Tour de France Comin' Soon: The Most Learned Preview You Can Read on the Net

Why does it take me so long to start writing this preview? The Tour is coming and previews are everywhere. It takes few to make one: you list the main conteders and pick some outsiders. At the end of June they are both well known. You can add a map, a list with all the stages and the provisional start list... that is definitive but with no race numbers. Easy, isn't it? A Tour de France preview brings readers, followers and likes at a very low cost in terms of work. I had my 'preview' ready since several days in fact. But I didn't post it because it isn't the kind of preview I like.
Why are we thrilled with the Tour de France grand départ? Why we still are so thrilled after so many years of it? It isn't the race. No: it's the story, better the stories about it, the legend(s), the big narrative. Anthropology states that the sport is a sublimated form of war, especially important and 'felt' amongh people who are no more regularly involved - as a community - in wars. That's probably why we get excited watching riders suffering and showing their guts. They are 'true warriors' we say in awe. 
At the heart of this narrative about the Tour as the greatest challenge there is another narrative and another paradigmatic challenge: 'la grande queste' of the medieval knights who basicly were the cadet (younger) sons of aristocratic families let without inheritance by the law of primogeniture that used to give all to he first son to save the integrity of the land. Some of these guys used to become priests and monks, others - the unruly and less inclined to study - opted for the 'chivalry', that could consist in organised  robbery or in the accomplishment of an ascetic itinerary including traveling, standing pain and privations, showing courage and dedication to a mystical aim. In short: proving themselves and challenging their limits.
Does it sound familiar?
Indead it was - and it is - a war without an enemy, a simulated war where the enemy is your own weakness, egoism, fear. Indead the knight must have qualities a warrior needs to succeed - or even to survive: strength, patience, perseverance, humilty, unselfishness but also insight and leader, readiness and a bit of temerity. 
Now I'll probably make you jump on the chair taking about 'Jihad'. Let's stay basic: on the wikipedia you can read: "In Arabic, the word jihād is a noun meaning the act of "striving, applying oneself, struggling, persevering". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid (Arabic: مجاهد‎‎), the plural of which is mujahideen (مجاهدين). The word jihad appears frequently in the Quran, often in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)", to refer to the act of striving to serve the purposes of God on this earth.". That's correct. So you see the Islamic 'Jihad' is no far from the Christian 'Quest' or better 'Ascesis'. They both mean a good effort to go - as far as possible - beyond the limits of the human nature, and they both have been misunderstood unfortunately, see the  - ancient and modern - Crusades and the self declared - past and new - Islamic State.
Riders are often said to be forced to an ascetic lifestyle, reminded to stay humble, prised for their generosity. They often talk about their motivation as a deep drive to go beyond their limits, to do better than anybody else but in first place better than themseves. Modern age has been the age of  a massive desacralisation - especially in Europe but not just there - so after the first sublimation of the war in chivalry we had a second sublimation of religious ascisis in sport. Nevertheless the original spirit is alive in its new social objectification and that's why we are so thrilled: the Tour de France's victory was Andy Schleck's Graal, Cadel Evans' altitude seclusion had a monastic scent as well as Ivan Basso's ascetic diet... and the qualities we look for in the main Tour's contenders are in the end the same connoting the ancient knights' and Jihad'i.
Finally we have the feeling that it isn't just about the athletic performance. No. It's moreover about the human performance. The Tour de France winner, we want to be somehow 'perfect'. Indead knights' and Jihad'i was supposed to be the mirror of the accomplished man, the human being fully realising his qualities and almost trascending the human condition toward the angelic one, like Lohengrin or even toward god, in whose image it was created. And here I should quote my beloved Rumi or at least the Indian wisdom saying 'you are this all'...

For a more prosaic but complete preview go HERE. That's also the source of the following mundane but useful tools:

