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What Makes A Grand Tour?

Once upon a time a “grand tour” was a term applied to the journey young noblemen would take around Europe to finish off their education, perfecting languages and learning new things. As a cycling term it seems only to have appeared only in the 1990s as a collective label for the respective tours of Spain, Italy and France and implies a three week race. But with women’s cycling building its own calendar, can the women’s peloton have its own grand tours in new places?

Today a grand tour in the men’s peloton is a defined thing under the UCI rules. Now these can be rewritten at the stroke of key but the rules are simple, a grand tour is a 15-23 day long race which can be up to 3,500km long and teams of eight riders take part rather than the seven we see in other stage races. That’s about it.

What we’re really talking about though isn’t the plain text of the rules, it’s deeper as the grand tours are enduring national tours, they’re not just races but cultural institutions in their countries in a way that other races are not. In particular the Tour de France is an institution in France in many ways, something that encompasses everything from childhood memories to political language. Sometimes there’s talk of a particular race staking its claim as “the fourth grand tour” but good luck with that, it speaks more of marketing hype.

But what of women’s racing. It needn’t copy the men’s calendar and it won’t. The jumble of men’s races is a haphazard palimpsest that’s taken over a century to assemble. The women’s sport is growing quickly and so can develop much faster, differently. So the Women’s Tour in Britain is establishing itself as a prime event on the calendar. But can it become a “grand tour”, not a copycat three week race but more a prime event on the women’s calendar, perhaps 10 days instead of the six days today? Yes in that it could grow into a bigger race but can you have a grand tour in Britain where there are few mountainous roads? This year’s Women’s Tour had a total of 8,400m of vertical gain across six stages when the Giro Rosa can manage 4,800m in one day. The Women’s Tour could climb more but to borrow from the late Antoine Blondin, playwright and L’Equipe columnist, cycling is “primarily a story of geography” and the UK can’t serve up the same climbs we’re used to? Britain’s highest mountain pass is Cairnmore Pass, near the Aviemore ski area in Scotland, and tops out at a modest 670 metres above sea level. You could have hilly stages with plenty of steep climbs – like the Tour de Yorkshire – but not the mountains.

Put another way, must a grand tour have high mountains to be considered as such? This need not limit the women’s calendar to copy-cat races like the now defunct Tour Féminin or the Giro Rosa but could mean Austria, Germany and Switzerland but also California, Colorado or Colombia, just pick anywhere with high, Alpine-style roads. Certainly the Giro and Tour are enriched by their mythical climbs but the Vuelta is an interesting case study because it tackles some big climbs but few are mythical and many of those that are well know like the Lagos de Covadonga or Angliru are relatively “new” climbs; the Giro’s Mortirolo is a new one too and so is the Zoncolan which was first climbed by the Giro Rosa before the men raced up. So a race can take a big climb and make it mythical. With this there’s a lot of choice.

But are we conditioned to measuring a race by its mountains? Arguably yes, and a big yes. So perhaps the question is whether we can change attitudes and celebrate a race as a major highlight of the calendar if it doesn’t have high mountains, and whether this is still the test of a big race and that riders are measured against this? This blog’s title is partly a tribute to riding up mountains so it’ll take some convincing round here but perhaps others are more open-minded, especially the “wider public” who need to make up the larger audience than core cycling fans to make televised bike races work. But this sees us chasing our tails as the public tend to tune in en masse for the mountains as they’re supposed to be spectacular.

If this holds so then the Giro Rosa looks set to become a staple of the women’s calendar. Other races like the Women’s Tour will look to expand by adding more days and possibly more climbing while the mooted “Battle of the North” across Scandinavia will surely need climbs too, and plenty as well.

Conclusion
What makes a grand tour? There are rules and there’s history and culture for the men’s races. There’s also high altitude mountain stages, and with new women’s calendar expanding, do women’s races also need the giant climbs to be celebrated as prime events? This needn’t mean established venues like the Galibier and Stelvio because new climbs can quickly be embraced, see the Mortirolo or Angliru. If so this gives the Giro Rosa a cultural and geographic head start but this alone seems necessary but not sufficient, factors like TV coverage, media coverage, roadside crowds, the quality of the race organisation and road security count for plenty. But can races in Britain and Scandinavia, no matter how slick they’re run, become great events without high mountains? It’s a question of taste so there’s no certain answer, time will tell.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tintinbike Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 10:15 pm

