Gear up for the 2014 Tour de France

Le Tour de France 2013 - Stage FourteenPic: Getty Images

Consisting of 21 stages over a period of 23 days and covering more than 3,600 kilometres, the Tour de France is the most prestigious and famous of the European Grand Tours.

This year, the Grand Départ takes place in Leeds ahead of three days of home soil action, which includes one of Britain's toughest climbs courtesy of the Peak District, and a 155km ride from Cambridge to London, taking in some of the capital's iconic landmarks before finishing on The Mall.

Leaving England and heading to Northern France, the Tour takes in many of the town and cities devastated during the First World War by way of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the conflict. But it will likely be the 15km of cobblestones of Stage 5 that is uppermost in the minds of the competitors. The nine cobbled sectors are also part of the one-day Paris-Roubaix race... commonly known as the Hell of the North amongst cyclists.

Elsewhere in the north, the narrow roads and steep climbs featured in Stage 8 present their own challenge, and then the mountain stages begin in earnest. British star Chris Froome will undoubtedly be pleased to see Stage 10 on the route. Beginning in Mulhouse and finishing with an ascent to the Planche des Belles Filles summit in the Vosges Mountains, it was here that Froome took a somewhat controversial victory back in 2012 and put himself firmly in the picture as a Tour contender.

The Tour continues through a full five days of Alpine stages, including a mountain top finish at Risoul and the infamous Col d'Izoard. Then it is on to the Pyrenees for three consecutive days of mountainous terrain. Stage 17 could well be the most action-packed of the Pyrenean stages, with four climbs featuring in just 125km, and Stage 18, the last of the mountain stages, takes in the iconic Col du Tourmalet and a final climb and summit finish of the Hautacam.

Stage 20 is this year's time trial, where those who lost time in the mountains are likely to be keen to make some of it back, and the Tour concludes with the famous Parisian finish on 27 July.

So who will be wearing the yellow jersey at the end of this year's gruelling Tour? With Bradley Wiggins missing out on a place on Team Sky once again, all eyes will be on Chris Froome, who is current favourite to repeat his 2013 victory. Froome's biggest competition could well come from Spain's Alberto Contador, one of only five riders to have won all three Grand Tours and already a two-time winner of the Tour de France.

French cyclist Pierre Rolland will be hoping he can justify favouritism for the spotted King of the Mountains jersey on his home soil, and there will be plenty of anticipation over whether 'Manx Missile' Mark Cavendish can regain his Champs Elysee crown? Whatever the result, this year's tough Tour is a mouth-watering prospect for cycling enthusiasts and sports fans.

What do you think? Can Chris Froome repeat his victory of last year? Leave your comments below...
Yorkshire is Ready for Tour de France