Stage 1 July 02, 2016 Mont-Saint-Michel - Utah Beach / Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont 188 km
Stage 2 July 03, 2016 Saint-Lô - Cherbourg-Octeville 182 km
Stage 3 July 04, 2016 Granville - Angers 222 km
Stage 4 July 05, 2016 Saumer - Limoges 232 km
Stage 5 July 06, 2016 Limoges - Le Lioran 216 km
Stage 6 July 07, 2016 Arpajon-sur-Cère - Montauban 187 km
Stage 7 July 08, 2016 L'Isle-Jourdain - Lac de Payolle 162 km
Stage 8 July 09, 2016 Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon 183 km
Stage 9 July 10, 2016 Vielha Val d'Aran - Andorre Arcalis 184 km
Rest Day 1 July 11, 2016 Andorra
Stage 10 July 12, 2016 Escaldes-Engordany - Revel 198 km
Stage 11 July 13, 2016 Carcassonne - Montpellier 264 km
Stage 12 July 14, 2016 Montpellier - Mont Ventoux 185 km
Stage 13 July 15, 2016 Bourg-Saint-Andéol - La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc (ITT) 37 km
Stage 14 July 16, 2016 Montélimar - Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux 208 km
Stage 15 July 17, 2016 Bourg-en-Bresse - Culoz 159 km
Stage 16 July 18, 2016 Moirans-en-Montagne - Berne 206 km
Rest Day 2 July 19, 2016 Berne
Stage 17 July 20, 2016 Berne - Finhaut-Emosson 184 km
Stage 18 July 21, 2016 Sallanches - Megève (ITT) 17 km
Stage 19 July 22, 2016 Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146 km
Stage 20 July 23, 2016 Megève - Morzine 146 km
Stage 21 July 24, 2016 Chantilly - Paris Champs-Élysées 113 km

Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Race days: 27
Victories: 5
Herald Sun Tour (January, 2.1): 1st overall, 1 stage win
Volta a Catalunya (March, WorldTour): 8th overall
Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April, WT): 112th
Tour de Romandie (April/May, WT): 38th overall, 1 stage win
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 1st overall, 1 stage win

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Race days: 32
Victories: 5
Alberto ContadorTour de San Luis (January, 2.1): 3rd overall
Colombian nationals road race (February): 4th
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 1st overall
GP Miguel Indurain (March, 1.1): DNF
Vuelta al País Vasco (April, WT): 3rd overall
Tour de Romandie (April/May, WT): 1st overall, 1 stage win
Route du Sud (June, 2.1): 1st overall, 1 stage win

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)
Race days: 33
Victories: 4
Volta ao Algarve (February, 2.1): 3rd overall, 1 stage win
NairoQuinCoParis-Nice (March, WT): 2nd overall
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 2nd overall
Vuelta al País Vasco (April, WT): 1st overall, 1 stage win
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 5th overall, 1 stage win

Fabio AruFabio Aru (Astana)
Race days: 31
Victories: 1
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (February, 2.1): 6th overall
Volta ao Algarve (February, 2.1): 9th overall
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 14th overall
Vuelta al País Vasco (April, WT): DNF
Amstel Gold Race (April, WT): DNF
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 45th overall, 1 stage win

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Race days: 39
Victories: 5
GP La Marseillaise (January, 1.1): 2nd
PINOT ThibautEtoile de Bessèges (February, 2.1): 3rd overall
Volta ao Algarve (February, 2.1): 4th overall
Tirreno-Adriatico (March, WT): 5th overall
Critérium International (March, 2.HC): 1st overall, 2 stage wins
Vuelta al País Vasco (April, WT): 4th overall
Tour de Romandie (April-May, WT): 2nd overall, 1 stage win
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 16th overall, 1 stage win

Richie PorteRichie Porte (BMC)
Race days: 40
Victories: 1
Australian nationals time trial (January): 2nd
Australian nationals road race (January): DNF
Tour Down Under (January, WT): 2nd overall, 1 stage win
Tour of Oman (February, 2.HC): 49th overall
Paris-Nice (March, WT): 3rd overall
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 4th overall
Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April, WT): 91st
Tour de Romandie (April-May, WT): DNF
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 14h overall

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)
Race days: 42
Victories: 0
GP La Marseillaise (January, 1.1): 48th
Romain BardetTour of Oman (February, 2.HC): 2nd overall
Classic Sud Ardèche (February, 1.1): 5th
La Drôme Classic (February, 1.1): 8th
Paris-Nice (March, WT): 9th overall
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 6th overall
Giro del Trentino (April, 2.HC): 6th overall
Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April, WT): 13th
Tour de Romandie (April-May, WT): 27th overall
Critérium du Dauphiné (June, WT): 2nd overall

Tejay van Garderen (BMC)
Race days: 35
Tejay van GarderenVictories: 3
Vuelta a Murcia (February, 1.1): 7th
Clásica de Almería (February, 1.1): 68th
Ruta del Sol (February, 2.1): 2nd overall, 1 stage win
Tirreno-Adriatico (March, WT): 25th overall, 1 stage win (TTT)
Volta a Catalunya (March, WT): 5th overall
Tour de Romandie (April-May, WT): 10th overall
Tour de Suisse (June, WT): 6th overall, 1 stage win

Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing).
Bauke MollemaI'll add Alexis Vuillermoz, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde: they start as helpers but you never know. 

