The route of the 2022 Tour de France has been unveiled, here’s a closer look at what promises to be an intense course with cobbles, Alpe d’Huez, the return of old climbs and a new one too.
Stage 1 is a Friday time trial in Copenhagen. At 13km and flat, it’s comparable to the 14km opener in Düsseldorf in 2017 won by Geraint Thomas and should see the GC contenders in action against TT specialists and the hordes of Danish locals, think Asgreen, Vingegaard and Bjerg. Stages 2 and 3 will test the hypothesis that an opening time trial eases the crash risk and are likely sprint finishes prone to the slightest crosswinds, especially Stage 2 crossing the giant Great Belt bridge – Europe’s longest – just before the finish. There’s a notional rest day for the transfer to France on the Monday.
Stage 4 is back in France with a visit around the very north and the “Opal Coast”. Look at the map above and you’ll see the route hugs coast in the finish. It takes some hilly clifftop roads that are exposed the sea breeze; they had a team time trial here in the 1990s and squads were shredded by the final climbs and crosswinds so this no parade concluding with a bunch sprint.
Stage 5 and it’s bonjour pavé. The cobbles are back and with them a series of articles about whether they have their place in a grand tour or not (answer: they have their risks but are a feature now). The first thing to note is they total 19.4km but they’re spread throughout the day. Interestingly if names like Hornaing and Arenberg are familiar, there are some sectors never used by the Tour nor Paris-Roubaix but they come from the local Quatre Jours de Dunkerque race.
Stage 6 starts in Belgium in Binche, known in pro cycling as home to the Intermarché-Wanty team but perhaps more famous worldwide for trappist beers. At 220km is the longest stage of the race to Longwy in the Lorraine and a hard day on lumpy roads. Once in Longwy there’s the same finish used in 2017 when Peter Sagan accidentally unclipped his foot in the sprint, clipped back in and won the stage.
Stage 7 has the first summit finish. It’s back to the Planche des Belles Filles and 2012 déjà vu with a start in Tomblaine too. Only we get the “Super” finish where they take the gravel track above the usual finish and the same final slope that prised apart the differences when it was used in 2019.
Stage 8 goes to into Switzerland, it’s a mountain stage as it crosses the Jura mountains, but without anything too savage. After La Planche the day before, many will have lost time and have a chance to go in the breakaway, a day for the baroudeurs. Once in Switzerland it’s Tour de Romandie land and a descent off the Col de Mollendruz to the city of Lausanne, Switzerland’s answer to San Francisco, at least in terms of topology. Instead of a flat sprint by Lake Geneva there’s sharp uphill finish.
Stage 9 is mountain stage proper. Starting in Aigle – HQ of the UCI but also a region keen to establish itself as a cycling destination – and then a loop into Gruyère country via the steady Col des Mosses and the trickier Col de la Croix, the hardest climb of the day. Then it’s back to the Rhone valley and a climb to France via the Pas de Morgins. The finish in Châtel is on roads regularly used by the Critérium du Dauphiné in recent years, it’s a ski station but without a steep finish.
Stage 10 and there’s no map or profile for this stage. After a start in Morzine it’s away from the mountains towards Lake Geneva – presumably carefully avoiding Evian as the town’s eponymous bottled water brand belongs to a rival of big Tour sponsor Vittel – before a ride back featuring a 20km slog uphill via Megève and a finish on the “altiport”, a long drag up to the small airstrip used in the 2020 Dauphiné.
Stage 11 is an emblematic stage of the 2022 race. It’s Alpine and concludes with a steep climb but it’s only 149km. There’s quick sashay via the Lacets de Montvernier on the way to the Télégraphe-Galibier combo and the descent down the Galibier before the mighty Col du Granon. Only used once before in 1986 and a dead end for vehicles the Granon is a very hard climb. There’s a soft start at 4-5% crucially it’s a military climb, built to defend the valley and supply fortifications and this means a well-engineered road with a steady gradient, it’s 9-11% all the way on a wide road as it winds up to over 2,400m above sea level making it the second highest location ever for an official finish of a Tour de France stage (behind the Galibier in 2011).
Stage 12 is the 14 July national holiday and offers fireworks and dancing, on the pedals, from the start. It’s back up the giant Galibier and down to the Maurienne valley before the colossal Croix de Fer climb and then a long descent featuring two uphill sections and only a quick valley section for a last energy gel before the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez.
Stage 13 goes to Saint Etienne, a post-industrial city that’s a regular for Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné and if the city sits below several mountains this day is for the sprinters who’ve endured a long slog for a week without a chance.
