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STAGE 1: COPENHAGEN–COPENHAGEN
Friday, July 1; 13.2km
(flat, individual time trial)
Rain for everyone?
The stage 1 course is completely flat, and although it has 20 turns it’s not too technical, with most of the 13.2 kilometers raced on wide boulevards and city streets. The trickiest section is two-thirds the way through when the course turns right into Langelinie Park on narrow roads that take the course past Copenhagen’s signature sight, The Little Mermaid, the 4-foot high statue portraying the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. On exiting the park, riders will head past the Amelienborg Castle and alongside the harbor before taking the straightaway to the finish outside the Tivoli Gardens, the world famous 19th century amusement park that was packed with thousands of fans for the team presentation on Wednesday.
Despite wet streets from forecast rain, the stage winner (and first yellow jersey) could beat the Tour’s TT record speed of 55.446 kph, set by Rohan Dennis on a similar course in Utrecht, the Netherlands, seven years ago. Jumbo-Visma’s Aussie is not starting this Tour, so the main candidate to beat the record is world TT champion Filippo Ganna of INEOS Grenadiers. His principal opponents are likely to be Stefan Küng of Groupama-FDJ, Wout Van Aert of Jumbo-Visma (if his recent leg injury is healed enough), Stefan Bisseger of EF Education-EasyPost, Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Deceuninck and Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. Start times might be key to victory, so most teams have placed their top time trialists in the first half of the list of starters, because the rain is expected to be at its height later in the day; but it’s also likely that the roads will be wet for everyone and that a strengthening wind swinging from south to west could be a bigger challenge. For those targeting overall victory—including Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas, local favorite Jonas Vingegaard and Ben O’Connor—it will be a question of not losing too much time. We’ll see right from the off who’s really up for it.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Start on Nørre Farimagsgade in Copenhagen (0km, first rider, 10 a.m., last rider 12:55 p.m.; Sankt Jakob (time split, 6.6km, 6.6km to go), first rider 10:07 a.m., last rider 1:02 p.m.; Hans Christian Andersen Blvd., Copenhagen (finish, 13.2km), first rider 10:15 a.m., last rider 1:10 p.m.Section divider
STAGE 2: ROSKILDE–NYBORG
Saturday, July 2; 202.2km
(flat; roads exposed to open sea)
WINDS, BRIDGES AND ECHELONS
There’s a reason why there are more than 6,000 wind turbines in Denmark supplying about half the country’s electricity: lots of wind! The chances are that the wind (and the formation of echelons) will greatly influence this first road stage. It starts in Roskilde, a city founded by the Vikings that’s sure to give the Tour a huge sendoff. Tens of thousands attend the eight-day Roskilde rock festival that ends on this weekend with performances from California rapper Tyler, the Creator and New York indie band The Strokes. More crowds will line the 200-plus-kilometer route, which first heads northwest through small towns and villages to the northern coast, with three small Cat. 4 climbs to liven up the first two hours of racing before the day’s bonus sprint at Kalundborg with 75 kilometers remaining. The course then swings south along flat coastal roads, where the forecast southwest winds could see the peloton already splintered before hitting the 20-kilometer-to-go sign at the start of the Great Belt Crossing; this spans the Kattegat Sea via two of the world’s longest bridges (respectively 6.8 and 6.6 kilometers long), with a 2.5-kilometer section across the small island of Sprogø in the middle. There will be no spectators on the bridges and no shelter from those cross-headwinds. “The peloton will be nervous because the wind will have an impact,” says former Tour rider Lars Michaelsen. “This finale will cause some real damage.” The finish line in Nyborg is only 2 kilometers after dropping off the second bridge. The last time the Tour had a similar flat stage exposed to coastal winds, in the Dutch polders seven years ago, the peloton was split into five groups spread over 11 minutes; some favorites lost 90 seconds to a lead bunch of 24. This Danish stage is the sort of one that local boy Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo, who comes from Roskilde, might win should the main bunch sprinters experience problems in those nasty winds.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start, Roskilde Cathedral, 6:15 a.m.; actual start, 6:35 a.m.; Côte d’Asnaes Indelukke (Cat. 4, 140.2km to go), 7:59 a.m.; Côte d’Høve Straede (Cat. 4, 129.7km to go), 8:14 a.m.; Côte de Kårup Strandbakke (Cat. 4, 118.2km to go), 8:30 a.m.; Kalundborg (Sprint, 75.3km to go), 9:28 a.m.; Korsør (join E20 for Great Belt Crossing, 24.2km to go), 10:38 a.m.; Nyborg (finish, 202.2km), 11:11 a.m.Section divider
