The route of the 2010 Tour de France, the 97tth edition of the race, was announced this morning at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, and promises an opening week that pays homage to some of the great classic one-day races and to have a real sting in the tail during the third week, with four days in the Pyrenees to celebrate the centenary of its first-ever mountain stages.
In front of an audience including some of the sport’s great names from the past and present, race director Christian Prudhomme unveiled details of the three-week itinerary that next July will take the riders from the Dutch port of Rotterdam to the Champs-Elysées. It will be the fifth time that the Tour has started in the Netherlands, the 1954 Grand Départ from Amsterdam marking the first time the race got under way outside France.
With this year’s Vuelta opening in the Netherlands and continuing into Belgium, and next year’s Giro d’Italia beginning in Amsterdam, the 2010 Tour de France is the third Grand Tour in succession to start on Dutch roads, and the country is also getting the 2012 UCI Road World Championships. Cycling fans in the Low Countries can be forgiven for feeling a bit smug right now.
As had been widely anticipated, the 2010 route celebrates the centenary of the first real mountain stages of the Tour de France. The odd col had been included in the Tour’s itinerary from the very first edition in 1903, but it wasn’t until seven years later that the route included a proper mountain stage, the riders climbing donkey tracks to the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, prompting Octave Lapize, the second man to finish the stage, to brand the organisers “assassins!”
Both those cols feature on next year’s itinerary, with a potentially race-deciding summit finish on the Tourmalet two days before the showpiece ending in Paris –the second time that the Tourmalet is climbed in the 2010 Tour, once from each direction.
The race starts on Saturday July 3rd with the usual Prologue which will see the riders battle it out against the clock over an 8-kilometre course through Rotterdam’s regenerated docklands, including the 790-metre Erasmus Bridge, for the right to wear the yellow jersey going into the following day’s Stage 1. Things could get interesting if the wind blowing in from the North Sea picks up.
The wind could also play a decisive role in the following day’s Stage 1, which takes the peloton south-west out of Rotterdam across the polders of Zeeland before swinging back towards the south-west to cross the Belgian border and head for Brussels, passing close to Eddy Merckx’s house on the way.
With memories still fresh of the way the wind caused the peloton to split in this year’s Tour on the stage into La Grand Motte, expect the GC contenders to be keeping a watchful eye on each other near the head of the race.
The following two stages incorporate elements of the great classic one-day races Fleche Walonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Paris-Roubaix, including the biggest number of cobbled sections for a quarter of a century as the race crosses from Belgium into Northern France.
While that might suit those members of the peloton used to the cobbles, it’s unlikely to be welcomed by the climbers – remember Iban Mayo coming to grief on the pavé in the 2004 Tour? And his fall was on dry roads – a spot of rain could cause carnage. Certainly, when the Vuelta negotiated the cobbles in the rain last month, many riders took things very gingerly indeed.
Stage 4 from Cambrai to Rheims sees the race head into Champagne country and on a day made for the sprinters, Mark Cavendish will hopefully be looking for some bubbly to celebrate another stage win. That’s just one of five flat stages in the opening week that are sure to see some bunch finishes, and will help resolve the question of whether any other team can overcome the dominance of the Columbia-HTC train.
Stage 7 from Tournus to Station des Rousses sees the first real climbs of the race as it enters the Jura mountains, with a final ascent of 14 kilometres followed by a 4-kilometre descent to the finish. The following day, the Tour hits the Alps with two Category 1 climbs on Stage 9 including a 13-kilometre ascent to a summit finish, and by now the general classification should be taking shape, with a further stage in the high Alps coming after the first of the Tour’s two rest days.
Stage 10 on Bastille Day will as ever see fans out in force, hoping to cheer on a home win on the route from Chambery to Gap, and the profile could well suit a battling breakaway, but Lance Armstrong will be hoping not to have to repeat the cross-country detour he famously took in 2003 on these very roads when Josep Beloki crashed in front of him approaching a hairpin bend on a descent.
A couple more transitional stages follow, but it’s on Stage 14 from Revel to Ax-3 Domaines that things will really get serious as the race enters the Pyrenees. That’s the first of four consecutive stages in the high mountains, with most of the major Pyrenean cols featured, the Tourmalet twice, including a summit finish on Stage 17, which is also the itinerary of next year’s Etape du Tour on Sunday 18 July.
After that, it’s a sprinter-friendly race into Bordeaux on Stage 18, before a 51-kilometre individual time trial from there to Pauillac on the final Saturday. That could well help someone like Bradley Wiggins put some time into others in the GC if he’s able to repeat his great form from this year’s Tour. After the Prologue, it’s the only opportunity this year for the time triallists to show what they’re made of, with the team time trial which helped Astana establish its ascendancy last year dropped.
From there, you guessed it, it’s a TGV transfer to first-time stage town Longjumeau for the traditional procession into Paris, then eight laps of the usual circuit before the finish on the Champs-Elysées, a final chance for the sprinters to claim bragging rights.
Not a bad itinerary really for UK-based fans looking to pop over for the odd stage, given ferry connections to Holland, plus the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels, with plenty of racing happening either in those cities, or within easy striking distance of them.
2010 Tour de France full route:
Sat 3 July Rotterdam > Rotterdam 8km
Stage 1 Flat
Sun 4 July Rotterdam > Brussels 224 km
Stage 2 Hilly
Mon 5 July Brussels > Spa 192 km
Stage 3 Flat
Tue 6 July Wanze > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 207 km
Stage 4 Flat
Wed 7 July Cambrai > Reims 150 km
Stage 5 Flat
Thu 8 July Épernay > Montargis 185 km
Stage 6 Flat
Fri 9 July Montargis > Gueugnon 225 km
Stage 7 Med. mountain
Sat 10 July Tournus > Station des Rousses 161 km
Stage 8 High Mountain
Sun 11 July Station des Rousses >Morzine-Avoriaz 189 km
Rest Day Mon 12 July Morzine-Avoriaz
Stage 9 High Mountain
Tue 13 July Morzine-Avoriaz>St-Jean-de-Maurienne 204km
Stage 10 Med. mountain
Wed 14 July Chambéry > Gap 179 km
Stage 11 Flat
Thu 15 July Sisteron > Bourg-lès-Valence 180 km
Stage 12 Hilly
Fri 16 July Bourg-de-Péage > Mende 210 km
Stage 13 Flat
Sat 17 July Rodez > Revel 195 km
Stage 14 High Mountain
Sun 18 July Revel > Ax-3 Domaines 184 km
Stage 15 High Mountain
Mon 19 July Pamiers > Bagnères-de-Luchon 187 km
Stage 16 High Mountain
Tue 20 July Bagnères-de-Luchon > Pau 196 km
Rest Day Wed 21 July Pau
Stage 17 High Mountain
Thu 22 July Pau > Col du Tourmalet 174 km
Stage 18 Flat
Fri 23 July Salies-de-Béarn > Bordeaux 190 km
Stage 19 ITT
Sat 24 July Bordeaux > Pauillac 51 km
Stage 20 Flat
Sun 25 July Longjumeau > Paris Champs-Élysées 105 km
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.