The 2016 Tour de France

Tour de France 2016 map

The 2016 Tour de France route is out and the presentation even managed to spring a surprise with a second time trial that nobody had predicted. It’s a promising route that celebrates the mountains and includes several new climbs. Glance at the map alone and you’ll see it quickly escapes from France’s boring northern half. Here’s a closer look.

The opening week is sans pavé but it’ll still be fraught given the inevitable pressure. It all begins in the tourist hotspot of Mont Saint Michel, a island on a tidal causeway. Stage 1 will ride to the site of the 1944 Allied landings and is promised for the sprinters but beware the crosswinds.

Stage 2 sees the first punchy uphill finish with the Côte de la Glacerie offering 2km at 6% with a 10% section, the kind of finish where Peter Sagan will be rubbing shoulders with the GC contenders who can’t afford to lose time or position. Stages 3 is for the sprinters and passes through Renazé, home of the Madiot clan. Stage 4 is the longest stage and the promised uphill finish in Limoges is made-for-Sagan.

Stage 5 is a medium mountain that starts by celebrating Raymond Poulidor’s 80th birthday proceeding through his home town then into the Massif Central via a series of steep climbs including the Pas-de-Peyrol before the finish in Le Lioran, a coffee ride away from Romain Bardet’s family home and the first chance to thin out the race. Stage 6 finishes in Montauban but ignore the mont– prefix: this is flat sunflower country. Stage 7 heads into the Pyrenees with the Col d’Aspin and then a descent before the finish by the Lac de Payolle, a route used before the Route du Sud stage race.

It’s Stage 8 that brings out all the classic Pyrenean climbs just in time for the weekend in the first full mountain stage although even here there’s a small innovation with the Hourquette d’Ancizan climbed for the first time from the north. There’s a mini-theme for 2016: a mountain stage that ends with a descent straight into the finish.

Stage 9 visits the mountain microstate of Andorra with a challenging route but one that’s dialled back from “the hardest ever stage” claim that we saw in this year’s Vuelta. It’s followed by a rest day and then Stages 10 and 11 offer two possible sprint finishes in Revel and Montpellier with a late hill to spice up the finish on one day and a good chance of crosswinds for the latter.

Stage 12 is Bastille Day and the riders will ride across the plans before storming Mont Ventoux, taking the classic route up from Bédoin, 15.7km at 8.8%. This will be one of key moments of the race, a set-piece summit finish.

Stage 13 is going to be decisive too, a 37km hilly time trial with a climb right from the start before dropping into the Ardèche river gorge and then a final drag up to the finish. It’s scenic and the images will be stunning even if watching a TT doesn’t excite you. There’s about 900m of vertical gain here making it hilly but still rewarding for the rouleurs. You’d back Chris Froome to do well but the course can suit Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin as pre-Olympic test. Stage 14 is for the sprinters, it finishes in Villars-les-Dombes where Nacer Bouhanni won a stage of the Dauphiné last June.

Stage 15 is an interesting route which makes its way over some steady climbs to the Grand Colombier, a tough climb that is not celebrated in the myths and legends of the Tour de France. The numbers don’t lie: 12.8km at 6.8% with steeper slopes near the top before a fast descent and a passage across the finish line before climbing halfway up the Colombier again via a different route to rejoin the already used descent and ride to the finish, a stage to reward climbers and descenders with 4,000m of vertical gain. Stage 16 takes the race to Switzerland to celebrate 500 years of the Treaty of Fribourg, a peace pact between France and Switzerland so obscure it doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page in English yet before the finish in Bern, home town of Fabian Cancellara and a rest day awaits.

Stage 17 resembles a day in the Tour de Romandie as it leaves the Swiss capital to pedal past the UCI HQ Aigle – no Brian Cookson in Paris today – before tackling the Col de la Forclaz and then the climb to the Emosson dam used in the 2014 Dauphiné where Lieuwe Westra won the day and Alberto Contador distanced a wounded Chris Froome. It’s a hard climb, 10.4km at 8.4% and backloaded as it gets steeper and steeper towards the finish with 12% in the final kilometre.

Stage 18 was the surprise from the presentation, a 17km time trial. Is it a mountain time trial? It’s in the mountains and climbs and is steep on the Domancy section – part of previous World Championship circuits – but once off this part it’s on a dragging main road. It’ll reward climbers who roll well, think Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Thibaut Pinot.

Stage 19 is a beautiful stage with a series of unheralded climbs including the Signal Montée de Bisanne, the sinister alternative to the Col des Saisies. At 146km it’s short so it should be punchy but the flatter section before the finish climb to Le Bettex may deter GC contenders from trying a long raid. It’s a ski station summit finish but because it takes the steep and irregular Côte des Amerands “short cut” it’s an irregular climb. The final climb featured in the Dauphiné this year, Chris Froome ditched Tejay van Garderen to win the stage while Vincenzo Nibali cracked on the Amerands section.

