Which are the key stages in the 2015 Tour de France?

I normally pick out a few key stages – and you’ll see plenty of other websites and newspapers doing the same thing – but this year I’m not bothering.

It’s not laziness (it is partly laziness). It’s acknowledgement of the fact that every stage is crucial. Last year, riders crashed on the most innocuous stages and with so many contenders jockeying for position at the front of the peloton, the same thing is likely to happen again. Someone – possibly Chris Froome – said that the riders won’t even have qualified for the overall until they’ve survived the first week, which pretty much sums things up.

Part of the delight of the race is that something could happen on any day. That’s the way things panned out during this year’s Giro d’Italia and just the first week of the 2015 Tour brings hilltop finishes and the always entertaining threat of crosswinds. Plus, with time bonuses available, there should be plenty of people in with a chance of taking the race lead, which should enliven things further.

The murs of stage three and stage eight stand out for me, the cobbles of stage four loom ominously for the general classification contenders and then there’s climbs aplenty for the creation of larger time gaps later on. As late as Stage 20, it could all be chaos. At just 110.5km with constant uphill or downhill, we could ge that rarest of things, a long range attack from a major contender confident they can stay ahead until the finish.

Point is, it all matters. Every second counts, to needlessly quote Paul Daniels. With so many contenders this year and so many dangerous days, it would be foolhardy to try and make predictions. It would also require a certain amount of work and I am a man who colleagues once referred to as ‘Bare Minimum Bowden’.