    There are some higher roads in Great Britain, a private road to Great Dun Fell, it’s a dead end but reaches ~835m. Still not really a mountain mind, see https://cyclinguphill.com/great-dun-fell/ and
    https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/54.68406,-2.45156,17/pin

    • bobmcstuff Thursday, 20 June 2019, 2:27 pm

      Also the Bealach na Ba has more vertical gain than the “Cairnmore” climb to which Inrng refers (its actually called the Cairnwell Pass), 626m and one which feels quite alpine https://cyclinguphill.com/100-climbs/bealach-na-ba/

      Inrng’s description of the Cairnwell could be improved beyond the name typo, while it is physically near to Aviemore it’s quite hard to get to Aviemore or the ski area at Cairngorm from that point because there’s no direct route, it would be more accurate to describe it as near to Glenshee ski area since the Glenshee ski area straddles the road at the top of the Cairnwell Pass.

      The 3 Pistes Sportive (which sadly doesn’t seem to be running any more) started from Pitlochry, going over Glenshee and the Lecht which is a serious climb with ramps at 20% +, before heading up through Tomintoul, round to Aviemore and finishing with an ascent to Cairngorm Ski Centre. I would love to see a pro race on this route… https://3pistescycle.wordpress.com/route/

      • Alan Anderson Monday, 24 June 2019, 12:03 pm

        3 pistes is still running, but this year incorporated into the 3 Day Tour of the Highlands.

        It will be back in its traditional format in 2020…with the 3 day event also.

        Alan 3 pistes

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 10:39 pm

    The stages can end anywhere, but it’s not ‘grand’ for me if there isn’t the symbolism of testing endurance by crossing telegenic alpine-like mountain passes into different landscapes, climates and cultures. It’s hard to escape office jobs and demons and 2 world wars by riding through towns and farmers’ fields. (Maybe crossing into different countries could compensate a bit though?)

  • Othersteve Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 2:53 am

    Suffering mentally and physically or days plain and simple makes for a proper a grand tour.
    Surviving while competing with competent, skilled adversarial teams focused on similar goals.

  • Patrick Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 3:34 am

    to me, a GT must take in all variety of terrain. firstly so that it is a true test of the riders allround abilities, secondly because a GT must be long to deserve the title and you it would get boring to have 2-3 weeks of flat stages – although flatter stage races can be exciting, i don’t think the aggresive attacking riding that requires would be sustainable over a longer race. it does seem though that this style of riding is more common in the women’s racing than the men’s so maybe.

    i think all races need an identity but that doesn’t have to be nationalistic

  • Peter Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 4:17 am

    I love watching mountain racing, and riding mountains, but I also deeply enjoy a superb tactical race with hills. And an endurance and strategy day like Paris Roubaix. And a dig deep and think quick event like Fleche or LBL. Races where newcomers suddenly bloom and hard men and women have a place.

    If you told me that you could create a stage race of 5 classic style stages, 5 hard hill days, a TT, and 4 flat sprint stages, well that sure sounds like a GT to me. It seems to me that the Grand is not a reference to the altitude, but to the drama.

    But what is really amazing is that we are starting to have choices now. We are spoilt for racing, and I for one am delighted with all the shiny opportunities to see it.

    Another great article, and a superb topic

    • Thomas Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 7:45 am

      The GT profile you suggest is something I would love to see. I believe we will see a whole lot of extra guys such as Sagan, Van Avermaet, VDP, etc in a 3 week battle with the usual GT favourites. Sounds exciting

    • Christian Palmer Saturday, 22 June 2019, 11:07 am

      “It seems to me that the Grand is not a reference to the altitude, but to the drama” – absolutely!

  • Steve C Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 8:42 am

    Great article as usual!

    Small correction: the highest pass in the UK is called the Cairnwell pass and is not really near aviemore. It does service the ski area of Glenshee.

    • Eddie C Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 4:12 pm

      It’s important to remember that a ‘pass’ has to lead from somewhere to somewhere else. So roads leading up to ski stations, radar stations and the like are tremendous fun and could make for good racing, but aren’t passes. It should be the lowest point in a ridge seperating two valleys – in that sense it is exactly the opposite of a summit. So when discusssions of the Tour feature a ‘summit finish on the col de Tourmalet’ it’s a real mangling of language.

      • Steve C Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 11:19 pm

        The Cairnwell is a ‘pass’. The road serves a ski area that you can approach from both sides. There are a couple of higher roads that access radar stations.

