Here’s the 2023 Tour de France guide starting with the profiles of every stage with a quick summary of the day’s course.
There’s also the race rules like time bonuses, the points scale for the green and polka-dot jerseys, time cuts and more in case you need to look them up during July, just remember inrng.com/tour …or bookmark it.
With the start in the Basque Country the race visits the Pyrenees but can’t go to deep into the mountains too soon for fear of revealing the GC contest too soon. Instead the Massif Central, the Jura, the Alps and then the Vosges all supply plenty of climbing, a record amount of top-rated climbs say the organisers and while this label is subjective, it is a certainly vertical vintage for the climbers, there’s only one short time trial and that’s hilly.
There are nods to history, the Tour will revive the old stories for the Puy de Dôme but its inclusion is all about reviving the location rather evoking black-and-white film reels. The Tourmalet is arguably the only other legendary climb en route, the Grand Colombier and Loze are tough but they’re “new” finds.
There are eight sprint stages but that’s at the most and there’s variety among them from motor racing circuits to uphill finishes.
Stage 1 – Saturday 1 July
A series of sharp climbs that will thwart a sprint finish and stress out the peloton as riders jostle and joust for position going into these climbs. The final two of Vivero and Pike Bidea are staples from the Circuito de Getxo which will see most sprinters ejected and dejected before a descent into Bilbao and an uphill climb to the line.
Stage 2 – Sunday 2 July
The Clasica San Sebastian one day race as a stage, sort of. The Jaizkibel climb is tackled from the eastern side, the opposite of the Klasikoa in August. It’s the longest stage of the race and as race boss Christian Prudhomme quipped, the longest stage has never been this short. If the first two stages were announced long ago, it’s still worth dwelling on the prospect of fervent Basque fans and routes that invite racing from the start, even the polka dot jersey will be hard fought.
Stage 3 – Monday 3 July
A coastal procession to Bayonne for the first time since 2003 when Tyler Hamilton won after a long solo raid and then inland. This time it’s a likely sprint finish but there are some climbs along the way. A late change has added a few kilometres and some new roads but it’s still a likely sprint finish.
Stage 4 – Tuesday 4 July
A tribute to André Darrigade who hails from Dax, the 93 year old was the best sprinter of his generation in the 1950s and still owns a newspaper and book store in Biarritz. The finish on the motor racing circuit means a likely sprint, dragster style but there’s a small climb out of town to get to it.
Stage 5 – Wednesday 5 July
The first mountain stage as the race makes an incursion into the Pyrenees via the Col de Soudet and then the tough Marie-Blanque where the top part has 10% gradients. There’s the descent to Laruns, the same finish as 2020 where March Hirschi got caught and Tadej Pogačar won the stage.
Stage 6 – Thursday 6 July
The Aspin-Tourmalet combo is the hardest part of the day. The climb to Cauterets, a summit finish? It does climb to a ski station but it’s 5% for a lot of the way as the road runs up a valley where the presence of an old rail/tram line proves the gradient isn’t too hard but it does tilt up towards the top.
Stage 7 – Friday 7 July
A start with a nod to former Tour winner, and tormentor of Eddy Merckx, Luis Ocaña, then stage for the sprinters as the race returns to Bordeaux after a long absence since 2010. It’s almost always a sprint finish because the terrain on the approach is flat and the city has those big, long haussmanian avenues.
Stage 8 – Saturday 8 July
A few hills along the way to sap the sprinters before a finish in the porcelain-making city of Limoges, last visited in 2016 when Marcel Kittel just beat Bryan Coquard in the uphill sprint. There’s another uphill finish, but it’s a different road, slightly longer and with a tight turn at the foot.
Stage 9 – Sunday 9 July
Much is already being made of the Poulidor connection, the start in the town where he lived, the finish on the mythical Puy de Dôme volcano and there’ll be plenty more from the archives to come but it should be a good day’s sport to look forward to as well. Normally it’d be a 150km direct ride but the route has 3,600m of vertical gain as it seeks more climbs going via the Lac de Vassivière and Volvic before it reaches Clermont-Ferrand. From here it tackles a tough climb to get out of the city just to reach the flanks of the Puy. This will thin out the peloton before the final climb which is likely to be closed to the public… and team cars alike.
Stage 10 – Tuesday 11 July
A rest day in Clermont-Ferrand and then a hilly stage from a volcano theme park to show off more of the area, this is Romain Bardet country and a likely breakaway day with lumpy roads before the finish in Issoire.
Stage 11 – Wednesday 12 July
A flat stage across the old Bourbonnais region to Moulins, a passage across some of depopulated France’s empty area, past villages where many houses have the shutters are closed all day. With Moulins the Tour can finally end a trivia question because it’s the only departmental capital in mainland France never to host a stage.
Stage 12 – Thursday 13 July
After lumpy roads out of Roanne the race will tackle climbs like the Croix Montmain – 6km at 7% – and Croix Rosier as it climbs among the monts du beaujolais before a rendez vous in Belleville. A promising breakaway stage and very scenic if sunny.
Stage 13 – Friday 14 July
The 14 juillet stage. There’s a passage across part of the Jura plateau and the intermediate sprint is a nod to Roger Pingeon before dropping down to the Rhone valley. Here the Grand Colombier is climbed from Culoz via the lacets, this is a beast of a climb comparable in raw stats to the Galibier and although without altitude, it’s got attitude and views galore.