Stage 14 should give two races, one for the breakaway across hilly terrain and the stage win, then another among the GC contenders with the steep climb of the Croix-Neuve, aka the Montée Jalabert.
Stage 15 has a finish in the city of Carcassonne, famous for its medieval cité, and is said to be for the sprinters but riding from Rodez means the race has to get over the hills of the Haut Languedoc and it looks like it crosses the Montagne Noire from Revel so there’s a some climbing.
Stage 16 goes into the Pyrenees via some scenic roads. It’s past Limoux and into the mountains via the Port de Lers and the hard Col de Peguère before the descent into Foix, a similar finish to 2017 when Warren Barguil won a wild stage. It looks like a breakaway day.
Stage 17 is another short mountain stage. After a dash across the plains to see if a breakaway can go clear, the Aspin is tackled via the hard side and it’s hard work with repeat climbs, the twisty descent to Loudenvielle and then the Peyresourde turning before turning off for the summit finish in the Peyragudes ski station on the 16% airport slope.
Stage 18 and another big ring bonanza on the plains before smashing in the mountains. If this is another sawtooth profile it’s probably the hardest of the Pyrennees with the long Aubisque and the “new” Col de Spandelles. The Spandelles is an old road but surprisingly never used by the Tour before and a hard climb that goes up like a staircase at times and narrow too. Then comes the more familiar Hautacam finish above Lourdes.
Stage 19 is on rolling roads to Cahors and could be for the sprinters but offers the chance of a repeat of 2021’s stage to Libourne because it’s the last chance for hundreds of riders to get a stage win, the attackers will try to overpower the sprinters’ teams.
Stage 20 almost feels wrong. This is a languid place, a land of long lunches where a race with a stopwatch feels too hurried. Some of the roads here over the Causses du Quércy plateau can be heavy-going but the Tour often sees them resurfaced in time. The course ends in the scenic, almost Disney-like, cliff-top town of Rocamadour. There’s a steep descent into the valley, a test of nerves on a TT bike and then it’s straight into the final climb. Listed as 1.5km at 7.8% but you haven’t come here for the press release copy-paste: there’s a kilometre at over 10% to ensure a tough ending.
Stage 21 has a start in the La Défense business district of Paris before the traditional Champs Elysées criterium.
Intense. This is another Tour that goes east, cutting out the boring parts of France and is all the better for this. Denmark brings novelty in the location but is arguably the most traditional part of the race with an opening TT chased by two sprint stages. After a flight to France there’s a lot going on with the clifftop course to Calais, the pavé, the Superplanche in the Vosges, then the Jura, followed by the first Alpine stage… all this in the first week: just reaching the first the rest day in Morzine untroubled will be a relief for many. The Alps and the Pyrenees feature heavily this year with the Granon making a long-awaited return and Alpe d’Huez is famously difficult.
There are probably six likely sprint finishes spread throughout the race but once out of Denmark none are back-to-back. The points competition could be spiced up thanks to finishes like Longwy and Lausanne which offer some a chance to score when the heavyset sprinters cannot, there’s an opening for the likes of Mathieu van der Poel here.
The Vuelta-fication of the Tour continues, there’s only one stage more than 200km. Has start-to-finish TV killed off the long days? Certainly there are many short stages, the majority of mountain stages are shorter than 150km and while Stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez is a big day, it’s not giant one. Steep climbs proliferate, even the long climbs like the Granon and Alpe d’Huez are as steep as you’ll get in the French Alps and the Pyrenees skip the long Tourmalet for some sharper climbs. For a change Pau isn’t on the route either. The other recent trend of shrinking time trials though has been halted here, there’s 53km in total and at 40km the penultimate stage is the longest solo TT in the Tour since 2013.
The startlist will be as important as the route, all three grand tours this year enjoyed daily battles for the stages but saw runaway GC winners. Ideally the three winners from 2021’s grand tours in Egan Bernal, Tadej Pogačar and Primoz Roglič clash in July 2022, with a wider cast of challengers too. Pogačar is the rider to beat given he can win time trials and summit finishes alike. He might be tempted to try the Giro as well but his UAE sponsors surely want to bank the Tour again (while management lets new hire João Almeida fight for pink). Roglič finds plenty to suit too with steep finishes and uphill sprints and it’ll be interesting to see if 2021 revelation Jonas Vingegaard returns, the Danish départ is a lure but Jumbo-Visma could send him to the Giro to spare him the pressure. Then we wonder if Egan Bernal can return and who will lead alongside him but he’ll be at a disadvantage with a 40km TT looming unless his Ineos team can find a way to prise the race open before.
For the Tour de France Femmes route, see here.