Stage 20 is the penultimate stage and a tough day in the mountains with the Col des Aravis tackled from its harder side then the the Col de la Colombière and the Col de la Ramaz, where Lance Armstrong’s comeback fell apart, before the nasty Joux Plane and the toboggan run descent into Morzine. Stage 21 is the traditional parade on the Champs Elysées.

Route Summary

  • nine flat stages
  • one medium mountain stage
  • two individual time trial stages
  • nine mountain stages including
  • Four summit finishes (Andorra Arcalis, Mont Ventoux, Finhaut-Emosson and Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc)
  • Three downhill finishes (Bagnères-de-Luchon, Culoz, Morzine)
  • 28 classified mountain passes of Cat. 2, Cat. 1 or HC (2015: 25; 2014: 25; 2013: 28)

One curiosity is the relative lack of the high altitude climbs, the race rarely goes above 2,000m and this tilts the race a little to the purer climbers who enjoy more irregular, steeper climbs because there are fewer of the linear 7% ski station summit finishes and the brave and skilful will be rewarded on the descents. Time trials make their return with 54km in total against the clock but they’re hilly so as not to disadvantage the climbers so much. There are nine flatter stages but not all are promised to the sprinters, the fastmen look to have as many, or rather as few opportunities as they did this year.

Mythbusters: the route breaks the pattern of a clockwise and then an anti-clockwise route, or at least it shatters the myth of alternate routes. In 2008 it visited the Pyrenees first and repeated this in 2009 and over the last 50 years the Tour has repeated the previous year’s direction some 15 times.

Time trials make their return but it all depends on your frame of reference. Compared to last year there’s a lot more but compared to recent years it’s back towards the Prudhomme era average and what the charts don’t show is that the 2016 chronos will be hillier than usual.

New: Time bonuses stay in the race but new for 2016 will be a change in the mountains classification with double-points awarded as usual for the summit finishes but also on some of the last climbs of the stage too, ie before a descent into the finish. The idea being to reward some audacious attackers but it’s always hard to engineer the points system to guarantee a champion, to get the balance right between a breakaway raider desperate for the jersey and an indifferent GC contender who really wants yellow but rides into the polka dot jersey.

Chris Froome Tour podium

The Contenders: plenty will happen in the next 250 days but Chris Froome should return as the prime pick. He won this year’s race in the mountains and has a greater comparative advantage over rivals like Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru for the time trial stages. Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will be interesting to watch too, the see-saw profiles look a touch less suitable for TvG. There’s talk Alejandro Valverde could try the Giro but he’ll like this route too. The route suits Thibaut Pinot too as he’s increasingly good in the time trials and always seems to thrive in Switzerland too, a both a blessing and a curse because off the pressure heaped on him, le podium, le podium.

It all starts on 2 July but with luck we’ll see a copycat stage in the Dauphiné next June.

114 thoughts on “The 2016 Tour de France”

  1. Mountain-ish time trial makes a change and always good to see no team time trial. With the other time trial being hilly, it is perhaps not that balanced a course. But that might help make it more competitive.
    Stage 5 could be a good chance for a non-sprinter-type to take yellow.
    Is there a lack of long stages with many mountains – and, crucially, no flat bits between them? These are often the most difficult and most tactical stages and something the Tour has lacked of late – they can make for a great GC battle.
    Could Stage 8 have been that – if it had had a summit finish? It could still happen, but with a descent to the finish, maybe a long range effort by a GC contender is less likely.
    Froome will no doubt be waiting for the Ventoux mono-climb. Let’s hope the others have the courage to attack him on less favourable stages for him this year (Stage 8, for instance). They’ll have to with those time trials.
    I think that’s the main trick that has been missed here – have one long stage (at least – ideally more) that consists of many climbs together with no flat bits between them and the finish. And an uphill finish. The short, mountainous stages are interesting, but it would be a better parcours with some long ones too.

    • “always good to see no team time trial”

      Agreed. I understand the sporting reasons for their inclusion, but they are dull, dull, dull.

      “Froome will no doubt be waiting for the Ventoux mono-climb”

      And I can’t wait for all the bores and armchair physiologists to start banging on about watts per kilo.

      “Let’s hope the others have the courage to attack him…”

      It’s up to Nairo, really. As we now know, he made a better time overall than Froome in the mountains in 2015, though of course Sky had the luxury of being defensive. He WILL lose time in the ITTs, so Movistar should (I think!) be making moves to control the race as soon as it gets lumpy (and leave Valverde at home to shout at his telly).

