We had a tantalising glimpse of it last week when the ASO accidentally made it live on the website, but now we've been treated to the full unveiling of next year's Tour de France route, thanks to Christian Prudhomme and an all-star cast. It's quite a different beast to last year. Let's have a look at the highlights.
First of all, there's a lot of individual time trialling to be done. A lot. nearly 100km, in fact: a 6.1km prologue in Liège to kick things off, followed by 38km from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon on the Monday before the first rest day (which are both on Tuesdays this year) and 52km from Bonneval to Chartres on the penultimate day.
Liège is short and flat, Arc-et-Senans to Besançon TT will be fairly hilly and the second-to-last day a flattish one. But that's far more ITT distance than we've seen in recent years, and on top of that there's fewer mountain top finishes for 2012; just three stages will finish in the clouds. Stage 7 in the Vosges ascends to the ski centre of Planche des Belles Filles (1,148m) with a testing final climb of 5.5km at over nine percent. Stage 10 heads over the fabled climbs of the Col del la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer before an ascent to the ski area of Les Sybelles, topping out at over 1,700m. The final summit finish is a race to the the resort of Peyragudes in the Pyrenees, and that's the day after a tough stage taking in the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde.
So is it a parcours for a time-trialling all-rounder? Like maybe Wiggins or Froome? That's the question all the Brits are asking, and the answer would seem to be yes. We thought it looked good when it was leaked, and the leaked route appears to be the final route for next year. Notwithstanding the fact that they'd have to keep with the pace on the big summit days, there's an awful lot of opportunity to make back any lost time against the clock. Given that there's only three mountaintop finishes, however, the climbers will be looking to put in a massive effort on those stages, as well as Stage 16 from Paul to Bagnères de Luchon which will finish with the descent of the Peyresourde - if you're away at the top of that one there's every chance you'll stay out until the line on the twisty descent.
More on the route announcement to follow, but here's the stage rundown:
PR: prologue; F: Flat; MM: Medium Mountains; HM: High Mountains; TT: Individual Time Trial
P PR 30 June Liège > Liège, 6.1 km 1 F 1 July Liège > Seraing, 198 km 2 F 2 July Visé > Tournai, 207 km 3 MM 3 July Orchies > Boulogne-sur-Mer, 197 km 4 F 4 July Abbeville > Rouen, 214 km 5 F 5 July Rouen > Saint-Quentin, 197 km 6 F 6 July Épernay > Metz, 210 km 7 MM 7 July Tomblaine > La Planche des Belles Filles, 199 km 8 MM 8 July Belfort > Porrentruy, 154 km 9 TT 9 July Arc-et-Senans > Besançon, 38 km 10 HM 11 July Mâcon > Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194 km 11 HM 12 July Albertville > La Toussuire - Les Sybelles, 140 km 12 MM 13 July Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Annonay Davézieux, 220 km 13 F 14 July Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Le Cap d’Agde, 215 km 14 HM 15 July Limoux > Foix, 192 km 15 F 16 July Samatan > Pau, 160 km 16 HM 18 July Pau > Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197 km 17 HM 19 July Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes, 144 km 18 F 20 July Blagnac > Brive-la-Gaillarde, 215 km 19 TT 21 July Bonneval > Chartres, 52 km 20 F 22 July Rambouillet > Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.