        • Eddie C Friday, 21 June 2019, 2:18 pm

          That’s good to know – thanks! I’d not heard of it before and will have to see if I can arrange a visit on my bike.

  • Simmers Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:09 am

    At the risk of sounding sentimental, I think wat sets Grand Tours apart from other races is the stories they generate, and the way the duration of the race shapes those stories. It begins way before a GT actually starts (and envelops most of the ‘preparation races’, as we see now with the Dauphine and the Tour de Suisse, both very interesting races in their own right but sadly rarely judged on their own merits), when attention is already focused on who seems to be in shape, who isn’t, leadership issues, etc.

    Then, during the race, all kinds of narratives form – and because of the 3 week duration these narratives have a build to them that no other races (or any other sport for that matter) come close to. It’s fascinating to see the expectations build, predictions made, hopes dashed, favourites fade and rise, incidents interfere suddenly, and in the end it all settles into a story that we can endlessly debate.

    I think it would be hard to achieve this with shorter races, at least not to the same extent.

    • Cd Thursday, 20 June 2019, 3:01 pm

      The stories build because the press has to write 3 weeks worth of stories, whether there’s material or not. Rest days and boring sprint stages still have deadlines. Make something up or turn molehill into mountain.

  • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:22 am

    Surely the precedent for what makes a grand tour has already been indelibly set?
    It needn’t necessarily be held in the three countries that hosts the men but there has to be a comparable physical challenge and that does mean high mountains.
    The US would be a perfect setting.
    I don’t necessarily see why different countries couldn’t share a grand tour, or it could be a fluid tour that changed courses and countries perhaps.
    I agree also that the UK can’t provide the high mountains, though it can do many other terrains (but please no 62 km stages round cyclo-parks!).
    Three weeks may be excessive however?

    • Andrew Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:03 pm

      The problem is that the US is too big. I can drive for 8 hours and still be in Minnesota, and that’s not even one of the biggest states.

      California, Colorado and perhaps Utah are really the places in the US where you could do a 3 week grand tour, without leaving the state. The Amgen Tour doesn’t even to begin to scratch the surface of the possibilities in California.

    • Matthew Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:14 pm

      I quite like this idea of a fluid tour – may raise issues of who hosts the race though…ASO/RAI etc, or maybe UCI in the same way that FIFA World cup/UEFA European cup works. Not sure if that would be possible.

      Whether the UK could host a tour with enough suitable climbs is interesting. These are articles show some of the reasons behind the choice of finish and logistics behind it.

      https://www.tourofbritain.co.uk/how-is-the-ovo-energy-tour-of-britain-route-chosen/

      https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/the-lung-busting-british-climbs-that-no-bike-race-has-dared-to-use-382437

      Imagine if you included all of the climbs into one tour…would provide enough for the climbers??

  • Richard S Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:37 am

    The Cairnwell might be the highest public road in the UK but it’s not the highest paved road. The road up to the ‘Golf ball’ on Great Dun Fell in Cumbria tops out at 848m. Not an alpine pass by any means but it’s 7km at 10% so nothing to take lightly. There’s probably just enough room at the top if they only allow motorbikes up like they do on the Zoncolan. Also where the climbs in the Alps are beautifully surfaced and often in glorious sunshine doing a succession of 5-600m climbs in a howling gale and horizontal rain isn’t necessary easier. I don’t follow women’s cycling in great depth but the Women’s Tour seems to stick to a relatively small geographic area in the south east of England. A grand tour goes all around it’s host (as long as we ignore recent Vuelta’s!).

    • Nick Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 2:12 pm

      The Women’s Tour did East Anglia, the Midlands and mid & west Wales this year.

  • tedba Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:44 am

    Probably right on the lack of roads limiting the UK to a week long effort… a shame given the appetite for events (especially womens I would guess). I love the cycling history… that the biggest races are formed from years of habit, Hopefully the womens tour can develop something quicker than 100 years, but I hope they grow it organically rather than knee jerk jumping the second a tour has a less than stellar year.

    Just to pile on the ‘what about this road’… Cairnwell may be the highest – but it always seemed to me that the Bealach na ba (sp?) is a road made for cycle racing. I know geography is against applecross, but it would make a great finale piece.

    • mattgc Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 1:21 pm

      I have often thought the Bealach na ba would be great for racing, but yes, it is a bit on its own out there.

    • The Craig Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 1:51 pm

      There are plenty of great, challenging roads that would make for wonderful racing up here in Scotland.

