There are moments in every Tour de France that simply can’t be missed. But you work, right? Sure you do, our daily 10 a.m. traffic spike is proof that you’re all working very hard. So reward yourself, you deserve it. Step away from the desk and find a TV for these eight key moments. We’ve sorted out when the best stuff is going to come on the screen. Note: All times listed are eastern.
Stage 2: Utrecht to Zelande, 166km
Tune in: 10:15 a.m.
Why watch: Crosswinds and echelons along the coast
Don’t let the pan-flat profile fool you: the road to Zélande crosses dikes and bridges exposed to the full might of the sea. This stage, particularly the last 40 kilometers, could spell early disaster for general classification favorites if the wind kicks up and echelons form.
The peloton will hit the first major water crossing just after 10:10 a.m., with about an hour left to race.
Stage 4: Seraing to Cambrai, 223.5km
Tune in: 10 a.m.
Why watch: Cobble sectors
Cobbles return to the Tour de France for the second year in a row, crossing sectors used in Paris-Roubaix, and though there is no guarantee we’ll see the same foul weather as 2014, the pavé never disappoint.
The peloton will barrel into the first pavé sector around 8:30 a.m. with 120km to go, but the real fun will start with Artrès à Famars, a 1,200-meter sector that will be hit with 46km remaining. It will be followed in quick succession by six more sectors that will undoubtedly blow the race apart.
The last 40km will go fast, taking the peloton under an hour to complete. Tune in around 10 a.m. to catch the best of the day’s action.
Stage 10: Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, 167km
Tune in: 9:25 a.m.
Why watch: First major mountain-top finish
The day after a rest day is always a roll of the dice. The disruption in rider’s routines can lead to bad legs, and stage 10 would be a very bad day to have un jour sans.
The stage finishes with the 15.3km climb averaging 7 percent. It will be the first chance for contenders for the overall to throw down on their preferred terrain, and they most certainly will not waste the opportunity.
Assuming favorable winds, the peloton should hit the base of the final climb at just after 9:25 a.m.
Stage 11: Pau to Cauterets, 188km
Tune in: 10 a.m.
Why watch: Unpredictable finish with a tricky downhill
The Tour’s foray into the heart of the Pyrenees will see a tricky, unpredictable finale, with a long descent off the Tourmalet followed by a short category 3 rise to the finish line.
This combination of a long descent and a short finish climb is sure to pique the interest of talented descenders like Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and put a bit of fear into those slightly less comfortable on the way down, like Chris Froome (Sky).
The peloton will be nearing the top of the Tourmalet at 10 a.m. Tune in and keep an eye out for fireworks on the way back down.
Stage 12: Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille, 195km
Tune in: 9:45 a.m.
Why watch: Plateau de Beille is one of the most difficult climbs of the entire Tour
The Plateau de Beille is a brute, rising at 7.9 percent for 15.8km from Les Cabannes. Its slopes are suited to pure climbers, particularly its steeper early section. On stage 12, it comes after two Cat. 1 climbs and one Cat. 2, so fatigue will play a part in the final result.
Don’t miss a minute of the final climb. The steep early kilometers could see early attacks. Tune in around 9:45 a.m. to catch the Plateau de Beille in its entirety.
Stage 17: Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup, 161km
Tune in: 9:45 a.m.
Why watch: Hope for a repeat of the Dauphiné thriller
The best stage of any of the June tune-up races was the fifth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, which happened to be a preview of the Tour’s 17th stage. At the Dauphiné, young Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) attacked over the top of the Col d’Allos and then extended his lead on its fast descent, holding off Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) on the short climb to Pra-Loup. It was a thriller, with a large group of heavy favorites chasing a lone protagonist. We can only hope for a similar day in July.
Much like stage 11, it is this stage’s tricky descent and relatively short final climb that set it up for excitement. If a rider can escape over the top or off the back side of Col d’Allos, like Bardet did at the Dauphiné, the ascent to Pra-Loup is short enough that he stands a good chance of making it to the line.
Pick up the action as the lead group nears the peak of Col d’Allos, about 9:45 a.m.
Stage 18: Gap to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 186.5km
Tune in: 10:40 a.m.
Why watch: 18 crazy switchbacks up the Lacets de Montvernier
Riders will tackle the frightful Glandon on stage 18, but from a sporting perspective this stage is unlikely to see a massive general classification shakeup. The finish is flat, following a short final climb.
But that short final climb is one you won’t want to miss. The 18 tight switchbacks of the Lacets de Montevernier (literally, the Switchbacks of Montvernier) are cut into a nearly vertical wall of a mountain, with turns so tight that anything longer than a standard car will have to throw it in reverse halfway around. The television images will be spectacular.
Even if the riders are flying, and at the end of three weeks with the Glandon on tap that’s not likely, the peloton won’t reach the base of the Lacets until 10:40 a.m. Tune in then and you won’t miss it.
Stage 20: Modane Valfrejus to Alpe d’Huez, 110.5km
Tune in: 9:40 a.m.
Why watch: Never miss the Alpe, particularly when it’s the last climb of the race
The Alpe d’Huez is the final climb of the 2015 Tour de France, and that alone makes it a must-watch. Even if the race overall is well settled, there are always fireworks on the Alpe. If the overall is still close, this is the very last opportunity to shake things up.
With the Croix de Fer replacing the Galbier, the penultimate stage is now just a shade easier. It’s short, only 110km, so those with something to gain will hit the gas from the gun.
Really, you should tune in on the Croix de Fer, around 8:30 a.m. But if you only have time to catch one climb, make it the Alpe. The lead group will hit Bourg d’Oisans at its base around 9:40 a.m.