2012 Tour de France route unveiled

Tour de France organisers ASO briefly published stage details on their website this afternoon and Dutch journalist Sander Slager alerted me to this via twitter. They’ve since taken down the listings but I was fast enough to copy the information down.

Here is the 2012 Tour de France.

P Prologue Sat 30 June Liège > Liège 6.1 km
1 Road stage Sun 1 July Liège > Seraing 198 km
2 Road stage Mon 2 July Visé > Tournai 207 km
3 Road stage Tues 3 July Orchies > Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km
4 Road stage Weds 4 July Abbeville > Rouen 214 km
5 Road stage Thurs 5 July Rouen > Saint-Quentin 197 km
6 Road stage Fri 6 July Épernay > Metz 210 km
7 Road stage Sat 7 July Tomblaine > La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km
8 Road stage Sun 8 July Belfort > Porrentruy 154 km
9 Time trial Mon 9 July Arc-et-Senans > Besançon 38 km
Rest day Tues 10 July
10 Road stage Weds 11 July Mâcon > Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194 km
11 Mountains Thurs 12 July Albertville > La Toussuire 140 km
12 Mountains Fri 13 July Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Annonay 220 km
13 Road stage Sat 14 July Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Le Cap d’Agde 215 km
14 Road stage Sun 15 July Limoux > Foix 192 km
15 Road stage Mon 16 July Samatan > Pau 160 km
Rest day Tues 17 July
16 Mountains Weds 18 July Pau > Bagnères-de-Luchon 197 km
17 Mountains Thurs 19 July Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes 144 km
18 Road stage Fri 20 July Blagnac > Brive-la-Gaillarde 215 km
19 Time trial Sat 21 July Bonneval > Chartres 52 km
20 Road stage Sun 22 July Rambouillet > Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km

A caveat first that this is not confirmed by ASO so be careful if you want to book hotels.

At first glance the two time trials stand out, they make a total of 96km of solo time trialling when added to the prologue. The first of the two TT stages is from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon in the hilly Doubs area. Of course the precise route is not known but it’s quite likely that this is a technical course. The second time trial is going to be on much flatter terrain.

Vosges and Jura
In addition the mountains look relatively light. Before we get to the Alps we’ll have the Vosges and Jura to contend with. Now these don’t decide the race but they do make for good racing (and good riding if you’re a tourist). Stage 7 finishes in a small ski resort and features 7km at 8.5% which could create gaps. It’s also right next to the home of FDJ’s rising star Thibaut Pinot. Stage 8 should go into Switzerland with more climbs.

The Alps
Things could begin after the first rest day when the race might take the terrible Grand Colombier climb on the way to Bellegarde but ASO don’t list this as a mountain stage, so there’s a chance the steep ramps are bypassed. Things start for sure on the next day when the race will go from Albertville to La Toussuire via the Col de la Madeleine and then the Col du Glandon before the first summit finish of the race at La Toussuire. This will also be the route used for the Etape du Tour cyclo ride. The next stage to Annonay leaves the Alps behind and could include a variety of climbs but the finish is away from the mountains. In total just six Alpine climbs will feature.

There’s the Bastille day finish in the Cap d’Agde coast, a chance for the sprinters but this is also a place famous for its crosswinds.

The Pyrenees
We then have two full days in the Pyrenees but before this, Limoux to Foix could borrow some climbs if they arc south but will be flat if they go north. Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon could well include the Soulor and Tourmalet before a finish in the valley. But the finish at Peyragudes means a summit finish as it’s a ski resort off the Col de Peyresourde. But the route should be interesting as Peyragudes is almost on top of Bagnères-de-Luchon, meaning a loop around the Pyrenees.

Route summary
A classic opening week that gets progressively hillier as the race heads to the Alps. A tough time trial is followed by a brief stay in the Alps and then Pyrenees are short and sharp too. After celebrating the Tourmalet in 2010 and the Galibier in 2011 the race lessens its focus on the high mountains.

Race favourites
Given this is a provisional route, extrapolating further to the winners is another step along an uncertain path. Nevertheless, let’s run with this and explore who is up and down. In simple terms those who can time trial are the big favourites. Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador should be happy with this route, the same for the surprising Chris Froome and Richie Porte and Tony Martin, if he can improve his climbing in the high mountains.