      Bealach Na Ba is the most famous but we have Tak Ma Doon, the Mennock Pass with the private road up to Lowther Hill, the Crow Road to mention a few all within an hour of Glasgow. The issue is that the there seems to be a lack of will to go further north than Glasgow when planning multi-day cycling event here in the UK. But I imagine that due to the remoteness of the area. The transport infrastructure isn’t great. The main road from Inverness to Perth, the A9, is in the process of being dualled up its entire length and the highland main line train service is a single train track. However, hopefully this will change with the Women’s Tour of Scotland in August coupled with news that Aberdeen is interested in hosting a stage of the men’s Tour of Britain. The Scottish Government is also planning on improving the rail infrastructure, but that is many years away.

      Imagine the footage of a bike race passing through the A82 at Glencoe…

      • Anonymous Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 6:49 pm

        You could add the Cairn o’mount, between Aberdeen and Glenshee area. Some nasty 14+% on there, either way north or south. If the wind is blowing too, well then…

        • Gabriel Constantin Thursday, 20 June 2019, 8:34 am

          Then no attacks.

          • Anonymous Friday, 21 June 2019, 9:07 am

            … or echelons and more attacks!!!

      • Bonzojess Friday, 21 June 2019, 10:32 am

        there’s always the high road to Skye – Danny McCaskill The Ridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ_IQS3VKjA

        • Ecky Thump Saturday, 22 June 2019, 12:21 pm

          That is awesome.
          I’ve walked and scrambled on some of the Cuillin but never contemplated a mtb.
          Is that guy on the In Pin?

  • Joe K. Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:54 am

    Women’s pro cycling poses the dilemma of “supply and demand.” Which comes first? If there is the demand for it (not only by us enthusiasts who visit this site regularly, but the broader TV viewing public), then supply will follow–rather easily. But how to create the demand for it when the public viewers are not exposed to it? Corporate sponsors of cycling might like the sport, but at the end of the day, they are businesses, and making money (or getting value for their corporate dollars) is their bottom line. Will they shoulder the burden–and risk–of investing years worth of money to make the demand for women’s cycling grow beyond the tipping point at which it becomes “profitable” for them? As Mr. Inrng concludes: only time will tell.

    • Pilgrim Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 10:21 am

      It depends how their strategy fits. On purely sales-driven profit it’s not likely to be profitable but in terms of building brand identity as a ‘good’ business, promoting corporate social responsibility (or, as some would accuse Ineos – ‘greenwashing’) it could have value to be in early. And it’s likely to be a much cheaper route in to the sport.

  • Pilgrim Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 11:04 am

    The question was ‘what makes a Grand Tour?’ but it could also be ‘what makes a Tour Grand?’. Isn’t it the attrition, the size of the host nation(s), the history and the mix of terrain? I say the latter because a GT can be ‘bog-standard’ even with the addition of great mountain passes. But a pavé or strade bianchi stage can make all the difference.

    I don’t see stage races in the UK or Scandinavia ever approaching the status of the three established grand tours, but that’s an impossible standard. They are victims of geography (two points for the album that line is cribbed from!) rather than victims of circumstance.

    • DaveRides Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 1:47 pm

      This.

      The three grand tours have built their reputation on being tough events which decisively select a clear winner, or occasionally 2-3 closely-matched podium finishers who have a clear margin ahead of the rest and get to battle each other for multiple stages.

      Part of developing the Women’s WorldTour and increasing its appeal needs to be finding ways to make races other than just the Giro Rosa more selective and reduce the proportion of races ending in group kicks.

      The Women’s Tour (of Britain) this year had a close result for the overall win with the top two separated by 2 seconds, but there was nothing epic about it. Instead, it was a close result like you get in a mid-level men’s race like the Tour Down Under where the race is too short (in terms of both days and kilometres) for a deeper narrative to be built up.

    • Workers' Playtime Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 7:36 pm

      And the song includes the line “The chain that fell off my bike last night”
      But I had to google it, no points

  • KevinK Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 11:10 am

    I think there are bigger short-term issues for women’s cycling, and that’s making sure there’s some year-to-year consistency with the major races they have now. With ASO threatening to pull their women’s races, and the history of women’s grand tours in France struggling and then going belly up (from Wikipedia I find Tour de France Women, Grande Boucle Feminine International, Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Feminine, La Route de France), and women’s stage races frequently dropping stages from year to year, it lends a transient and insubstantial feel to the sport. Plus so many of the most loved men’s races having no female analogue, so new women’s races have to manufacture their “story” or hook if they want viewers to feel invested in the races.

