In crafting the 2013 Tour de France route, tour director Christian Prudhomme appears to have created something volatile and compelling. In 2012, the parcours’ ample time trials, few mountaintop finishes, and largely steady climbs made Bradley Wiggins’ victory all but a foregone conclusion from the day he took the maillot jaune on Stage 7. This year, the goal seems to be to keep the GC in play until the final summit on Stage 20.
The island of Corsica, off the southern coast of France, features for the first time ever in Tour history, and the rugged terrain and sinuous roads may make the first three stages harder and more unpredictable than anyone expects. A team time trial follows on Stage 4, though the flat, relatively short 15.5-mile course should ensure that no GC favorites lose too much time.
All eyes are on the final week in the Alps, but the end of the first week’s foray into the Pyrenées, especially Stage 8’s sharp finish at Ax 3 Domaines, should provide a GC shake-up. The race, however, shouldn’t be decided until the last week, which includes a bumpy, 19.8-mile individual time trial that will likely serve the climbers rather than the TT specialists, and three back-to-back climbing stages with two summit finishes.
It’s a course that Wiggins likely would have found more difficult to master than the one in 2012, though it should play better to Chris Froome, who’s a punchier climber and has superseded the ailing defending champ. Sky is probably in for a bigger challenge this go-round, though, with fewer TT miles for Froome to consolidate his lead, two more summit finishes, and a host of explosive Spanish climbers who won’t be as easily smothered as the big engines of 2012. That should make for great spectating throughout, especially with so much rolling and hilly terrain on which wily favorites can set their traps.