It’s almost certainly not a race for the pure climbers, they have just two summit finishes to pull out time on their heavier rivals and might need to take 10 minutes across these stages just be avoid being crushed by those who can roll a big gear. This means they can’t wait until they are 2km from the finish, if they have any GC goals they’ll have to smash it up 40km from the finish. In total there are 25 climbs with HC, 1st and 2nd category status compared to 23 for this year’s racebut eight climbs are in the Vosges and Jura and so long as long and steep as the rest of the Alps.

34 thoughts on “2012 Tour de France route unveiled”

  1. Only 4 days classed as ‘mountains’ is interesting, as is two TTs. That is going back to the 80s/90s, with the early TT, one of the big guns putting in a big TT ride and then defending their lead.

  2. Interesting route, if it is indeed the one – I suggest someone may be loosing their job for this one – doens’t look great for the Schlecks with two TT and only 4 Mountain finishes, disappointing not to see the TTT again. Bodes well for Wiggo and Bertie (if he’s allowed to race)

  3. I love the idea of the TdF being a truly balanced race. It seems like the Giro and Vuelta have this ongoing battle of who can have the steepest, most numerous, and most outrageous summit finishes. The game is to let the pure climbers rack up time, and then play TT roulette to see if the all-rounders can pull enough back. It is interesting to see great athletes almost grind to a halt on a 22% grade, but the TdF is the greatest race of all, and should require true “all-rounders.” I would be in favor, at the risk of being seen as a heretic, of bringing back time bonuses to the TdF: bigger ones this time, going further down the minor placings, and time bonuses for intermediate sprints, too.
    I would love to see the GC contenders being required to do more all-around riding: get into a breakaway, engage in tactics on flat stages, follow some wheels and sprint to a finish line for 9th place and a few seconds of time: in short, exercise ALL the cycling skills. That way, the whole thing would be a race, not just a half-dozen summit finishes and a couple of TTs. It’s not like a handful of seconds on offer would put Mark Cavendish in the yellow jersey in Paris. However, those few seconds that tend to separate riders high in the GC, rather than leading to boring cat-and-mouse games, could be settled in gentlemanly fashion with a dash to the finish line!

  4. If all so this is true, I do think it sets up for some good racing. The early TT will mean some of the favorites (Evans, Wiggins) will jump into the lead. Then Schleck will have to attack furiously in the mountains to make up that time and try to build a big enough gap to survive the final time trial. Not to mention that Contador will probably attack as well. I think we may see again Cadel just reacting to everyone in the mountains and hoping to win it in the final time trial.

  5. I’m not a fan of time bonuses, but have to admit it did provoke some attacks and interesting racing in the Vuelta this year.

    It looks like the first TT might be hilly so won’t suit Wiggins and Evans so much. We haven’t seen the profile but if it is really hilly then the climbers might not loose much time, if any.

  6. The Velo Peloton link suggests there will be 5 mountain and 4 medium stages. That sounds more believable. Looking up Mâcon and Bellegarde on a map it seems impossible to design a 194-km stage between them without visiting the Jura mountains at some point.

    Nine flat stages…in theory good for everyone’s favourite Manxman, but there’s those pesky Olympics too…

  7. Thanks for the info

    To clarify, Grand Colombier is in the Juras.

    As a mountain lover, this rumoured route leaves me cold.

    I suppose stage 12 would have to go over Télégraphe/Galibier or Croix de Fer.

  8. Grand Tours in 2011 seemed a little obsessed with very very hilly places, and not much on offer for the rest! With the new generation of sprinters coming to their own, challenging the old guard, I look forward to more sprint finishes…and more nervous crashes! Just hopefully no cars involved in instigating crashes this time!!!

  9. Stage 13 finish town is known as a place for nudist beaches and camps, I’m told, so I wonder if we’ll see any of that in the local TV pictures and publicity? Phil n Paul talking of ‘naked speed’ in the sprint finish? Great digging by Velocity Peloton.

  10. A good route for Bradley Wiggins. The Schleck brothers will not be impressed. The racing should still be close with Wiggins, Contador, Evans, etc all likely to be close in both the mountains and the TTs.

  11. How does Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux get to be a start town in 2011 and 2012? The Nuclear power station nearby is not exactly picturesque. Also when driving through the town this year on the rest day it didn’t feel like the tour was arriving the next day or that the tour was even in the area. However, the team hotels did spread from Orange to Valence.

  12. This is the worst Grand Tour parcours since the Giro 2004. The climbers are all screwed. Its not a parcours that forces the climbers to attack to gain time back, its a parcours that simply rules out the climbers. There is no possibility of a Schleck or an Anton or a Rujano or a Rodriguez seriously challenging. There is no possibility even of one of the climbers with a reasonable but not great TT like Gesink challenging. It will be riders with very strong TTs only.