      • Yes, that’s what Movistar should do – but it’s also what they should have done this year. And they are so conservative.
        Valverde was making noises at the Giro presentation and he undoubtedly should go for that and the Vuelta. He’s not that likely to beat Nibali in the Giro, but a lot more likely than he is to beat AC/CF/NQ – after all, he only needs VN to not finish rather than three riders.

        • The idea that Valverde somehow cost Quintana victory in the Tour this year is getting a bit boring (as is the Valverde bashing in general). Quintana lost the race by losing too much time in the crosswinds then being outridden on the first mountain stage plus he was facing an opponent who never ran out of team support in the mountains. The quality of Sky support for Froome was such that they could have happily controlled Valverde attacks regardless of what Movistar tried. The tactics at Alpe d’Huez were spot on, but ultimately Froome had too many strong team mates and Quintana came good too late in the race.

          • Actually, I was criticising Quintana, not Valverde (or Froome for that matter – as others have suggested – but there you go).
            It was Quintana’s failure to attack as much as he should have. (The team have to take some of the blame, but in the end it’s Quintana’s decision to obey team orders/go along with poor team tactics.)
            I can’t be as sure as you as to what might have happened had Quintana raced differently – i.e. attacked earlier, and more often in the latter stages when he seemed to be stronger.

    • I think leaving a team chrono out is a mistake. Far more interesting to watch than one guy at a time, these take a well-drilled squad and more importantly to me, make the teams show up with some “horses” who can help get their GC man home without big time losses vs a team made up of just skinny climbers to help when the roads tilt up. Otherwise this looks like a well-balanced route to reward the best overall rider, including those downhill finishes!! Vive LeTour!

      • Did the TTT work in 2015 though ?
        It penalised too harshly those teams with injuries / non-starters.
        And the top teams are so well drilled now that there was very little between them.

        • By “work” do you mean they brought guys they wouldn’t have used had there been no TTT? We’ll see in 2016 but my memory of Tours past suggests the team roster is different when time can be lost on a TTT when a team is made up solely of guys who can help in the big mountains. TTT is more than a simple watt-fest, it calls for skill riding together and some tactics when it comes to dropping off slower team members – far more interesting to me than any ITT, unless it was DOWNHILL!

          • Larry, I agree and you could add cobbles and cross wind stages to that.
            If you look at Sky then without the classics stages and TTT you would have been less likely to have seen Stannard or Rowe. Sky could have packed the team with mountain goats to help in the last week
            I wouldn’t want cobbles every years and a TTT shouldn’t be too long so to totally penalise smaller teams but a good mix helps make the mountains better.

    • Disagree with the descent finish scaring riders off long range attacks. It’s far better for a long range attack if there is not a monster climb at the end that they’ll burn out and fade away on.

  2. Froome’s to lose, I think – though I wonder if Tom Dumoulin also deserves a mention as a podium contender?

    Nibs might be wondering if it’s too late to do swapsies with Aru and ride this, I bet. Elsewhere I’d look to see both Kelderman and Jungels improve, if they choose/are chosen to ride. And I wonder if Rohan Dennis will now be keen to squeeze into the BMC team?

    If you want a bizzaro-world value bet tip (Froome is overwhelming fave with the bookies by the way) – Geraint Thomas is as long as 200/1. Worth an e/w nibble?

      • We’ll see, in 2012 all the medallists in the Olympics rode the Tour de France (Wiggins-Martin-Froome). What’s likely is they stay for the first and possibly the second TT and then quit to recover before the TT, especially as the Rio TT is supposed to be on a hilly course.

  3. Wow, lost of unheralded but very tough climbs (Grand Colombiere and Emosson). Specifically the ‘Lacets du Grand Colombiere’ are the version and section of any on a very steep mountain and those who have a bad moment there will lost a lot of time.

    It looks a lot like ASO is trying to neutralize a certain team’s strength in climbing and time trailing depth (no TTT). It was only at the end of the tour this year that Sky finally ran out of mountain goats to maintain Froome’s desired steady pace.

    • Did I imagine Poels on those last two mountain days this year, and Porte also on the Alpe? 🙂

      Froome’s deterioration at the back-end of this year’s race was nowt to do with lack of team mates in the mountains

      He claimed he wasnt well, but he seems to need to put in all his big attacks in the first 2 weeks to offset the fact that he seems to weaken in the final week

  4. Route looks pretty fun to me. Descending skills may be even more important than usual?

    One very small nit-pick. They are not really climbing Signal de Bisanne as they are skipping the last 2 steep kms (the “Signal” part), that’s why they are calling it Montée de Bisanne. the Tour will go about 200 metres vertical lower than the dead-end summit of Signal de Bisanne.

    • Agreed with the rewards for descending, even a “bad” descender who manages to stay with others will be tired from having to sprint out of every hairpin just to keep up so they can pay in the rush for the time bonuses.