 Mark Cavendish
Marcel Kittel
André Greipel
Michael Matthews 
John Degenkolb
Alexander Kristoff 
Peter Sagan
Jasper Stuyven
Nacer Bouhanni
Bryan Coquard
Alexis Vuillermoz
Diego Rosa
Daniel Teklehaimanot 
Pierre Rolland
Daniel Martin
Joaquin Rodriguez
Jurgen Van Den Broeck 
Ilnur Zakarin 
Wilco Kelderman
Mikel Nieve  
Rafal Majka 
Alex Howes 
Julian Alaphilippe
Petr Vakoc 
Louis Meintjes 
Adam Yates
Warren Barguil
Alexis VuillermozSergio Henao  
Mikel Landa Meana   
Wout Poels
Rohan Dennis 
Brent Bookwalter
Ramunas Navardauskas
Tony Martin
Stef Clement
Vasil Kiryienka
Maciej Bodnar
Fabian Cancellara
Jan Barta
Stephen Cummings
Cyril Gautier
Jan Bakelants
Andriy Grivko
Serge Pauwels
Tony Gallopin  
Thomas De Gendt
Adam Hansen
Cesare Benedetti
Romain Sicard

Provisonal Start List
AG2R La Mondiale
  Romain Bardet (Fra)
  Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita)
  Jan Bakelants (Bel)
  Alexis Gougeard (Fra)
  Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra)
  Mikael Cherel (Fra)
  Ben Gastauer (Lux)
  Samuel Dumoulin (Fra)
  Cyril Gautier (Fra)
Astana Pro Team
  Fabio Aru (Ita)
  Vincenzo Nibali (Ita)  
  Diego Rosa (Ita)
  Luis León Sánchez (Spa)
  Paolo Tiralongo (Ita)
  Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
  Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz)
  Jakob Fuglsang (Den)
  Tanel Kangert (Est)
BMC Racing Team
  Richie Porte (Aus)  
  Tejay Van Garderen (USA)  
  Greg Van Avermaet (Bel)
  Brent Bookwalter (USA)
  Marcus Burghardt (Ger)
  Damiano Caruso (Ita)
  Amaël Moinard (Fra)
  Rohan Dennis (Aus)
  Michael Schär (Swi)
Cannondale Pro Cycling
  Matti Breschel (Den)
  Lawson Craddock (USA)
  Alex Howes (USA)  
  Kristijan Koren (Slo)
  Sebastian Langeveld (Ned)
  Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) 
  Pierre Rolland (Fra)
  Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned)
  Dylan Van Baarle (Ned)
Dimension Data
  Natnael Berhane (Eri)
  Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
  Mark Cavendish (GBr)
  Stephen Cummings (GBr)
  Bernhard Eisel (Aut)
  Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA)
  Serge Pauwels (Bel)
  Mark Renshaw (Aus)
  Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eri) 
Etixx - Quick-Step
  Marcel Kittel (Ger)
  Daniel Martin (Irl)  
  Tony Martin (Ger)
  Julian Alaphilippe (Fra)
  Fabio Sabatini (Ita)
  Maximiliano Richeze (Arg)
  Iljo Keisse (Bel)
  Petr Vakoc (Cze)
  Julien Vermote (Bel)
  Thibaut Pinot (Fra)
  Arthur Vichot (Fra)
  Jérémy Roy (Fra)
  Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra)
  Anthony Roux (Fra)
  William Bonnet (Fra)
  Steve Morabito (Swi)
  Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi)
  Cédric Pineau (Fra)
IAM Cycling
  Mathias Frank (Swi)
  Jarlinson Pantano (Col)
  Oliver Naesen (Bel)
  Sondre Holst Enger (Nor)
  Reto Hollenstein (Swi)
  Martin Elmiger (Swi)
  Stef Clement (Ned)
  Jerome Coppel (Fra)
  Dries Devenyns (Bel) Howard replaces Devenyns
Lampre - Merida
  Rui Costa (Por)  
  Louis Meintjes (RSA)
  Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn)
  Matteo Bono (Ita)
  Davide Cimolai (Ita)
  Kristijan Durasek (Cro)
  Tsgabu Grmay (Eth)
  Luka Pibernik (Slo)
  Jan Polanc (Slo)
Lotto Soudal
  André Greipel (Ger) 
  Tony Gallopin (Fra)
  Lars Ytting Bak (Den)
  Thomas De Gendt (Bel)
  Jens Debusschere (Bel)
  Adam Hansen (Aus)