STAGE 3: VEJLE–SØNDERBORG
Sunday, July 3; 182km (flat)
A TRUE FIELD SPRINT
After two demanding stages for the Tour’s GC contenders, the sprinters will finally get a chance to go head-to-head in a true mass finish. This stage across the Jutland peninsula opens with a loop that passes the massive Jelling Stones, which date from the 10th century and are regarded as the birthplace of the nation, marking Denmark’s emergence from a pagan to a Christian country. The 182-kilometer route then heads south, almost to the border with Germany, including three more short Cat. 4 climbs for those contesting the polka-dot jersey. The finale is fairly sheltered and so the sprinters’ teams should be able to catch any breakaways. Will former Tour green jerseys Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) fight out the win? Or will faster finishers Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange), Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) or Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Want-Gobert) come out on top? The finish in Sønderborg will mark the end of the most northerly start in Tour de France history. Following the stage, the race entourage will make a 900-kilometer transfer to northern France where racing continues on Tuesday.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start at Strandgade in Vejle at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:15 a.m.; Côte de Koldingvej (Cat. 4, 154.7km to go), 7:52 a.m.; Côte de Hejlsminde Strand (Cat. 4, 99.2km to go), 9:08 a.m.; Christiansfeld (sprint, 91.5km to go), 9:18 a.m.; Côte de Genner Strand (Cat. 4, 58.7km to go), 10:03 a.m.; Sønderborg (finish, 182km), 11:23 a.m.Section divider
After the long transfer from Denmark, the next three stages across northern France offer three challenging scenarios: a roller-coaster stage that ends with a windswept finale along the coast; an intricate course featuring 11 sectors of Paris–Roubaix-like cobblestones; and the Tour’s longest stage with a tricky hilltop finish. It’s terrain that will challenge everyone and will almost certainly see some of the GC contenders lose significant time before they even reach the climbing stages. That’s why these are three stages to fear.
Tuesday, July 5; 171.5km (hilly)
HILLS AND A WINDY FINALE
Riders familiar with the venerable Four Days of Dunkirk stage race will feel right at home on this 171.5-kilometer loop that takes in the infamous Mont Cassel in West Flanders before heading west through the Boulogne hills and ending the day along the English Channel coast. It’s a stage that should put the puncheurs in the spotlight. The day’s six categorized climbs, all with a Cat. 4 designations, aren’t that steep, but positioning will be crucial because it’s always windy in the Pas-de-Calais region. And the last part of the stage crosses the coastal headlands of Cap Gris-Nez and Cap Blanc-Nez—a Cat. 4 climb that comes just 10.8 kilometers from the finish in Calais. With a probable northwest wind blowing off the North Sea over the final kilometers, echelons are certain to form, leaving a smallish group to contest the finish. It’s a stage that best suits a sprinter who can stick with the peloton over a succession of short, punchy climbs and has enough teammates to protect him in the windy finale. Those parameters perfectly match Jumbo-Visma’s Wout Van Aert, Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, or Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen. A fast entry and left exit from a large roundabout precede the 500-meter straightaway to the line.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Dunkirk at 7:15 a.m.; actual start, 7:30 a.m.; Mont Cassel (Cat. 4, 140.8km to go), 8:12 a.m.; Lombres (sprint, 108.3km to go), 8:56 a.m.; Côte de Remilly-Wirquin (Cat. 4, 99.7km to go); Côte de Nielles-lès-Bléquin (Cat. 4, 74.3km to go), 9:43 a.m.; Côte de Harlettes (Cat. 3, 68.8km to go), 9:50 a.m.; Côte de Ventus (Cat. 4, 47.9km to go), 10:18 a.m.; Côte du Cap Blanc-Nez (Cat. 4, 10.8km to go), 11:09 a.m.; Calais (finish, 171.5km), 11:24 a.m.Section divider
LILLE–ARENBERG PORTE DU HAINAUT
Wednesday, July 6; 157km (flat, with cobblestones)
A MINI HELL OF THE NORTH