      Good point on the Bisanne, great to see this climb included because it’s more irregular, steep and has hairpins compared to the Saisies.

  5. Already a few assumptions in comments here that Froome has this in the bag – or is even the favourite (bookies base their odds on what bets they will take – therefore, in the UK, Froome will be an overwhelming favourite not because the bookmakers think he’s a cert to win, but because they have received/know they are going to receive a large number of bets on Froome).
    It’s debatable whether or not Froome was the best rider in this year’s race (Movistar’s conservative tactics and desire for a podium for Valverde having stymied Quintana) and next year he’ll have a fresher Contador to deal with.
    It’s very – very – far from nailed-on for Froome, as any neutral can see.
    If you are putting money on Froome, find a bookmaker outside Britain. Or if you want a good, tactical bet – i.e. getting better odds than you should – bet on Quintana and/or Contador in the UK. (Personally, there’s no way I’d bet on cycling – see this year’s Vuelta, Horner, etc. and so on.)

    • Equally you wouldn’t want to write him off. There’s a long way to go and he will have a newborn by then……..

      The best rider is the guy that wins.

      • No, and I wouldn’t – he’s one of the three favourites (assuming Nibali does the Giro). But that’s all.
        That latter point is nowhere near always the case. Countless examples where that doesn’t happen – all sorts of things can happen to aid a lesser rider.

          • Very recent examples: each one only being a *possibility* that the best rider didn’t win a race:
            Scarponi 2011 Giro – the winner was DQ’d; was the guy who came second clean?
            Cobo 2011 Vuelta – Froome was quicker; Cobo won on bonuses; Froome wasted energy being a domestique for Wiggins.
            Tour 2012 – Was Froome better than Wiggins?
            Giro and Vuelta 2012 – Did Rodriguez throw both away with bad tactics?
            Some might say that Nibali wasn’t the best rider who started the Tour in 2014, but for me, being the best rider definitely involves not crashing (but accidents do happen).
            And yes, last year’s Tour.
            Also, many other ways the best rider can sometimes possibly not win: crashes, poor team mates, technicals, tactics, drug use (including drug use of team mates), winners being banned for drug use, etc. and so on. Some of those could come under ‘best rider’, depending on your point of view – but some don’t.

          • I think you are confusing ‘Best’ and ‘Strongest’.

            Interesting how so many end in ?

            To win you have to finish and not be DQ’d – that’s the easy bit out of the way.

            Everything else is just conjecture. Could Froome off the leash have beaten Wiggins in 2012? Maybe, maybe not. What is fact is however is that Wiggins took home the jersey by over 3 minutes which more than allows for Froome’s puncture, which could have been his fault for all we know (that last bit is conjecture).

            By your logic Tom Dumoulin was the best rider in la Vuelta, it is just the last mountain stage and the 4 guys further up the GC intervened.

            I’ll say it again the best rider is the rider that wins the race.

          • I used the word ‘possibility’ because it was conjecture – that’s why they end in question marks. That includes the 2012 Tour.
            Had Froome been working against Wiggins, that 3 minute gap might have been considerably different – and it might have been a big enough gap to compensate for Wiggins’s superiority in the time trials. Or it might not.
            I don’t know what this means: ‘By your logic Tom Dumoulin was the best rider in la Vuelta, it is just the last mountain stage and the 4 guys further up the GC intervened.’

          • I don’t think you can definitively say that this is always the case, particularly when riders are prevented by team orders from challenging their leader – e.g. Lemond/Hinault 1985 Tour – or when ‘outside factors’ play a part – Fignon, helicopter and ‘unusual’ cancellation of stage due to ‘bad weather’, 1984 Giro; Evans, ‘neutral’ service’s bizarre inability to change a wheel, 2009 Vuelta; Merckx punched, 1975 Tour.
            With none of these can you definitively say that the person was prevented from winning, but they were disadvantaged and, equally, you cannot say with any certainty that the actions were not decisive.
            And there are many other examples throughout cycling history

          • J EVans – please note I wrote the contest is designed to determine the best rider. Said contest is the route and schedule devised by the organizers. All the things you cite as examples of the best man not winning have little to nothing to do with the route and schedule of LeTour, which I thought was the subject here?

          • Larry, no that’s not what we were discussing: as you can see above, DV said ‘I’ll say it again the best rider is the rider that wins the race.’ I was contesting this – using the examples I gave.

      • If you recall this year, it was Stage 10 by the time that the race reached the Pyrenees and Froome already had over 3′ on Quintana by this point.

        I do not see an early advantage of that magnitude in 2016. The race hits the mountains three stages earlier. There should not be a lot to separate Quintana and Froome in the first week ; a few seconds here and there with punchy finishes and bonus seconds perhaps.
        Quintana’s ITT has improved immensely (witness his Vuelta efforts) also and he may be able to limit his losses.
        It’s not beyond reason that Froome and Quintana go in to the Alps with less than a minute between them.
        Then it’s game on.