    The most boring of all the disciplines. Man cycles on his own for twenty minutes. Time appears on screen. Man cycles on his own for another twenty minutes. Number appears on screen. Man cycles on his own for another 20 minutes. Audience tunes in to something else. The general move away from TT kms in favour of climbing has been the best thing to happen to Grand Tours. This will simply be a return to the days of TTers smashing the little guys on endless TTs and then grimly, boringly, hanging on up the few real climbs. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull.

    Contador wins if he isn’t banned, although he wins if he isn’t banned on pretty much any parcours. If he is banned it will be Evans, Wiggins (or his suddenly overperforming sidekick), Menchov and a couple of other guys boring the pants off us for three weeks.

  13. Why not just get rid of the other stages, since the 2012 TdF (like 2011’s) will apparently be decided by TT. I’m with Jakob Fuglsang who called the 2011 Tour boring. For me it was so because hardly anyone attacked–just a bunch of wheel sucking and sprint finishes (even the latter were less than exciting since, Cav winning 5 of them makes them predictable)–and the winner was decided by TT. This looks like more of the same. If so, why watch? As you say, it will come down to the TT specialists who can climb reasonable well, so ZZZ. It’ll be like basketball–just tune in for the last two minutes, no need to watch the rest.
    Okay, to be fair, the Norwegians (Hushovd, Boassen-Hagen) were exciting. Galibier was as well (A. Schleck). But what else was there?

  14. @joan – No attacks??
    Stage 1,(gilbert, Evans) 4, (Contador, Evans), Luz Ardiden (Sanchez, F Shleck), 16 (contador, Sanchez, Evans) 17 (Contador Sanchez, Voekler- into a carpark), 18 (A Shleck, evans) 19 (everyone) + uphill sprint finishes and the green going down to the Champs. All attacking, up, down, wet, dry, power climbs & long drags. add that to Thor winning a mountain stage, EBH, Voekler, Cavendish. Compare that to previous years.
    Wait to see the profiles. After the success of this years tour there will be more uphill finishes on flat stages, descents etc. And I will wager the alpine stages will be designed so that the enterprising can attack on an early HC as happened this year.

  15. An interesting preview but it definitely looks incomplete. Typically ASO has 3 classification for their stages, “en ligne”, “medium mountains”, and “high mountains”. It it safe to assume the “mountain” stages in this list are the high mountain stages? How many medium stages then?

    A bit early to call this a boring route. The Giro and Vuelta had tougher routes this year but the TDF was a more dynamic race imho.

  16. It does look boring but at the same time we’ve seen the high mountains neutralise the racing as riders hold back in order not to lose the race, see how the favourites watched eachother in the Pyrenees. Andy Schleck’s attack on the way to the Galibier was partly because he lost time and had to do something.

    After celebrating the Tourmalet in 2010 and the Galibier in 2011, the race certainly takes a step back from the mountains.

  17. I’m suprised that people have been so quick to judge the parcours.

    To me, the racers make the race, and the prospect of a year for a genuine ‘all rounder’ is appealing.

  18. Good to see more TT mileage, especially before the mountain. The climbers will have to attack, and do it hard and early. Candy Schleck could get 8 minutes from Evans and 20 from Wiggo on these mountains stages. But he’d have to try hard and take the risk of losing the 20 minutes himself: he must break away in the beginning of every big climb. The only major problem with this parcours is, again, the short mileage. The longest stage is 220 km. long, and the two best mountain-top finishes come after only 140 km… Come on!!
    Minor problems:
    – rest day after the first TT. Please. It should be before. TT has the greatest capacity to wear riders’ reserves out (no one can hide or economize). No sense in letting them rest after it.
    – way too many boring sprinters’ stages in sight.
    – the long TT for specialists should be the first one (Schleck should know how many minutes he will need to grab back). The last one should be for the strongest all-rounders.
    – very little “mid-mountain”, which is great for breakaways and ambushes.
    – no information yet on whether there will be cobbles. It should be a must every year.

  19. One more thing to note is that if there are fewer mountain stages it’s not always good for the TT guys like Wiggins. They can struggle to cope with accelerations and changes of pace and instead of a long stage where everyone is so tired they all ride like diesels, this time they could be more. But that’s far from certain, just consider it.

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