The last time there were cobbles to tackle at the Tour, in 2018, there were many sectors, but they were quite short. This time the plan was to have longer sectors because the cumulative distance is less important than the length of each sector. As such, this year’s stage most resembles the course used in 2014. That’s the year when wet, windy weather forced the organizers to eliminate two of the more technical sectors; when defending champion Chris Froome crashed out of the race before the cobbles were reached; and when Vincenzo Nibali engineered the winning breakaway with two others to cement his early GC lead. Even without bad weather, the race will almost certainly split apart over the 11 cobbled sections on this year’s menu. That’s because constant twists and turns will split the field in windy conditions, while four of the last five sectors appear regularly in Paris–Roubaix, including the three longest (from 2.4 to 2.8 kilometers), inside the final 30 kilometers. The last sector, via the infamous Pont Gibus, ends just 5.1 kilometers from the finish in Arenberg—the same finish as eight years ago, when Lars Boom won solo from breakaway companions Jakob Fuglsang and Nibali. With four former Paris–Roubaix champions in the field, along with such classics stars as Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), we can expect a spectacular and destructive day in this mini Hell of the North.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start on rue Paul Duez in Lille at 7:35 a.m.; actual start, 8:00 a.m.; Mérignies (sprint, 119.8km to go), 8:50 a.m.; pavé No. 11 (77.3km to go), 9:46 a.m.; pavé No. 10 (56.4km to go), 10:14 a.m.; pavé No. 9 (50.5km to go), 10:22 a.m.; pavé No. 8 (46.1km to go), 10:28 a.m.; pavé No. 7 (42.9km to go), 10:32 a.m.; pavé No. 6 (37.4km to go), 10:39 a.m.; pavé No. 5 (30.3km to go), 10:49 a.m.; pavé No. 4 (23.6km to go), 10:58 a.m.; pavé No. 3 (20.1km to go), 11:02 a.m.; pavé No. 2 (13.6km to go),11:11 a.m.; pavé No. 1 (6.7km to go), 11:20 a.m.; Arenberg (finish, 157km), 11:29 a.m.Section divider
Thursday, July 7; 220km (rolling)
A “MUR” PRECEDES THE HILLTOP FINISH
At 220 kilometers, this is the longest stage this year. There are 70 kilometers in Belgium before reaching the Ardennes, the range of hills that straddles the border with France. It’s a day that’s akin to the Flèche Wallonne classic, although it’s also a good one for long breakaways. The last 20 kilometers are hilly, while the finale is perfect for puncheurs like former Flèche winners Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) and Marc Hirschi (UAE) or GC contenders Pogačar, Roglič, and Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA-Hansgrohe). There’s no Mur de Huy, but the Mur de Pulventeux has a 12.3-percent grade for almost a kilometer; and it’s followed by a twisting descent before hitting the hairpin climb, with an 11-percent pitch in the middle, to the finish at the Citadelle in Longwy. This 1.6-kilometer Côte des Religieuses is where Peter Sagan narrowly won a 2017 stage from Matthews and Irish climber Dan Martin. But there was no preceding “wall” five years ago, so don’t expect a sprinter to win this time.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Binche, Belgium, at 6:05 a.m.; actual start, 6:15 a.m.; Belgium-France border (150.5km to go), 7:55 a.m.; Côte des Mazures (Cat. 3, 132.7km to go), 8:19 a.m.; Carignan (sprint, 74km to go), 9:43 a.m.; Côte de Montigny-sur-Ciers (Cat. 4, 14.9km to go), 11:08 a.m.; Mur de Pulventeux (Cat. 3, 5.3km to go), 11:22 a.m.; Longwy, Côte des Religieuses (Cat. 4, finish, 220km), 11:29 a.m.Section divider
TOMBLAINE–LA SUPER PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES
Friday, July 8; 176.4km (rolling, with summit finish)
SUPER-FIGHT TO SUPER PLANCHE?
After a week of racing across Denmark, Belgium, and northern France, the 109th Tour’s first mountaintop stage finish has finally arrived. And what a climb it could be! The first half of the 176.3-kilometer stage is flat, with plenty of distance for a breakaway to pick up several minutes before reaching some minor climbs in the Vosges mountains. After crossing the last of these hills, the race drops to the foot of the 7-kilometer climb to the finish. The main part of La Planche des Belles Filles (which translates as the “Plank of the Beautiful Girls”) is where Pogačar stormed to victory in the final time trial two years ago to displace Roglič from the yellow jersey. That part averages 8.5 percent for 5.9 kilometers; and then comes the “super” part, a 1-kilometer extension that’s mostly on dirt and averages 10 percent, with a 24-percent pitch near the top.