    The first women’s race I was aware of was the Giro Rosa. Just the statement that it was the women’s Giro d’Italia gave it instant credibility, though I was disappointed to find that it was so much shorter than the men’s race. I think women’s racing is on a great path right now, and I like that they’re finding their own way with generally shorter, more attacking races. That said, some sense of tradition is crucial. As far as I can tell, the star female riders are bigger than the races, while it seems to be the opposite on the men’s side. There needs to be more women’s races that are storied events. Mountain stages are certainly a part of that, but so is some consistency from year to year.

    • Jorgelito Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:08 pm

      I think ASO is missing the boat here, pretty bad. Which makes me wonder, isn’t the ASO heir (heiress?) a woman? Women cycling is growing really fast, in all kinds of countries. That’s why there’s abs opportunity for smaller countries to vie for the chance to hold a major race.

  • Jåddhå Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 1:02 pm

    Should not be a problem to create a couple of proper mountain stages in Norway if the organizers of “Battle of the North” wish to do that.

  • Anders Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 3:16 pm

    Battle of the North has GT potential as Norway has some stunning “alpine” climbs like Juvasshytta, Dalsnibba, Sognefjell and many more. They are really remote though.

  • Jorgelito Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:05 pm

    Maybe a logistical nightmare but a women’s GT in Colombia or, why not, Ecuador with its varied climate zones, could be a huge thing not only for cycling but also for these countries to promote themselves abroad, both as cycling paradises, but also as wishful tourist destinations.

  • Andrew Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:07 pm

    Couldn’t you make a pretty tough 3 week tour if you covered all of Britain, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall etc? Seems like there would be plenty of awesome places to have stages.

    • Andrew Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:08 pm

      I know, I should have said “England”, not Britain.

  • plurien Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 5:28 pm

    The only real grand tours are those that have towns and regions paying service and media fees for the privilege of having it come their way.
    Mountain scenery and tourist backdrops help and so does the racing but unless the finances stack up no wheels will turn.

    • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 8:01 pm

      This is true, but there’s something of the chicken and egg conundrum though.
      Host towns / regions are using public funds, and often drawing down special grants linked to tourism and wider economic development, to act as such.
      They have to build a viable case, and use subsequent proof to access the grant funding.
      The other aspect that women’s racing could promote far more actively perhaps is public health, and specifically that of younger females who are shown to quit sport and exercise after school.
      There may be mileage in tying up with partner bodies as part of public health drives.
      The larger problem, however, is the contraction of many European economies and cuts to public spending, making funding even more difficult.

  • RQS Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 8:53 pm

    There are a lot of men here talking about women’s cycling. It’d be interesting to get the women’s POV on what they would like to race and how.

    Having just made that ‘virtue signalling’ statement my own thoughts are that the element which makes men’s cycling appealing is that it is the riders strength and power which makes cycling exciting, whether that be in a bunch sprint, or up a mountain. That power and strength is missing in women’s cycling. It’s such an elusive quality that generally the ones that have can both sprint and climb mountains better than their competitors. So the same winners win regardless of the terrain (this is a broad statement but Vos and her Dutch compatriot Van Vlueten have typically cleaned up in important races whether flat or steep). This makes the issue over identity of a race difficult because the narrative isn’t decided by the terrain, it’s decided by the personality.
    Tradition does surround the men’s calendar and the problem for any other GT is fitting it into a race calendar in a meaningful and enticing way. Another GT would likely draw on competitors from the Spring Classics, or reduce the off season. Finding countries with a suitable climate and infrastructure is also difficult as soon as you pile down to South of the Equator (though Argentina must be a fabulous venue to a tour) you lose a large proportion of the viewing public.
    Women could create their own traditions, but their profile will not draw huge amounts of investment with which to find a three week tour when they struggle to find just a one week tour.
    I think the possibility for changes to the racing calendar are possible, even with the men’s, but it needs huge investment to generate the excitement and draw needed to create a legend which would pull WT teams and viewers public across.

    • Andrew Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 9:33 pm

      I don’t think the issue is that the women lack “power and strength”- Lord knows any of them would kick my ass on the bike. I think what you are getting at has more to do with the depth of the field- when you have a smaller number of competitors, the odds seem to be higher that one or two naturally gifted people will just dominate. The Zwift competition to bring unknown women to the professional peloton illustrates this well. There are so many more men racing, which greatly increases the chances of there being 10 or 12 riders who are more or less physiologically equal.

