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Tour de France Guide

Here’s the 2020 Tour de France guide. There’s a profile of every stage with a quick take on the day. You’ll also find reference material on the race rules like time bonuses, the points scale for the green and polka-dot jersey, time cuts and plenty more.

Route Summary
The map says plenty, the race sticks to France’s southern half which means more hills and mountains. This is an anti-siesta Tour course, there will still be some majestic slow moments but there are few sprint stages and the race is never far away from a tricky climb. There’s no gentle introduction, the opening weekend in Nice will be hectic, there’s a ski station summit finish on Stage 4 and there are many mid-mountain stages with Mont Aigoual, the Suc-au-May, the Puy Mary and the Grand Colombier before the final Alpine week and the final 36km time trial.

Stage 1 – Saturday 29 August

A circuit in Nice that’s reminiscent of the final stage of Paris-Nice which is often a highlight of the season. This time it’ll be different as an opener, more riders and teams with cards to play and way more hectic.

Stage 2 – Sunday 30 August

A solid day in the Alpes-Maritimes, with the big climbs of the Colmiane and the Turini mid-stage before a hilly circuit around Nice.

Stage 3 – Monday 31 August

One for the sprinters, they have few chances in this race so their teams have to make today count and they’ll aim to control the race here.

 Stage 4 – Tuesday 1 September

The Tour returns to Orcières-Merlette, a ski resort with its place in Tour history thanks to the stage in 1971 where Luis Ocaña got the better of Eddy Merckx for once, and by eight minutes. But no time for nostalgie, it’s only Stage 4 and here’s a summit finish to see the GC contenders in action.

Stage 5 – Wednesday 2 September

Another chance for the sprinters, the late climbs are gentle and on a wide road and if the profile suggests an uphill finish into Privas it’s only the softest of rises.

Stage 6 – Thursday 3 September

Mont Aigoual but to get there the Col de la Lusette which is narrow, rough and steep, it should be selective before the more gentle passage across to the finish.

Stage 7 – Friday 4 September

Another chance for the sprinters but watch out for the vent d’Autan, the local wind which caused havoc in last year’s race on the roads to Albi.

Stage 8 – Saturday 5 September

The Pyrenees and three passes which get successively easier but still make for a hard day because of the intensity, it’s only 141km and things should be lively from the start.

Stage 9 – Sunday 6 September

A busy day in the Pyrenees, the Marie Blanque might look small on the profile but the final 4km are 10-12% most of the way so if riders can get a gap here they’ve got a good chance of holding it to the finish.

Stage 10 – Tuesday 8 September

A scenic stage along the Atlantic coast between two islands famous as prized Parisian holiday destinations. An obvious day for the sprinters but watch out for the sea breeze.

Stage 11 – Wednesday 9 September
The probable siesta stage, unless the weather intervenes there’s not much going on, even the scenery is a bit plain.

Stage 12 – Thursday 10 September

The longest stage of the race and it should allow time to evoke a golden age of cycling with Raymond Poulidor, Jean Ségurel and Antoine Blondin to fill the time. But for the riders it’s a hard stage, the route gets progressively hillier and the Suc-au-May is far harder than the profile suggests, all before an uphill finish in Sarran.

Stage 13 – Friday 11 September

Another long stage and a tough finish in the volcanoes of the Auvergne, climbing the Puy Mary via the Col de Neronne is hard going and the final 2km are at 13%.

Stage 14 – Saturday 12 September

A good day for a breakaway, many will have today marked in their diary because it’s accessible to anyone who goes in the day’s move. Cycling is essentially a rural sport but here’s an urban finish in Lyon and there are some tricky climbs on the approach.

Stage 15 – Sunday 13 September

A really hard stage, what the climbs lack in altitude they make up for in attitude. The “Selle de Fromentel” is the steepest side road up the Grand Colombier with long sections at 14-16% before the steep Col de la Biche and its bone-rattling descent. There’s a short breather before climbing the Grand Colombier from Culoz, via the increasingly famous lacets or hairpins.