        I wonder if Sky will need Landa for the last week ?

          • I’m presuming that in the first week Movistar will not allow lightning to strike twice with the coastal cross winds / weather thing, of course!

        • I think Quintana’s ITT will still be significantly slower than Froome’s. When Froome focuses on the ITT in his training, he’s shown before that he’s quite a lot better than Quintana – who is about 10kg lighter. I’d put Contador somewhere in between the two.
          As I said at the time, this year’s Tour might have been Quintana’s best for many years.

          • With Froome focusing on the ITT more that will mean he will have to focus less on climbing. This year he was the equal to Quintana in the mountains, but might concede more time in 2016. The balance will be to see how much of his climbing he sacrifices for his ITT result.

    • Its not debatable at all if Froome was the best. He’s got the yellow jersey at home together with the trophy and the polkadots as well. So peddle your “I hate Froome” all you like but don’t expect such tosh to pass unchallenged.

      • As ever, as soon as the Tour is discussed, all the ‘patriotic British fans’ come out and any criticism of Froome/Sky/etc. is immediately leapt upon and accusations of ‘hate’ are made.
        As anyone can see from my comments here, there is no hatred, just a sensible, balanced discussion, containing some ‘pro-Froome’ comments and some ‘anti-Froome’ comments – although I wouldn’t term them that way.
        Whenever this sort of subject is broached, these baseless assertions are made. I, for instance, am accused of being ‘pro-Froome’ and ‘anti-Froome’ in almost equal measure – the bias of the accuser always being the most obvious thing.
        As for ‘Its not debatable at all if Froome was the best’, well it just is, really (as many knowledgeable posters here have done, previously, and as have many others elsewhere).
        For anyone who isn’t blinkered, it is definitely debatable whether or not Quintana could have won the Tour had he attacked Froome more often and from greater distances, and had Valverde been used as a domestique. ‘Debatable’, that’s all – I’m not the one claiming to know with absolute certainty who ‘was the best’.
        I had my fill of these uninformed comments during the Tour, so I’ll leave you to it now. See you in June.

        • I hope that you took no offence at my comments, which were not intended as ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ anything.
          And I hope that continue to comment as you see wish.

        • My take JE is that CF was the strongest, but got sick in the last week , but hung on. Had he kept clear of bugs I think he would have marked Quintana and anyone else’s moves without a drama.
          Actually I think a course with more TTs suits him better as he seems to look a little more ‘solid’ I guess due to tweaking his training towards that discipline, and I think that’ll make him more resilient than when he looks painfully thin as a pure climber

          • I never believe any rider who claims illness – could just be an excuse or masking a weakness in the hope that it’s not exploited in the future (Contador, for instance, has opined that Froome seems weak in the third week of GTs – for me the evidence isn’t convincing enough to know). But it may well have been the case, of course.
            I agree with your second point: I think he’s the best at TTs of the GC men, and the others will have to attack him early in stages if they want to win – and even that might not work. Fortunately, Contador tends to ride with more bravery than Quintana did in this year’s Tour.

          • I have very little time for “he got sick” being proposed in the context of extenuating circumstances for Froome’s performance in the last week.

            Managing your health over 3 weeks is an integral part of a strategy for Grand Tour success. When you’re sailing so close to the wind with 3% body fat your immune system is going to be seriously fragile. A significantly higher risk of getting sick is therefore part and parcel of the risk you take on when pushing your weight so low.

            The amount of times Froome has had to pull out of races with health complaints in the last couple of years shows how risky this strategy is.

  6. I’d like to question the Froome is better than all other GC contenders in ITT’S rhetoric.

    Nibali beat him at the ITT in 2015 and over longer hillier ITT’S Contador proved himself time and again with the latest example being Giro 2015.

    The last time I recall Froome greatly beating other GC riders at an ITT is 2013 which by the start of the 2016 Tour will be 3 years ago with the revamped ITT rules equalling the field to a large extent

    • Froome himself has said he’s left the TT bike aside for a long time as it hasn’t mattered much so I think we’re going to see some improvement in this area again from him. In a way we should hope he doesn’t so as to make the race more open?

      • You make the point I would have made Mr Inrng. Froome concentrates on what he needs to do and alters training accordingly. We know from previous ITTs that when he focuses on that he can excel, for example being within 10 seconds of Tony Martin at Mont St Michel a few years back and being 3rd in the Olympic ITT in 2012. He also beat Contador to win the stage in the hilly ITT in 2013.