The only time the “super” part was used at the Tour, in 2019, the remnants of an all-day breakaway stayed clear to contest the finish, with Dylan Teuns taking the stage win and runner-up Giulio Ciccone donning the yellow jersey. As for the GC favorites that year, they were led home by Geraint Thomas, Thibaut Pinot, and Julian Alaphilippe. There was just a one-minute time spread between the 20 GC contenders; if something similar happens this year, there’s a possibility that the yellow jersey could change hands because there are just 60 seconds between race leader Pogačar and eighth-placed Dani Martínez. And within that minute are three of the Spanish climber’s INEOS Grenadiers teammates, Thomas, Adam Yates, and Tom Pidcock—so, with four strong cards to play, it would be a surprise if the British team doesn’t attempt to put pressure on the Slovenian superstar. Even closer to Pogačar are Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard and EF Education-EasyPost’s Neilson Powless, who could both take advantage of an INEOS assault to launch late counterattacks.
Yes, indeed, this could be quite a climb!
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Tomblaine at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:15 a.m.; Gérardmer (sprint, 75.2km to go), 9:36 a.m.; Col de Grosse Pierre (Cat. 3, 68.7km to go), 9:48 a.m.; Col des Croix (Cat. 3, 40.3km to go), 10:26 a.m.; La Super Planche des Belles Filles (Cat. 1, finish, 176.4km), 11:29 a.m.Section divider
Saturday, July 9; 186.3km (hilly, with hilltop finish)
A CLASSIC CLIMB REVIVED
After stages made tough by cobbles, a “mur” and a summit finish, the sprinters would normally think their time has come. And on a day that ends at the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, a nice flat finish alongside Lake Geneva could have been awaiting them. Instead, the route planners have inserted what is a revival of one of the more famous hill climbs in cycling history, À Travers Lausanne, last held in 2001. This was an end-of-season invitational: a mass-start race followed by a time trial up a 5-kilometer course that ascended from the lakeside port through the city streets, some cobbled, to the plateau where the venerable Olympic Stadium stands. The list of ATL winners included eight Tour de France champions, including Coppi, Merckx, and Pantani. For this year’s Tour stage, the fourth kilometer averages almost 10 percent, including some even steeper pitches. Perhaps it will crown another Tour champion…though the likelihood of a breakaway staying clear to the finish is strong.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Dole at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:20 a.m.; Montrond (sprint, 139.4km to go), 8:25 a.m.; Côte de Maréchet (Cat. 4, 110.7km to go), 9:05 a.m.; Côte des Rousses (Cat. 3, 85km to go), 9:41 a.m.; France-Switzerland border (72.7km to go), 9:58 a.m.; Côte de Pétra Félix (Cat. 4, 49.4km to go), 10:31 a.m.; Côte du Stade Olympique (Cat. 3, finish, 186.3km), 11:40 a.m.Section divider
AIGLE–CHÂTEL LES PORTES DU SOLEIL
Sunday 10 July; 192.9km (mountains)
Into the Alps
Almost entirely on Swiss soil, this 193-kilometer stage features two Cat. 1 climbs in the Alps along with an uphill finish at the French ski town of Châtel. And being the last stage before a rest day there could well be a battle between the GC contenders in the demanding finale. An early breakaway is sure to form on the opening 150-kilometer loop from the UCI headquarters in Aigle that heads west along Lake Geneva and then up through the Gruyère cheese countryside before crossing the easy Col des Mosses and stiffer Col de la Croix before a 20-kilometer-long plunge back to Aigle. The decisive action will take place on the opening 11 kilometers of the Cat. 1 Pas de Morgins, where a dozen switchbacks take the road across a steep mountainside with 8- and 9-percent pitches. This is where, in 1985, race leader Bernard Hinault made an unexpected breakaway with Colombian super-climber Lucho Herrera that resulted in a stage win for Herrera and a four-minute overall lead for Hinault. This year, the course descends for 5 kilometers from the Pas de Morgins to Châtel before turning left up an alpine valley that climbs steadily for 4 kilometers to the finish line at Pas-de-la-Joux. It’s not an overdemanding stage but at the end of what has been a very demanding week, we will surely see some substantial time gaps.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start at UCI World Cycling Centre, Aigle, Switzerland, at 6:30 a.m.; actual start, 6:45 a.m.; Côte de Bellevue (Cat. 4, 155.8km to go), 7:40 a.m.; Semsales (sprint, 136.4km to go), 8:08 a.m.; Col des Mosses (Cat. 2, 84.4km to go), 9:35 a.m.; Col de la Croix (Cat. 1, 61.1km to go), 10:11 a.m.; Aigle, second passage, 39.9km to go), 10:35 a.m.; Pas de Morgins (Cat. 1, 9.8km to go), 11:33 a.m.; Switzerland-France border (7.9km to go), 11:35 a.m.; Châtel (finish at Pas-de-la-Joux, 192.9km), 11:44 a.m.
