2012 Tour de France route

Le Tour 2012

The leaked route proved true but only the summary details came out last time. This is a race of 3,479km but it comes down to a few strategic points and today’s presentation showed where these will be.

I’d been lamenting the race’s lack of innovation, the tendency to take the same climbs again and again but 2012 sees the inclusion of several new climbs, including some double-digit gradients. As much as there will be 96km of time trials, there will also be slopes so steep they will prove fatal for the ambitions of many a time trial specialist. All the same the climbing is reduced and concentrated to a few stages, as Christian Prudhomme said – and I wrote last week – this will force the climbers to attack rather than wait for the last 3km before showing.

Even the opening stages contain what the French call pièges or traps. For example Stage 3 from Orchies to Boulogne sur Mer includes several steep climbs on the way to the finish. They won’t trouble the riders by themselves but they are strategic points where riders know they need to be at the front to avoid trouble, thereby creating a vicious circle where riders try to force their way to the front.

Both time trials are relatively flat. Stage 9 could have used hillier routes so expect a bump or two but nothing drastic. The second one on Stage 19 is even flatter.

Riders might want a compact chainset for 2012 given some of the climbs. Stage 7 and the finish to the La Planche des Belles Filles ski resort lift includes sections at 14%. Stage 10 includes the Grand Colombier. Here’s the profile from salite.ch:

Grand Colombier
Grand Colombier

It’s a tough climb, 18.3km at 6.9% but with steep ramps. But it’s not the finish, there’s a the big-ring Col de Richemont to come before the finish. Still, it’s a new one and should be exciting. And the Bastille Day stage from St Paul to Cap d’Agde will use the Mont St-Clair in Sète, a short steep climb that will ruin the ambitions of many sprinters that day. In the Pyrenees we’ll get some new climbs including the finish at Peyragudes, just off the Col de Peyresourde.

For traditionalists there are some classic climbs too. The tricky Col de la Madeleine is included on Stage 11, before the Col du Glandon and the Mollard and a ski-station summit finish in La Toussuire. And the Pyrenees visits Pau again and we’ll meet old friends like the Tourmalet and Aubisque.

Green jersey
The single intermediate sprint tried in 2011 stays. We saw the sprinters lining up for this and it made the racing exciting at times. ASO have kept this, so no change from 2011.

The sprinters have several stages, Mark Cavendish says he’s identified seven. His rivals for the green jersey include Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd but they are supposed to be helping Cadel Evans as part of the BMC super team, no?

Polka dot jersey
No changes in the scoring – meaning the final climb of the day is weighted with more points – except the hors catégorie climbs will attract more points. The aim is to again ensure a big name from the race wins this rather than a sneaky breakaway rider with a spreadsheet.

A good coach
By my estimations, there are over 1,600km of transfers in the race, to get from stage finishes to the next day’s start. That’s a lot. It means riders face the additional fatigue of travel after the stage and recovery matters. It’s a detail that won’t decide the race but it will come up as a topic next July.

Just as the Giro has reset the clocks on ever more climbing, the 2012 Tour de France takes a step back from the summit fever of 2010 and 2011. But the Tour is trying to concentrate the action in places, to use steeper climbs in place of long passes to provide the action and race organiser Prudhomme hopes this will stop the tendency of the favourites watching each other until the last possible moment of a stage. I think this has the makings of an exciting race but that’s up to the riders. The early mountain stages in the Vosges and Jura mountains could allow small gaps but will favour all day breakaways, the Pyrenees are more classic.

Talking of riders, it is already hard to see past Alberto Contador, his greatest rival could well be the Court of Abitration for Sport instead of Cadel Evans. The Spaniard will excel on the steep climbs, can handle the matching descents and can time trial with the best.

14 thoughts on “2012 Tour de France route”

  1. I feel a bit like watching one of the old but legendary Indiana Jones movies. The momentum had gradually been build up for ´the grand finale´ – in a town square somewhere in the Middle east. The tense was high and we were just awaiting Indiana to punish his opponent for several minutes with his trademark, the long whip. Unfortunately, history later told, the scene had to be rewritten on the day of the shooting due to Mr. Jones bad stomachs (food contamination maybe), and therefore he just pulled out his gun, took aim and shot the enemy once in his heart, with the obvious result.

