As predicted next summer’s Tour de France is going to celebrate the Alps. Beaucoup.
Here are the mountain stages in profile:
As for all the stages, here they are. I’ve put the most obvious strategic stages in bold:
Stage 1: La Barre-de-Monts – Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers 191 km
Stage 2: TTT: Les Essarts 23 km
Stage 3: Olonne-sur-Mer – Redon 198 km
Stage 4: Lorient – Mûr-de-Bretagne 172 km
Stage 5: Carhaix – Cap Fréhel 158 km
Stage 6: Dinan – Lisieux 226 km
Stage 7: Le Mans – Châteauroux 215 km
Stage 8: Aigurande – Super-Besse Sancy 190 km
— Rest day —
Stage 9 : Issoire – Saint-Flour 208 km
Stage 10: Aurillac – Carmaux 161 km
Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines – Lavaur 168 km
Stage 12: Cugnaux – Luz-Ardiden 209 km
Stage 13: Pau – Lourdes 156 km
Stage 14: Saint-Gaudens – Plateau de Beille 168 km
Stage 15: Limoux – Montpellier 187 km
Stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Gap 163 km
— Rest day —
Stage 17: Gap – Pinerolo 179 km
Stage 18: Pinerolo – Galibier 189 km
Stage 19: Modane – Alpe-d’Huez 109 km
Stage 20: TT: Grenoble 41 km
Stage 21: Créteil – Paris Champs-Élysées 160 km
No prologue but a team time trial. The race opens with the usual collection of stages and some easier stages likely to suit the sprinters. Then things get interesting as the race heads into the Massif Central, including an uphill finish at Super Besse.
The Pyrenees appear soon with some workmanlike stages, including two summit finishes, first the steep Luz Ardiden and then… the steep Plateau de Beille. Both are hard finishes and will be preceded by other mountain passes.
Some long transfers see the race dash across the South of France. Expect breakaways and sprints, against a backdrop of melting tar and potential crosswinds.
Then comes almost a rest day followed by the remainder of the week in the mountains. An entry via Gap, a stage into Italy to finish in Pinerolo, which marks the new high-speed train link between Torino and Lyon via the Val di Susa. Then it’s back to France and the finish on the Galibier, the high point of Alpine celebration. There’s an intriguingly short Alpine stage of just 109km from Modane to Alpe d’Huez.
Finally a time trial around Grenoble which avoids the local mountains but can’t be easy. Then the final parade to Paris, which will detour to make a tribute to Laurent Fignon.
Who will win?
It’s one for the climbers, certainly there’s no point in putting Cancellara on a diet. This has Andy Schleck written all over it, not to mention Gesink, Nibali and others. There’s a team time trial to put some out of contention but the 41km TT in Grenoble isn’t going to create huge differences. Certainly there are six mountain stages and four summit finishes, plus also the stages in the Massif Central.
As ever the riders make the race but the terrain lends itself to attacks and hard riding. There aren’t many easy days. Note that the mountains are tackled as blocks, there are no rest days in between.
The points will be tweaked for the other jerseys. There will only be one intermediate sprint per stage but the points will be increased, meaning anyone wanting the Green Jersey will have to contest this; indeed it could also favour breakaways but this could also condemn early moves as the sprinters try to lock down the early hotspot. The points in the mountains change with double points only available for the four big summit finishes, which will see the bigger GC contenders collect more points. Thus plucky attackers like Charteau are likely to be replaced by the likes of Andy Schleck, Joaquin Rodriguez and others who can climb and win the mountain stages.
I’ll revisit this page during the day to reconfirm the details and add graphics, as well as any appropriate comment. Stay tuned.