      • RQS Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 10:32 pm

        Confusing speed for power and strength is natural, but I mean it. It is what distinguishes men’s sports from women’s. Otherwise why do you think men and women compete separately?
        Van Vleuten and Vos are as dangerous on a hilly climb as they are in a sprint because there is much less differential in the power to weight ratio for women. Kittel sucks up a mountain because his ratio is low compared to Froome’s, but his max output for a sprint wipes the floor with him. But there’s not that same top end for women (and unless your proposing steroid use, there never will be). Those that attain higher levels of power perform in a narrower window, and so can compete in multiple terrains. It’s like having Julian Alaphilippe as a GC rider, with no GC riders.
        I agree that there’s not the same depth in the talent pool, but I don’t think that’s there’s a gold mine of untapped potential who are going to out monster Vos and Van Vleuten. I think this is an old trope which diminishes the current riders which is insulting. And some male riders have used exhibition rides such as La Marmotte to get themselves a pro contract. Talent will seek out opportunity.

        • Nick Thursday, 20 June 2019, 11:45 am

          Isn’t the economics also a factor, in both the depth of the talent pool and the fact that the likes of Vos and Van Vleuten win across all terrains? Because it’s less easy to earn a living in women’s cycling, the best pros have to compete all season, and so it pays to be all-rounders. In some ways, it’s like men’s cycling a few decades’ back, with the same smaller peloton competing together across all terrains.

          • JeroenK Thursday, 20 June 2019, 10:34 pm

            Van Vleuten and Vos do not win across all terrain. Vos nowadays seems to need a sprint from a small group and Van Vleuten needs a hard, hilly course. There are girls that excel on a Cauberg like finish and there are those that top Vos or Van Vleuten in a flat big bunch sprint. Specialisation has clearly entered women’s cycling and that’s a definite sign the level has gone up.

    • KevinK Thursday, 20 June 2019, 9:28 am

      “It’d be interesting to get the women’s POV on what they would like to race and how.”
      I’ve read multiple interviews of, and articles by, female racers, and they consistently say they aren’t interested in emulated either the 3-week GTs or the very long stages of the men’s side. They like that women’s races tend to have much more attacking, as well as less battle of attrition over weeks.

      And what they really want is some TV coverage, and for all pro women to get paid, even if they’re not paid at the level of men.

  • Stevie T Thursday, 20 June 2019, 12:14 am

    https://www.fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk/the-route/

    There can be some real big days out in the North of England, the Fred has 3900metres of climbing.

  • Gabriel Constantin Thursday, 20 June 2019, 8:37 am

    Going by geography, România could be a good playground for a grand tour. The Carpathinas are the only big mountain range in Europe not visited by a GT.

    • Anonymous Thursday, 20 June 2019, 9:35 pm

      You need more then one M for mountains for a Grand or a small tour. The other M is money.
      Romania literally has only one M.

  • J Evnas Thursday, 20 June 2019, 11:59 am

    You could have two grand tours – one in June, one in August, to avoid the men’s grand tours (June and August being fairly dull in the men’s calendars).
    June could be Germany (maybe with Switzerland and Austria), so plenty of mountains. August could be the UK – it would be more interesting to have one mountainous GT and one less mountainous one. Or the August race could be Scandinavia, USA, etc. – they could even take turns.
    And the races should start at 15 days and then extend if desirable. That would probably involve changing the UCI’s sexist limits on women’s racing, both in terms of no. of days and length of stages. Is cycling now the only sport in the world that decrees that women can’t even do half of what men do? (Somehow they manage to do marathons, for example, so it’s time for the UCI to drag itself out of the 1950s.)

    • Constantin Gabriel Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 1:20 am

      Aren’t some of those women also otherwise employed? If that’s the case, then they don’t have much time to train for a 5-6h race. Anyway, the women (racing) should decide or communicate if those lengths are appropriate.

      • J Evnas Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 11:37 am

        Yes, with the current state of cycling finances that the women endure the race organisers would probably have to pay decent appearance fees to all riders.
        Until women do (or are allowed by the UCI to do) grand tours of a length at least vaguely comparable to the men, I think few are going to regard these races as actual ‘grand tours’.
        I think a couple of 15-day races for women would really spark some interest.

