Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme unveiled the route for next year's Tour in Paris today. The 2,237-mile race will start in the dutch city of Rotterdam and wind through Belgium before taking a clockwise loop around Paris.
The route includes six mountain stages, with three of those ending in summit finishes, plus four "medium mountain" stages. Aside from the 5.6-mile opening Prologue in Rotterdam, the race will have just one individual time trial—a 37-mile stage on the Tour's penultimate day—and no team time trial. So it's a route that favors climbers like Alberto Contador and has fewer opportunities for TT specialists and strong TT teams like Lance Armstrong and his new Radio Shack squad. You can already see the story lines unfolding.
"There will be only a 60 K individual timetrial," Armstrong said in a Team Astana press release (he's technically an Astana rider until the end of the year). "But the only thing that is unfortunate for us is that there willbe no team time trial. The race will technically and tactically be muchdifferent than this year. You will have more guys who will be factorsin the race because of the lack of the team time trial. In 2009 the TTTeliminated half of a dozen guys."
Another challenge will be the inclusion of cobblestone sectors in the north of France, where the route will take in roads used in Paris-Roubaix. The cobbles are dangerous enough, but the jockeying for position before the race enters those narrow paths is where the riders will be most exposed to crashes.
Still, the real story will be the mountains, especially the Pyrenees. To mark the 100th anniversary of the Tour's first mountain stages—in the Pyrenees—the riders will spend much of the final week climbing those mountains on the border of Spain. Most spectacularly, the route goes up the iconic Tourmalet twice. The second time will be a summit finish just four days before Paris.
"It will be a better Tour for climbersthan for rouleurs," Contador said in the same Astana press release (he's currently trying to get out of his contract there). "Honestly I would have preferred a 10-K shorter timetrial and a second one of 20 or 30 K, but I am really happy about thecourse. It will be a very difficult race to control in the first week,which is particularly difficult with the Paris-Roubaix cobblestones,but I don’t give it too much importance. The most important thing willbe not to crash. I hope it will not rain there. The Alps stages will be less hard. The Pyrenees will be twice as hardas this year, especially with the double climb of the Tourmalet."
Full route details here.
Photo credit © ASO