  7. Velowire was pretty much bang on the money, apart from some confusion in the Pyrenees, with its predictions for the 2016 Tour stages – lots of updates over this past week that proved almost 100% accurate.
    Sporza ; broadly accurate in outline but incorrect quite often in detail, and their predictions of two stages in Eastern France was misplaced – would these destinations be potential hotel stops for VIPs etc as they’re not too far from the northern Alps and Switzerland ?

    • Velowire is always very good to the point of annoying some because he puts the route out early (solution: don’t look). I think the VIPs will always be placed closed to the action so not sure where Sporza’s picks came from.

  8. That’s the best course from ASO for the Grande Boucle in a very long time. I hope it turns out to be as good as it looks on the Internet!

      • I have spent several summers in Samoens and have done Col De Ramaz and Joux plan a number of times. Nice to see some cracking climbs that are not as frequently used.

        As to the comment re altitude, the vertical gain on Joux Plane is nearly identical to Alpe D’Huez and is marginally steeper, but also much less consistent in terms of gradient: there are some tough ramps.

        Finally, the road down to Morzine off the top of the Joux Plane was closed in August due to a land slip that had taken 80% of the road away just below the Col de Ranfolly. Lets hope they have fixed it!

        • Same for the Grand Colombier, not high altitude but from memory when it appeared in 2012 and climbed from Culoz it had a a distance/gradient equivalent to the Galibier. Race director Thierry Gouvenou has said the Montée de Bisanne rivals Mont Ventoux for distance/gradient too.

          Surely the Joux Plane will be repaired in time. It’s a great climb, very steep and awkward, an optical illusion of a climb that rises through the meadows with steep roads yet doesn’t offer many clues to the altitude gain until late.

          • Some of the climbs in this Tour might help dispel the myth that the French Alps don’t have steep roads. Even the little climbs to Bettex and St. Gervais (via Domancy) will have +10% stretches.

            Although they do the “easiest” of the 4 sides of Grand Colombier it is often steep, and the 2nd time (only half way up) of Grand Colombier will pass 14% stretches. Joux Plane has some very steep ramps well above 10%. Inside the fairly new tunnel at Ramaz is crazy steep (and the air will be co2 filled from the support cars?). Bisanne is steep, although the super steep last 2 km stuff was cut off (and the Ventoux comparison is way too much, I think) . The last 6 kms to Emosson: every km is 9 or 10%. Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (above lake Annecy) has 2 full kms above 11% and another 13% ramp. Etc. There is some challenging climbing ahead.

            “Awkward” is a great description of Joux Plane. Ever changing grade.

          • Similar for the changing gradients but the Joux Plane has long bits through the fields, whereas Hautacam has a lot of bits where the road is cut in to the mountain, a wall on one side and a drop on the other and you can feel you’re climbing. Both have some steep sections, 12-14% parts.

          • I rode the Joux Plane 4 times this summer while on a Samoens holiday. I slightly disagree with you Inrng, I felt the gradient was more constant that I had expected – you can maintain a reasonably constant rhythm. Some of the corners I do agree were out-of-the-saddle very steep. The steepest ramp is probably the very first section straight out of the village. From 12k out you get the countdown signs. These were all in the range of 8-11%, although my Strava segment gave it 8.4% as the average. My best time was 1:10hrs which I imagine will be smashed!

            For those going to do a training ride up it, try riding the road up the other side of the valley to Le Sais 1600, the top of the GME cable car. This averages 9.5% and was much, much more challenging than the Joux Plane!

          • Dan, I think it’s the way the road doesn’t feel engineered, this isn’t a road made with explosives and heavy machinery to take buses and construction traffic up to a large ski resort, there’s no long and wide roads with evenly spaced hairpin bends, it winds its way up the mountain in an irregular way as if a footpath became a way for horses and one day they paved it.

  9. Quite like that. Although I like TTTs and think northern flat road carnage is a valid part of the Tour, it looks an interesting and different route.

    Also impressed with the speed of inrng’s work…

  10. Not too bad, as I was expecting worse. But utterly unbalanced in favour of climbers. A whole lot of mountains, and no pan-flat TT to compensate. The climbers will not be obliged to do much to eliminate the rouleurs, so we’ll see, again, a lot of eventless climbing. Still worse, mountain stages are generally very short, favouring teamwork and preventing attrition. Not much to celebrate.
    On the positive side, some stages look individually good.

    • Yes, the biggest flaw is the lack of long stages with many mountains and no flat bits in between: long, mountainous stages more often result in the GC riders losing their team mates, meaning they have to go one on one; having no flat bits between means riders can’t use team mates to catch back up.
      The short stages are ‘explosive’, but what that tends to mean is that the GC guys ride behind their teams and then it’s only a race up the last few km of the last climb.
      Hard to see why ASO can’t fathom that a greater variety to the parcours more interesting.