Stage 16 – Tuesday 15 September

A quick crossing of the Chartreuse Alps and then it’s across to the Vercors and a finish in Villard-de-lans, the same used in the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s a great day for the breakaway.

Stage 17 – Wednesday 16 September

A tough Alpine stage, there’s a dash up the Grésivaudan valley to start the giant Col de la Madeleine and then comes the Col de la Loze. After a difficult ascent to Méribel with plenty of selective 8% sections the race flicks onto the brand new Loze cycle path for a summit finish like nothing else, there are 20% ramps and other nasty surprises.

Stage 18 – Thursday 17 September

A very hard day’s racing with no let up, there’s barely a metre of flat all day. The Saisies and Aravis are regular cols before the climb to the Plateau de Glières. There are steeper climbs, there are longer climbs but few in France are as steep for as long and then it’s the scenic traverse of the plateau across the gravel road before a technical descent, then the big ring climb of the Col des Fleuries on the way to the finish.

Stage 19 – Friday 18 September

A tug of war between the breakaway riders and the sprinters’ teams, there’s a flat finish but the last 60km are on lumpy, exposed roads.

Stage 20 – Saturday 19 September

The only time trial of the race and in three parts: a flat section through Mélisey, home of Thibaut Pinot – and where his father Régis is both mayor and undertaker – then a drag up to the Col de la Chevestray and its descent. Finally there’s the awkward climb of the Planche des Belles Filles and this time “just” the normal finish, the riders are spared the gravel extension used in 2019.

Stage 21 – Sunday 20 September

Assuming the race has made it this far then it’s the usual 60km parade that mutates into a 60km criterium and the evening finish on the Champs Elysées.

The Jerseys

Yellow: the most famous one, the maillot jaune, it is awarded to the rider with the shortest overall time for all the stages added together, the rider who has covered the course faster than anyone else. First awarded in 1919, it is yellow because the race was organised by the newspaper L’Auto which was printed on yellow paper. Today it is sponsored by LCL, a bank. There are time bonuses of 10-6-4 seconds for the finish of each stage except the time trials. There are also 8-5-2 seconds at the bonus sprints marked “B” on the profiles above on Stages 2,6,8,9,12,13,16 and 18, typically atop various mountain passes.

Green: the points jersey, which tends to reward the sprinters. Points are awarded at the finish line and at one intermediate point in the stage and the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Skoda, a car manufacturer

  • Flat stages (Stages 1,5,7,10,11,19,21) 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3 and 2 points for the first 15 riders
  • Hilly finish / Medium mountain stages (Stages 2,3,6,12,14,16): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
  • Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 8,9,13,15,17,18) : 20-17-15-13-11- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points
  • Intermediate sprints: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points

Polka dot: also known as the “King of the Mountains” jersey, points are awarded at the top of categorised climbs and mountain passes, with these graded from the easier 4th category to the hors catégorie climbs which are so hard they are off the scale. In reality these gradings are subjective. Again the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Leclerc, a supermarket.

  • Col de la Loze: 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4 points for first eight riders
  • Hors Catégorie (4 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points
  • Category 1 climbs (15): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • Category 2 (9): 5-3-2-1 points
  • Category 3 (21): 2-1 points
  • Category 4 (15): 1 point

White: for the best young rider, this is awarded on the same basis as the yellow jersey, except the rider must be born after 1 January 1995, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Krys, a retail chain of opticians

Obviously a rider can’t wear two jerseys at once, they’d get too hot. So if a rider leads several classifications, they take the most prestigious jersey for themselves and the number two ranked rider in the other competition gets to wear the other jersey. For example if a rider has both the yellow jersey and the mountains jersey they’ll wear yellow while whoever is second in the mountains jersey will sport the polka dot jersey. If a rider has all the jerseys the priority yellow, green, polka dot then white.

There’s also a daily “most combative” prize awarded every day to the rider who has attacked the most or tried the hardest. It is a subjective prize and awarded by a jury. The rider gets to stand on the podium after the stage and wear a red race number the next day. There will be a final Supercombatif prize with involvement from the jury and social media. It is sponsored by Antargaz, a bottled gas company.