Stage 14 – Saturday 15 July
A hard day that’s almost always up or down, the race turns into the Chablais Alps to start the climbing via several short passes before the tough Col de Ramaz and then the mystical Joux-Plane, a confounding place that has seen many riders over the years label it their most feared climb. It’s chased by the classic toboggan descent into Morzine.
Stage 15 – Sunday 16 July
Another daunting day in the Alps and with 180km, what counts for a long stage these days in the Tour. After some gentler climbs to help the breakaway go clear, the second half is packed with tough ascents to the point where the Croix Fry is a categorised climb but the Aravis after isn’t, as if the route has too many mountains to label. The finish is described as “Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc” in the same way Ryanair describes Beauvais as Paris. The actual finish is in Le Bettex, a summit finish where Romain Bardet won in 2016, while Saint-Gervais down below hosts the rest day.
Stage 16 – Tuesday 18 July
The only time trial of the race and at 22km, the least amount of time trialling since 2015. It borrows roads used in the 2016 Tour’s time trial. It won’t be over that quickly because there’s a rise out of Passy and then the steep Domancy climb above Sallanches to the finish in Combloux, it’s not for the heavyset rouleurs. Don’t call it a mountain time trial but it’s not far off.
Stage 17 – Wednesday 19 July
Only 166km but with 5,100m of climbing and if we have to deploy the term, it’s the étape reine, the royal stage or “Queen Stage” as the literal translation goes. There’s Alpine aristocracy with Col de Saisies, the Cormet de Roselend… and then a climb labelled “Longfoy” but the Col du Tra to locals. This long gradual pass was supposed to be climbed in 2019 on the last mountain stage but a landslide closed the roads. If the climb isn’t fierce the descent is one of the most technical with over 30 irregular hairpin bends in 9km. Then the drag up to Méribel which, despite the 8%, feels like a mere warm-up for what’s to come: the formidable Col de la Loze. Surely Europe’s most difficult cycle path with its ever-changing gradients and the 20% wall section at the top. This time it’s no summit finish, instead it’s down a steep road and only just wider than the cycle lane up before reaching Courchevel and a finish on the altiport.
Stage 18 – Thursday 20 July
A scenic route out of the Alps via the Lac du Bourget and the Rhône valley crossing some roads used earlier in the race before a flat finish with a very long finishing straight leading into Bourg-en-Bresse.
Stage 19 – Friday 21 July
Moirans has a population of just 2,120 but gets to host its second start after 2016, is the mayor a big cycling fan? It’s a touristy place though for summer with campsites, river gorges and more while Poligny is the capital of Comté cheese, visit for the real thing rather than the slab of latex usually sold in supermarkets. But we’re left riffing on tourism because the course doesn’t challenge too much, it’s another sprint finish? However there are some hills and desperate teams will want to salvage something via a breakaway win.
Stage 20 – Saturday 22 July
A dash across the Vosges with 133km and 3,600m of vertical gain and borrowing the Markstein finish used by Le Tour Femmes last summer but climbed here from the other side via the Petit Ballon and Platzerwaswel instead of the Grand Ballon. It’s a hard course after three weeks but not infernal, there’s talk of steep sections but don’t get sucked in by the hype, they’re rare points along the course and all the climbs – apart from the Petit Ballon – are big wide roads. It’s more a slog with few recovery sections or valley roads to chase on.
Stage 21 – Sunday 23 July
The usual 60km parade that mutates into a 60km criterium and the finish on the Champs Elysées.
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” in yellow on the profiles above on Stages 2,5,12,14 and 17.
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 2,3,4,7,8,11,18,19,21) 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 1,9,10,12,13): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6- 5-4-3-2 points
- Mountain Stages + individual TT (Stages 5,6,14,15,16,17,20) : 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.
- Hors Catégorie double (Col de la Loze): 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4 points
- Hors Catégorie (5 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points
- Category 1 climbs (13): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
- Category 2 (10): 5-3-2-1 points
- Category 3 (23): 2-1 points
- Category 4 (17): 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 1998, ie aged 25 or under. It is sponsored by Krys, a retail chain of opticians
Three second rule: normally a one second gap on the finish line is needed to separate groups in a finish but for Stages 3,4,7,8,11,18,19 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 6,9,13,15 and 17.
Stages are given a coefficient rating from 1-6, look up the stage’s rating in the table above. Then see the average speed for the day’s winner and look up the corresponding line below to calculate the time cut.
- 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. €1,000 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, €15,000 for second place, €10,000 for third place, €4,000, €3,500, €2,500, and €2,000 for eighth in the competition
- €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 hors catégorie climb earning €800, €450 and €300 and lesser sums for lesser climbs down to €200 for winning a 4th category climb
- The highest point in the race sees a prize when on Stage 17 the Henri Desgrange prize is awarded at the Col de La Loze and is worth €5,000
- the Jacques Goddet prize is also €5,000 for the first over the Tourmalet on Stage 6
- 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 €2,581,029, meagre for an event of this scale but remember that unlike, say tennis or golf, pro cyclists are salaried and paid bonuses by their employers the teams. So prize money instead is a nice bonus on the side. Win a Tour stage and a rider might add a zero onto the salary, maybe more and so the race creates value rather than pays it. Crucially prize money is shared around the team (as well as levied and taxed) rather than pocketed by the winner, it’s possible the actual prize winner sees 5-10% of the headline sum. In addition, every team that starts gets paid a participation fee of €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.