      • Didn’t they try that in La Vuelta only to result in all the GC riders just sitting in until the final climb? As I recall the long super-mountain stage(s) almost self-neutralised because no-one wanted to go early and risk blowing up. At least it meant I didn’t miss much at work and could just watch the last climb for the day’s action 😉

        • I’m not saying it always produces the desired results – but it’s more likely to than a shorter stage and/or a stage with flat bits between climbs.
          I think your last point is salient: my thinking is that ASO want to make it TV-friendly and short bursts of action at the end of a stage do just that. Also more likely to get the casual fan watching, I suppose.

        • Just because teams and riders will do everything to avoid blowing up, organisers have to do everything to make sure they do. Attrition is fundamental.

    • Maybe they are torn between the posibilty of Dumoulin and Quintana impersonating Indurain and Pantani vs the prospect of Froome destroying everyone in the time trial and the early mountain stages, leaving the set piece alpine stages as complete none events. Much as they were in Armstrong’s heydey. At least this way they are giving the none TTers a chance of competing with Froome by not bothering with flat TT’s, getting rid of the Team TT, getting rid of the cobbles and including more steep climbs. There were only 2 climbs steep enough last year for Quintana to get away from Froome, the last 2. I agree that it misses a long, long mountain stage circa 220-250km. These shorter ones are easy for Sky to do their green bottle standing on the wall act. First Kennaugh drops, then Kwiatkowski, then Nieve, then Thomas… leaving Froome about 5 yards to do on his own.

      • I don’t see Dumoulin having a prayer of getting in the top 3 – can’t even see him in the top 5.
        Then again, so many GT riders ride to a formulaic pattern these days that maybe there will be so few attacks that he won’t be dropped.
        But let’s be optimistic and hope that the climbers try to use the advantage they’ve been given.

        • A strong TT guy who can kinda climb (ie Dumoulin) has no chance, but a strong climber who can kinda TT (ie Quintana, Aru) is a contender. Sorry, these races are not balanced.

    • Interesting indeed. Thanks for giving me the intro to my lunchtime Wikipedia meander. From Marignano to the Swiss National Redoubt, via tactics of medieval pike warfare. I love this blog.

      (Bike racing chat’s good too, thanks everyone.)

  11. I see that my point the other day about “abandoning” the “traditional” alternance between clockwise and anticlockwise has been elegantly dismantled above by InRng. Well researched! Other news sources (The Guardian) are still reporting it as if it’s a thing, though. They should read here more often!

    Otherwise, using Mont Ventoux in 2016 means surely not using it in 2017 – 50 years after Tom Simpson. Although that anniversary would be very delicate to handle, I’m a little disappointed that it won’t be commemorated in situ, as the Tour generally does these things well, and it’s still worth having a debate about.

    • I agreed with your clockwise / anticlockwise point, and also feel a little silly now with Inrng’s analysis.

      Re mont ventoux – I wouldn’t be do sure. ASO now don’t seem averse to returning to the same place a year after another, eg I presumed after cobbles that there would be a 5 year break before a return, but they left it a mere 12 months. I wouldn’t be surprised to see ventoux again in 2017 given the history and then a few years break.

  12. Thoughts on Maillot Vert? Sagan again? I certainly don’t begrudge him winning, but it would be nice to see more competition around the jersey. Greipel contended for a bit but it was really always going to be Sagan vs DNF/DNS.

    I wonder if they’ve kept the extra points on ‘pure sprinter’ stages?

    • I think this is part of Proudhomme’s effort – last time changing the point system, this time enlarging the number of flat sprints (cca six). Whether it helps is questionable, Sagan is too universal and I think he’s got good win-or-at-least-podium chances in stages 2, 4, 6, 10 and 11. He can also compensate losses via intermediate sprints “behind the first mountain”.
      And it is not pleasant to other classics riders like GvA, Cancellara, Boonen, Gilbert, Štybar, Kristoff, Degenkolb …. who get less possibilities next year, too.

      • I think ASO are going the wrong way with the Green Jersey if they are trying to stop Sagan. Sagan will always contend the flat sprints and the rolling stuff, the only thing he can’t do is high mountains and arguably TT’s, although he has done well in them at points. So if we say there are 4 skill sets/types of stages, he has 2.5 of them. Out and out sprinters like Greipel, Kittel and Cav have 1. Degenkolb has 2 but isn’t as good as Sagan at either. So instead of weighting the points towards flat sprints, they need to weigh more points towards mountains and time trials. I.e. have the same amount of points for all finishes. That would mean Sagan would be challenged by GC men and stage hunting climbers such as Rodriguez last year, Chaves at the Vuelta or Visconti at the Giro most years. The GC men have to contend the rolling stages, and will be near the top of the mountain stages and TT’s. And someone like JRod or Chaves/Visconti/Betancur etc would be up there on any hilly or mountain day. At the moment only Sagan and maybe Degenkol has any hope of contending the jersey.