Time Cuts

The time cut depends on the stage in question. Look up the stage and its coefficient on the table above and then match it to the listings below. It’s the same tight schedule in the mountains as the last two years, sprinters beware.

Timekeeping
Normally a one second gap on the finish line is needed to separate groups in a finish but for Stages 1,3,5,7,10,11,14,19 and 21, the likely sprint stages, three seconds is needed for a split in the field. The three kilometre rule doesn’t apply on Stages 4,6,13,15,16,17 and 20.

The unmissable stages
This is the Tour de France and there’s always something to watch but there are some stages that matter more than others. If you need to plan ahead, here are some suggestions for the stages to watch.

  • Stage 1: the hectic opener around Nice
  • Stage 2: a big day in the hills behind Nice
  • Stage 4: the first summit finish
  • Stage 6: Mont Aigoual via the tough Col de la Lusette
  • Stage 8: the first day in the Pyrenees
  • Stage 9: more Pyrenees with the tricky Col de Marie Blanque
  • Stage 15: the Grand Colombier summit finish
  • Stage 17: the manic Col de la Loze
  • Stages 18: the final day in the Alps
  • Stage 20: the Planche des Belles Filles time trial

TV Guide
Every stage will be shown live from start to finish. Think of it like the radio, something to have in the background or in a more modern way you can tune in from time to time via your phone in case there’s early action. The daily finish time varies between 5.00pm-5.55pm CEST each day.

The race will be broadcast on a variety of channels around the world. There is no free stream on the internet but you will find a feast of legitimate feeds from local broadcasters and international sources like Eurosport.

The Prizes

  • Each day on a normal stage there’s €11,000 for the winner, €5,500 for second place and a decreasing scale down to a modest €300 for 20th place
  • For the final overall classification in Paris, first place brings in €500,000 and the Sèvres porcelain “omnisports trophy”, awarded “in the name of the Presidency of the French Republic”. The full breakdown is €500,000 for first place, €200,000 for second place, €100,000 for third place and then €70,000, €50,000, €23,000, €11,500, €7,600, €4,500, €3,800, €3,000, €2,700, €2,500, €2,100, €2,000 €1,500, €1,300, €1,200 and €1,100 for 19th place. €1000 for 20th-160th overall

There are other pots of money available in the race:

  • €500 a day to whoever wears the yellow jersey, €300 for the other jersey holders
  • €25,000 for the final winner of the green and polka dot jerseys
  • €20,000 for the final winner of the white jersey
  • There’s also money for the first three in the intermediate sprint each day: €1,500, €1000 and €500
  • The climbs have cash too with the first three over an HC climb earning €800, €450 and €300 and lesser sums for lesser climbs
  • The highest point in the race sees a prize when on Stage 18 the Henri Desgrange prize is awarded at the top of the Col de la Loze and is worth €5,000
  • The “most combative” prize is awarded and worth €2,000 each day, the “Super combative” prize is awarded in Paris and the winner collects €20,000.
  • There’s also a team prize with €2,800 awarded each day to the leading team on the overall, €50,000 for the final winners in Paris. Note the team prize is calculated by adding the time of the best three riders each day rather than the best three on GC. For example if a team has riders A, B and C make the winning break one day then their times for the stage are taken and added together. If riders X, Y and Z on the same team go up the road the next day, their times are taken. So it’s the times of a team’s best three riders each day as opposed to the best three riders overall.

The total prize pot is €2,293,900, meagre for an event of this scale but remember that unlike, say tennis or golf, pro cyclists are salaried and prize money instead is incidental. The money is shared around the team (as well as levied and taxed) rather than pocketed by the winner, it’s quite possible the actual prize winner actually collects 5-10% of the headline sum. In addition, every team that starts gets paid €51,243 to cover expenses. And should a squad make it to Paris with six or more riders they stand to collect an additional €1,600 bonus for each rider.