After a 2016 edition that included two individual time trials, the 2017 Tour de France will be one for the climbers as organizers have presented a course with a very limited amount of time trialling. While there will only be two short races against the clock, the race includes lots of new, steeper climbs and three summit finishes, including one of the legendary Col d’Izoard, and for the first time in 25 years will visit all five hilly regions in the country.
In recent years, the Tour de France organizers ASO have scaled down the amount of time trialling. It reached an all-time low in 2015 when the riders faced only a short time trial in Utrecht on the first day and a team time trial at the end of the first week.
The trend was slightly bucked in 2016 as the latest edition of the race featured two time trials and even though one of them was almost a mountain time trial, the two races against the clock laid the foundations for a dominant performance by Chris Froome. Apparently, ASO want to avoid a similar script and so they have tipped the balance back in favour of the climbers for the 2017 edition of the race which was presented in Paris on Tuesday.
As already confirmed, the race will start in the German city of Düsseldorf where a 13km time trial will give local hero Tony Martin a big chance to take his second yellow jersey but apart from that there will only be one time trial on the menu. That stage comes on the penultimate day where another relatively short, flat stage of just 23km awaits the riders in Marseille where the final winner will be found on the Stade Velodrome stadium. Furthermore, the team time trial which has been a regular feature every other year since 2009, won’t return in 2017 as would have been logical if the trend should have been followed.
Instead, the race will be decided in the mountains. For the first time in 25 years, the race will visit the five hilly regions of the country, the Jura and the Vosges mountains, the Alps, the Pyrenees and Massif Central. However, there won’t be many summit finishes as only three stages will end on a longer climb and instead there will be numerous stages with tricky descents in the finale. At the same time, ASO have continued the trend of reducing the length of the mountain stages to make for short, intensive affairs like the one that recently turned the Vuelta a Espana around.
Another interesting feature is the fact that the race has sought for many new and much steeper climbs. Legendary mountains like Col du Galibier, Col du Peyresourde and Col d’Izoard – which will host a stage finish for the first time ever – will be visited but apart from that, the riders will have to do a lot of reconnaissance rides to become familiar with the untested terrain. Interestingly, the Alps will be the final mountain range for the third year in a row and so ASO seem to have skipped the past trend of alternating between the Pyrenees and the Alps as the decider of the race.
For the sprinters, there will be lots of opportunities throughout the entire race and there will also be opportunities for puncheurs who will look to make their mark when the race visits Luxembourg on stage 3 and in Rodez where Greg Van Avermaet beat Peter Sagan in an uphill sprint in 2015. With the opening time trial, however, it will be hard for those riders to go for the yellow jersey like they did in 2016 where Sagan rode into the lead in a similar stage on the second day.
After the opening 13km time trial in Düsseldorf, the race will head over 202 to the Belgian city of Liege where the sprinters are expected to get their first chance. One day later, the race heads to Luxembourg where stage three finishes in an uphill sprint up to the Longwy Citadel, a finale that is similar to the Mont des Alouettes where Philippe Gilbert grabbed the yellow jersey in 2011.
The race reaches France on the fourth day when the sprinters are expected to battle it out in Vittel in a stage that could be marred by the wind. The next day offers the first summit finish as the race visits the short, steep uphill finish at La Planche des Belles Filles where Chris Froome took his first stage win in 2012 and Vincenzo Nibali rode to victory in 2014.
The climbers will get a chance to reflect on their first test in stage 6 which should see the sprinters get back into action on a long 216km ride to Troyes and they will have another opportunity in stage 7. Then it’s back in the Jura Mountains for a finish at the Station des Rousses, a relatively gentle climb that saw Sylvain Chavanel ride himself into yellow in 2010.
While that stage may not be hard enough to do any major damage, things will be different in stage 9. On a day with 4600m of climbing, the riders will tackle Col de la Biche and Grand Colombier from its unprecedented and fearsome side, with gradients up to 22% before they get to the final battle on the Mont du Chat which is back for the first time since 1974, and a downhill run to the finish.
After a long transfer from one side of the country to the other on the first rest day, the sprinters hope to get more chances in stage 10 which will end in Bergerac and stage 11 which brings them to the foot of the Pyrenees. Here the riders face two stages. The first one includes the famous Col de Mneté and Port de Bales – where Andy Schleck dropped his chain in 2010 – and the final climb to the summit finish in Peyragudes where Alejandro Valverde won in 2012 and Alexandre Geniez took a win in the 2013 Vuelta. The next stage is a brutal beast of just 100km where the riders face the Col de Latrape, Col d’Agnes and the brutally steep Mur de Peguere before a downhill run to the finish.
The journey to the Alps starts with a return to Rodez where Van Avermaet took that impressive win in 2015. It is followed by what could be a typical breakaway stage which spends almost 50km at 1000m of altitude and includes the climb of Col de Peyra Taillade late in the stage.
After the second rest day, the sprinters will be back in the mix in the stage to Romans-sur-Isere before the race heads into the Alps for the final two mountain stages. First up is a brutal stage with the big mountains of Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier. The final chance for the climbers will come in stage 18 where the Bacelonnette and Col de Vars will precede the big summit finish on the legendary, desert-like Col d’Izoard at more than 2300m of altitude.
Attackers or sprinters hope to be in the mix in stage 19 which brings the riders from the Alps towards Marseille where the race will be decided in the flat 23km time trial. After a long transfer, the race ends with the traditional stage to the Champs-Elysees where the winner of the 2017 race will be crowned
Tour de France 2017 route
Stage 1, Saturday, July 1: Dusseldorf - Dusseldorf (ITT), 13km
Stage 2, Sunday, July 2: Dusseldorf – Liege, 202km
Stage 3, Monday, July 3: Verviers – Longwy, 202km
Stage 4, Tuesday, July 4: Mondorf-Les-Bains – Vittel, 203km
Stage 5, Wednesday, July 5: Vittel – Planche des Belles Filles, 160km
Stage 6, Thursday, July 6: Vesoul – Troyes, 216km
Stage 7, Friday, July 7:Troyes – Nuit-Saint-Georges, 214km
Stage 8. Saturday, July 8: Dole – Station des Tousses, 187km
Stage 9, Sunday, July 9: Nantua – Chambery, 181km
Rest day 1, Monday, July 10
Stage 10, Tuesday, July 11: Perigueux – Bergerac, 178km
Stage 11, Wednesday, July 12: Eymet – Pau, 202km
Stage 12, Thursday, July 13: Pau – Peyragudes, 214km
Stage 13, Friday, July 14: Saint-Girons – Foix, 100km
Stage 14, Saturday, July 15: Blagnac – Rodez, 181km
Stage 15, Sunday, July 16: Laissac-Severac L’Eglise – Le Puy-en-Velay
Rest day 2, Monday, July 17
Stage 16, Tuesday, July 18: Le Puy-en-Velay – Romans-Sur-Isere, 165km
Stage 17, Wednesday, July 19: La Mure – Serre-Chevalier, 183km
Stage 18, Thursday, July 20: Briancon – Izoard, 178km
Stage 19, Friday, July 21: Embrun – Salon-de-Provence, 220km
Stage 20, Saturday, July 22: Marseille – Marseille (ITT), 23km
Stage 21, Sunday, July 23: Montgeron – Paris Champs Elysees, 105km
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