wiggins