The route of the 104th edition of the Tour de France has been announced this morning in Paris, in front of a star-studded audience including three-time winner and reigning champion Chris Froome of Team Sky.
Starting with a 13-kilometre individual time trial in Dusseldorf on 1 July, the race covers 3,516 kilometres, heading from Germany to France via Belgium and Luxembourg.
It’s a very European flavour for the opening days of a race that had been set to see its Grand Depart in the British capital, London, until former mayor, and now foreign secretary, Boris Johnson pulled the city’s bid at the eleventh hour due to funding concerns.
The final weekend will feature an individual time trial in Marseille on the Saturday before the concluding stage in Paris.
Highlights along the way will include a summit finish on the Planche des Belles Filles on Stage 5, with the final 20 kilometres identical to the parcours where Chris Froome won in 2012.
There’s also a visit to the Jura mountains, including a first-time climb of the more difficult side of the Grand Colombier, with gradients of up to 22 per cent, on the way to a Stage 9 finish in Chambery.
Pau once again provides the gateway to the Pyrenees, with an ascent to Peyragudes on Stage 12 followed by a 100-km stage – the shortest for 30 years – on Bastille Day from Saint-Girons to Foix.
Stage 17 finishes in the Alps at La Serre de Chevalier, a day that includes the climbs of the Telegraphe and the Galibier – the latter back in the race following a six-year absence.
With the route of the race also taking in the Massif Central, it’s the first time since 1992 that it has visited all five of France’s major mountain ranges.
The final day in the mountains on Stage 18 concludes with a first-time finish on top of the Col d’ Izoard.
The route of that stage will also be ridden by the 15,000 participants in the 25th edition of L’Etape du Tour – registration opens at 7am UK time on Friday 21 October at www.asochallenges.com.
Ahead of the men tackling the Col d’Izoard, the roads making up the final 66km of that stage will also see the world’s top women riders battle it out in the fourth edition of La Course by Le Tour de France – a race that till now has been held exclusively in Paris.
After the 22km individual time trial around Marseille on the penultimate day, finishing in the city’s Stade Velodrome – now bereft of the track it was named for – the riders will fly to Paris for the final stage.
Before the traditional concluding laps of the Champs-Elysees circuit will pass venues forming part of the city’s 2024 Olympic bid such as the Champ de Mars and Grand Palais.
Coming less than two months before the city learns whether it has beaten off the challenge of Los Angeles and Budapest to host the Games, it’s a chance to showcase its credentials.
That final stage, by the way, starts in Montgeron – which in 1903 was where the very first edition of the Tour de France began with a monster 467km stage to Lyon.
For the first time, every minute of every stage will be broadcast live by France Televisions with footage made available to broadcasters worldwide.
There will be one major rule change, and it comes in the mountains classification where there will be fewer points for hors-categorie climbs.
It’s also worth noting that there are fewer categorised climbs in the forthcoming edition than in any year since 2011 – but organisers ASO have underlined that the ones that are included are, on the whole, steeper than in a typical edition.
Among the 4,000 people in the auditorium at the Palais des Congres in the west of the French capital this morning was five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault.
This year, the 61-year-old stepped down from his role as master of ceremonies (and occasional bouncer) on the podium at each stage finish, and the route presentation was preceded by a tribute to the Breton cyclist known as the Badger.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.