        • I don’t think they should be trying to stop Sagan – the jersey is for the most consistent rider and he is it. And he was hugely impressive this year.
          But if they wanted to do that, they could get rid of the intermediate sprints – that would stop him hoovering up those on the other side of mountains.
          The downside of your plan is that this is basically what they do in the Giro and Vuelta – and the result of that is another jersey contested by the GC boys (so all three of the jerseys available to all, as the mountains classification is often won by them these days too). It would be great if the likes of the riders you mention went for the points jersey in this scenario, but they rarely seem to.
          The ‘other’ jerseys seem to lack glamour these days – no-one seems interested in winning the mountains classification in any of the grand tours: in the Vuelta, it was all but handed to Fraile. How the persuade the teams to go for it, I don’t know – more money would be a start, but only a start.

          • Sagan is indeed the best. There’s nothing nefarious about it, and he’s not the only rider in his category – he’s just better than Degenkolb, Kristoff, Trentin etc.

            If you really wanted to ‘stop Sagan’, you’d need (a) a single dominant sprinter (e.g. Cav in his prime), (b) extra points on pan-flat stages, (c) more pan-flat stages, and (d) fewer points on the intermediates.

            Of course, he may just not do the Tour next year. There’s little doubt he wants to win a monument or two, and would definitely prize P-R over another green jersey.

            Re. mountains jerseys, I think teams and riders are missing a trick by *not* going for them. They get plenty of coverage and visibility; just don’t seem to be particularly valued in the peloton. Mind you, Colombia (apparently) had a policy of targeting mountains jerseys and now look at them.

          • I’m not saying they should be trying to stop Sagan, I’m just saying if they are they are making a horlicks of it. I know that’s what they do at the Vuelta and until recently at the Giro too, and at Tirreno, the Dauphine and Paris-Nice, and I prefer it. Sagan certainly wouldn’t have had an easy ride at the Vuelta this year if he hadn’t pulled out! I would argue though that the reason the GC men, or other climbers, win the points jersey at the Giro and the Vuelta is because the routes of those two races are more mountainous. Especially the Vuelta in the last few years and the Giro up until the last couple of years. Even saying that Cav has won them both, and Petacchi and Cipo have won the points jersey at te Giro in their day, and Degenkolb and Zabel at the Vuelta. Interspersed with out and out cimbers like Rodriguez, punchy climbers like Valverde and di Luca (no jokes please) and puncheurs like Bettini and van Avarmaet. Also, whatever Bauke Mollema is classed as! That makes it more interesting in my eyes. The year Cav won at the Giro he beat Nibali very narrowly, and one year he lost to Purito by a point. Historically, due to the geography of France and the ‘boring’ north, the Tour has had more flat stages and thus its points jersey has generally always been the realm of the sprinters, even in the day of equal points. You could argue that the final points scores should give a decent indication of how balanced a route you have made. If Quintana runs away with it then somethings gone wrong, likewise if Kittel wins by a stretch you might have had too many flat days. So in summary, if they don’t want to favour one rider too heavily and make the competition interesting again its equal points on every stage.

            As for no riders going for the jerseys anymore, thats because everyone bar the sprinters who save themselves for the flat days and the GC men who save themselves as much as possible are domestiques. Nobody’s allowed to follow their own agenda, or very rarely anyway. Climbers are there purely to guide their leader as far up the final climb as they can, then trundle to the finish.

  13. Joux-Plane is an amazing climb.
    Climbed the side the riders will do twice.

    First time was great. But a hard climb nonetheless. Very irregular, hard to find a good tempo and stick with it.
    Second time was hellish (and was after a long ride including Colombière). On an off-day, you can lose so much time here. I think that’s the same for the pros. A dangerous climb for any GC contender.
    Hoping for fireworks!

    • Surely just a “normal” road bike for that one – not enough can be gained for swapping bikes for the flatter section, and would need to go back on a non-TT bike afterwards surely?

      It’s not like the one in 2013(?) which was up then down. (And the very wise riders “cheated” by changing bikes just before the top, and getting pushed up a little of the way)

  14. Promising shift away from summit finishes to downhill finishes. My money (or maybe just hopes) is on Bardet to take a flyer and dive into yellow on stage 8! Possibly for Pinot to pick it off him on stage 9…

  15. Having time bonuses favours the sprinters’ chances of getting into yellow too much, paricularly with no prologue. (If, for example, Sagan wins Stage 2 or someone wins another stage by a small margin, it could well be nullified by an in-form sprinter taking 2 or 3 stage wins.)
    I’d still prefer a ‘pure’ GC race too and bonuses can lead to GC riders just waiting for a sprint, rather than attacking from further out (didn’t happen in last year’s Tour, but a common feature in the Vuelta).

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