    What to learn: You can try to write and orchestra the perfect scenery, but you never know what’s going to happen when the cameras are running – except that in the end the strongest of the remains always wins, no Mather what. Just as in Tour de France!

    And this, I guess, is why we keep coming back despite all the trouble surrounding the sport! We simply want to se who is the strongest!

  2. With two individual time trials, I suspect young Andy Schleck will spend some time in a wind tunnel this winter with his new director sportif. We know Andy has the big engine. Johan Bruyneel has a fine track record of getting his stars ready for the race of truth.

  3. Tom H: so am I!

    El Gato de La Cala: yes it is a story and no matter what the map says, the riders will make it. ASO might try to put a narrative on thinks today but we’ll see.

    Rooie: yes but perhaps the prologue will calm some down?

    Ken: you’d hope so but he’s had years with Riis, TT coach Bobby Julich and Fabian Cancellara. Still, he can get the basics right like visiting the TT courses, something he didn’t do in 2011. It didn’t cost him the race but if he’d taken more time on the Galibier, being 20-30 seconds quicker in the time trial could have changed everything.

  4. I agree Andy was woefully unprepared for the 2010 time trial. You’d have thought he would have at least scouted the course better. Are either of the courses in earlier 2012 races, like the 2011 course was? Andy’s presence in those pre-tour races could tell us how serious he is in fixing this weakness.

  5. We’re all talking about the favourites for the overall but I think the route promises plenty every day, from breakaways to chances for the GC guys to outfox each other every day. Just a shame we have to wait so long, July is so far.

  6. Just a thought that might be crazy (I have not done the maths yet) but any chance Gilbert goes for Polka dot? Some of the climbs in Vosges/Jura/Boulonnais have similar characteristics than the Ardennes. And Peguere is 4km at 14%. If Gilbert was going after the Polka dot jersey, he could chase stage victories in the first ten days and then potentially go on early breakways in Pyrenees to help Evans later in the stage. Again, I have not done the maths and I might be wrong, but that certainly help Evans more than if he was going after the Green jersey.

  7. I think we will see Tony Martin on the podium or top 5. I know he has said that he does not want to target the grand tours, but if his form is as good next year he could go all “Big Mig” on this course.

  8. I think you have overlooked the new sprint stars. The God of Thunder and Phillipe will be helping Cadel by getting into breakaways and looking for individual stage wins from breakaways. I think BMC will sing from the same song sheet.

    But there is a raft of new sprinters to take on the Rainbow Jersey, plus Mr Renshaw will be lining up as lead sprinter for Rabo. So Green will be fought over by the young Guns: Degenkolb, Kittel, Sagan et al. Green will be a great battle next year. Could we see a passing of the mantle?

  9. I initially tought it was a route set-up for Voeckler, but the big jump in ITT mileage negates that idea.

    Wiggins seems the obvious beneficiary, if he still has his climbing legs (arguably). Test for Cadel will be how close he can stay to Contador on the steeper climbs, given we know Contador can ITT as well…

    Unless Frandy Schleck can pull a miracle improvement in their ITT, it’ll be another winless July for them…

  10. Tony Martin should spend the winter improving his climbing, he could have a real chance. Same for Cancellara, both have never had anything to gain in the mountains before, consequently we don’t know how good they might be. Frandy should concentrate on the Giro and forget the Tour.
    This will be the best chance Wiggins will ever have.

  11. Good tight summary as always. Agree on the Wiggins point from CGC & VP. I would imagine he has already changed his training plans to build up his top end power before the season starts. Martin should improve his final placing markedly (44th this year) but the steep climbs will hurt him more than most of the established GC contenders and I think a top 5 finish is out of reach. Evans should be able to limit his losses in the mountains and is still very much a podium contender, especially looking at how his team will be strengthened over the winter. Contador has an appointment with CAS and I want to wait for that before speculating any further.

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