  • James Lantz Friday, 21 June 2019, 3:52 am

    I like to see the mountains in a grand tour because of the endurance test and it’s incredibly fun to watch for the spectator but I’m open to see other venues.

  • thesteve4761 Saturday, 22 June 2019, 9:45 am

    Thank you for continuing to pepper in a bit more about the women’s side over the last few months. Much appreciated.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 22 June 2019, 12:36 pm

    its no “Grand” tour for me without a travelling barber!

  • oldDAVE Saturday, 22 June 2019, 2:15 pm

    it would be cool to maybe run a tour backwards one day… but do it in a way that:
    a) tried to not pick your winner on day1
    b) put pressure on the best teams to have to show their cards early so rivals have longer to gang up force the issue in the remaining few weeks .

    (I don’t really care about a GT giving a chance to Sagan/GVA to win, as I love the GT contenders and the completeness of riders who win… I just want more entertainment…)

    1) start with an uphill TTT where maybe the time is taken on the 3rd rider so not to disadvantage the weaker teams but also to force the best to be held back by a weaker climber (maybe the 4th would do this okay…)

    2) follow up with a medium hills stage which is hard but encourages those still in the picture, who might usually not be at the end of 3weeks, to hang in there and maybe even try something in the hunt for yellow.

    3) follow that with a windy coastal stage to give the sprinters a chance but also some of the surprise heavier riders who are still closer than expected an opportunity to take yellow and force the issue.

    4) a transition sprint stage

    5) One of the fabled short mountain stages – those that have been amazing at the Vuelta but rubbish at the Tour… maybe being earlier might create a classic?

    6) The TT – dependent on how many good climbers vs TT’s there are in that years contenders between 30-40km

    rest day – earlier than usual ready for two big mountain days making the middle section of the race a long drag or even to include a third rest day in an effort to encourage more attacks.

    7) A high mountain stage, maybe with a gravel finish for kicks, the 2nd Saturday and the Queen stage.
    8) A L-B-L-esq stage that starts with a high mountain for anyone looking to push a tactical attack after a hard day.
    10) A third high mountains day.
    11) An uphill sprint stage.
    12) A sprint stage.
    2nd rest day.
    14) The stage with Ax3 domaines/Planche BF – usually the taster mountain stage reserved.
    15) A second L-B-L style stage – maybe even a short stage to encourage attacks.
    16) An uphill sprint stage.
    17) A sprint
    18) A sprint stage
    19) The final Saturday reserved for a blockbuster Roubaix inspired stage.
    20) A medium-lenth TT, just longer than a prologue, 15-20km
    21) Paris.

    this was a silly comment but fun to write.

    • oldDAVE Saturday, 22 June 2019, 2:24 pm

      I noticed after that there are fewer high mountains than normal.
      Maybe that is the trade off for more entertainment.
      I feel like (like others here) a few new ideas would be great to put in – ie a 3rd rest day.
      And if people were worried about the total length falling too far maybe a further idea to add into the above would be to have an extra long stage right near the end, to really push people to their limits.
      I assume we can’t race in the night – but image if the final stage was a marathon into Paris push 300km… you could have something so special… even some others finishing delayed the winners ceremony… anyway – more short stages, an extra rest day, an extra long day, an uphill TTT and earlier high mountains are my ideas… all for a bit of fun.

      Plus stop the Dauphine going over the same routes as the Tour, the prep it gives the riders detracts from the Tour.

    • CA Monday, 24 June 2019, 1:13 pm

      I got through points 1 and 2 and realise they would violate your a and b overall concepts.

      Team Skyneos would win the TTT and then bernal and Thomas or froome of old would hold the yellow jersey. Then the mountain stage following it would further cement their lead. BOOM tdf is decided on stage one

      • oldDAVE Monday, 24 June 2019, 6:39 pm

        I did definitely think that…

        But… INEOS/SKY win anyway….

        Right now we just delay the inevitable!

        My argument here is that by establishing the strongest on day 1 to an extent you might then force collaboration to bring him down earlier rather than the top10 being established and everyone being scarred to do anything…

        IE What just happened to Roglic in way…

        I not convinced it will work. I just thought agh, I write it down anyway! So what, it’s only a forum!

        • oldDAVE Monday, 24 June 2019, 6:40 pm

          scared NOT scarred.

        • CA Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 1:40 pm

          Good to keep the ideas flowing to shake up the tdf status quo!