  Greg Henderson (NZl)
  Jurgen Roelandts (Bel)
  Marcel Sieberg (Ger)
Movistar Team
  Nairo Quintana (Col)  
  Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
  Nelson Oliveira (Por) 
  Winner Anacona (Col)
  Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa)
  Gorka Izaguirre (Spa)
  Daniel Moreno (Spa)
  Jesus Herrada (Spa)
  Jon Izaguirre (Spa) 
  Michael Matthews (Aus)
  Simon Gerrans (Aus)
  Adam Yates (GBr)
  Michael Albasini (Swi)
  Christopher Juul Jensen (Den)
  Daryl Impey (RSA)
  Luke Durbridge (Aus)
  Ruben Plaza (Spa)
  Mathew Hayman (Aus)
Team Giant-Alpecin
  John Degenkolb (Ger)  
  Tom Dumoulin (Ned)  
  Warren Barguil (Fra)  
  Roy Curvers (Ned)
  Simon Geschke (Ger)
  Georg Preidler (Aut)
  Laurens Ten Dam (Ned)
  Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned)
  Albert Timmer (Ned)
Team Katusha
  Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa)
  Alexander Kristoff (Nor)
  Alberto Losada (Spa)
  Angel Vicioso (Spa)
  Marco Haller (Aut)
  Michael Morkov (Den)
  Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel)
  Ilnur Zakarin (Rus)
  Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita)
Team LottoNl-Jumbo
  Wilco Kelderman (Ned)  
  George Bennett (NZl)
  Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) 
  Bertjan Lindeman (Ned)
  Paul Martens (Ger)
  Timo Roosen (Ned)
  Sep Vanmarcke (Bel)
  Robert Wagner (Ger)
  Maarten Wynants (Bel)
Team Sky
  Christopher Froome (GBr)
  Sergio Henao (Col)
  Vasil Kiryienka (Blr)
  Mikel Landa Meana (Spa)
  Mikel Nieve (Spa)  
  Wout Poels (Ned)
  Luke Rowe (GBr)
  Ian Stannard (GBr)
  Geraint Thomas (GBr)
Tinkoff Team
  Alberto Contador (Spa)  
  Peter Sagan (Svk)
  Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
  Maciej Bodnar (Pol)
  Robert Kiserlovski (Cro)
  Oscar Gatto (Ita)
  Matteo Tosatto (Ita)
  Michael Valgren (Den)
  Rafal Majka (Pol)
  Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
  Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)
  Bauke Mollema (Ned)
  Grégory Rast (Swi)
  Markel Irizar (Spa)
  Frank Schleck (Lux)
  Peter Stetina (USA)
  Jasper Stuyven (Bel)
  Edward Theuns (Bel)
Cofidis, Solutions Credits
  Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Nicolas Edet
  Borut Bozic (Slo)
  Cyril Lemoine (Fra)
  Arnold Jeannesson (Fra)
  Jerome Cousin (Fra)
  Christophe Laporte (Fra)
  Geoffrey Soupe (Fra)
  Luis Angel Mate (Spa)
  Daniel Navarro (Spa)
Bora-Argon 18
  Sam Bennett (Irl)
  Shane Archbold (NZl)
  Jan Barta (Cze)
  Cesare Benedetti (Ita)
  Emanuel Buchmann (Ger)
  Bartosz Huzarski (Pol)
  Patrick Konrad (Aut)
  Andreas Schillinger (Ger)
  Paul Voss (Ger)
Direct Energie
  Bryan Coquard (Fra)
  Thomas Voeckler (Fra)
  Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
  Romain Sicard (Fra)
  Antoine Duchesne (Can)
  Yohann Gene (Fra)
  Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra)
  Adrien Petit (Fra)
  Angelo Tulik (Fra)
Fortuneo - Vital Concept
  Eduardo Sepúlveda (Arg)
  Chris Anker Sörensen (Den)
  Florian Vachon (Fra)
  Anthony Delaplace (Fra)
  Vegard Breen (Nor)
  Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra)
  Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
  Brice Feillu (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
  Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept

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