  • Louis le Blond Saturday, 22 June 2019, 3:09 pm

    Great article as usual – thanks Inrng 🙂
    Lookin’ forward for the TdF to begin… so many new aspects this year…
    In my subconsience there’s an old italian shark swimming in the horizon, hehe – always beware of sharks, especially the old ones 🙂

  • Anonymous Sunday, 23 June 2019, 6:46 am

    “can the women’s peloton have its own grand tours in new places?” Of course! They have a chance to write their own script in many ways. I would use women’s tennis as an example of what they could do as they even get the same prize money in a lot of tournaments while playing shorter contests.
    As I’ve said many times, the UCI should require the bankrolling at some minimum level of a women’s squad of every men’s team wanting to be in their World Tour top-tier of teams. They wouldn’t even miss a couple of million and my guess is their marketing-mavens would be delighted with the results.

    • Larry T Sunday, 23 June 2019, 6:47 am

      Ooopps, that was me above rather than any of the Anonymous Family, sorry.

    • CA Monday, 24 June 2019, 4:46 am

      Larry T – I couldn’t agree more. Women’s tennis is the perfect example that all women’s sports need to learn from when building their programs. It has fans of its own, athletes who enjoy long, incredibly lucrative and successful careers and most importantly carry legacies that no sports fan on the planet can justifiably deny.

      And this is the part where I think ASO is COMPLETELY off base and in the long run they are missing a huge opportunity for developing their sport as a whole. Without going into too much detail, tennis’ main 4 events integrate men and women’s events seamlessly (along with junior, doubles, mixed doubles, etc.) and capture a massive international audience. ASO’s TdF needs to do the same and one quick suggestion would be to cut down on the marketing caravan and have women ride similar/shorter courses than the men with similar finishes. The added TV marketing revenue from broader audiences would more than pay for it in the long run… it only needs a progressive minded leader to make this happen. UCI/ASO/Team sp0nsors/National Federations – it’s up to you to make this happen…

      • Larry T Monday, 24 June 2019, 3:20 pm

        I was there back-in-the-day when they ran a women’s TdF along with the men’s race. The feelings were mixed – on the one hand: great the women had a showcase on the same day using (part of) the same course so the crowds could see and cheer for them but OTOH: the course was much, much shorter so some denigrated the women’s efforts in comparison.
        I don’t even remember the organizer’s excuse for putting an end to it, perhaps it was the difficulty of running two events on (parts of) the same course on the same day?
        But whatever, I agree that ASO (and as I say, probably too often, they ARE the only adults in the room many times in pro cycling) should be a leader here rather than seeming to be an old mule being yanked and poked to get it to do something.
        But as I’ve also written before, “chauvinism” IS a French word, after all.

  • Bernie S Sunday, 23 June 2019, 10:17 pm

    Just watched the final stage of theRoute de Sud,a circuit race in the country lanes south of Auch.Would have thought the organisers would have something a little less disappointing bearing in mind Eurosport were covering.

    • DaveRides Monday, 24 June 2019, 3:19 pm

      Maybe that was all they could afford?

      Eurosport are not exactly big spenders and don’t get much in the way of viewing numbers, so relying on Eurosport is a great way to make sure that both TV rights income and sponsorship income (low viewership = low returns for sponsors = sponsors go elsewhere or reduce their spend) are low for the race.

  • Emil Monday, 24 June 2019, 9:47 pm

    The Battle of the North seems like a step towards a grand tour. The narrative of two mostly flat stages on small roads in Denmark, a few days of gradually hillier Swedish stages, maybe a TT and a last showdown in Jotunheimen (coincidentally one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in the world) would make for an epic showdown

  • Sam Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 1:36 am

    @inrng – I know your focus is on elite road racing – but I would love it if you can bring your eloquence and even handed analysis to bear on the laughable and scandalous proposals of the UCI to ‘reform’ (i.e. completely destroy) track cycling.

  • jan Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 10:28 am

    Talking about Grand Tours…
    Why does the Tour de Suisse – the 4th biggest race of the calendar and in a land full of stunning climbs & sceneries – never appear on INRNG?!

    Best Regards from Sweeetzerland;
    jan*

    • J Evnas Tuesday, 25 June 2019, 11:34 am

      It might be the 4th biggest race in terms of metres climbed – I don’t know – but how is it a bigger race than, say, the Dauphine, Paris-Nice, Tirenno, etc.?

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 2 July 2019, 11:55 pm

      Because of the calendar clash it’s the Dauphiné or Suisse… and the Dauphiné has been better race of late.