REST DAY 1
The first full rest day is July 11
MORZINE LES PORTES DU SOLEIL–MEGÈVE
Tuesday, July 12; 148.1km (hilly, with hilltop finish)
ANOTHER DAY FOR BREAKAWAYS
After a rest day, and with two savage days in the mountain ahead, this stage gives the non-climbers a big opportunity to make a successful long-distance breakaway. This part of the French Alps is peppered with some of the Tour’s toughest mountain passes, but they’ve all been avoided on this short stage. It weaves a circuitous route from Morzine to Megève through a grandiose landscape. The pace will be extremely high as the early kilometers head downhill, heading north toward Lake Geneva, making a loop on the balcony roads above the lake where the KOM contenders Simon Geschke and Magnus Cort will both want to get in the break —and hopefully, the INEOS Grenadiers will put one of their top men in the front to make Pogačar’s UAE team work hard prior to the upcoming stages in the high Alps. The stage then winds its way over short climbs and through a series of valleys to the day’s bonus sprint in Passy-Marlioz, at the foot of the 21-kilometer climb to the finish. This uphill may be long, but the opening 14 kilometers average less than 4 percent grade on a wide main road; the last part, with grades up to 7 percent, was used in the final stage of the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné when American Sepp Kuss made a late solo attack to take the win on the steep uphill runway of Megève’s high-altitude airfield. The big difference then was this was the last of eight major climbs on a day of constant attacks. But as on stages 8 and 9, we could again see a last-kilometer sprint between Pogačar, Vingegaard, and the other GC contenders.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Morzine at 7:30 a.m.; actual start, 7:40 a.m.; Côte de Chevenoz (Cat. 4, 124km to go), 8:08 a.m.; Thonon-les-Bains (105.3km to go), 8:31 a.m.; Col de Jambaz (Cat. 3, 78.9km to go), 9:15 a.m.; Côte des Châtillon-sur-Cluses (Cat. 4, 50.9km to go), 9:49 a.m.; Passy-Marlioz (sprint, 24.3km to go), 10:23 a.m.; Montée de l’altiport de Megève (Cat. 2, 2.2km to go), 11:04 a.m.; Megève finish on airfield, 148.1km), 11:08 a.m.Section divider
ALBERTVILLE–COL DU GRANON
Wednesday, July 13; 151.7km (mountains, with summit finish)
BACK TO THE FEARSOME GRANON
Anyone who envisions winning this Tour must have their A-game for this brutal stage in the Alps. For starters, after 50 kilometers on valley roads, the peloton faces the spectacular 3.4-kilometer climb to Montvernier which features 17 tight hairpins scaling an almost vertical mountainside with double-digit grades. Next on the menu is the serpent-like Col du Télégraphe that climbs for almost 12 kilometers at 7 percent, immediately followed by the Tour’s highest peak, the 17.7-kilometer Galibier, which is at its 13-percent steepest just before the 2,642-meter (8,668-foot) summit. Most stages that cross the above-category Galibier in this direction end with a 35-kilometer downhill to Briançon. Not this one. Just before reaching the highest city in France, the course turns sharp left to tackle this year’s toughest climb. The above-category Col de Granon ascends for 11.3 kilometers at a mean 9.2-percent grade with a middle section in the double digits and the steepest pitch of 18 percent. The narrow road is rough and grippy, takes in a dozen tight turns, and tops out at 2,413 meters (almost 8,000 feet) above sea level. In the only other stage to finish up here, in 1986, race leader Bernard Hinault lost his yellow jersey to La Vie Claire teammate Greg LeMond—the first U.S. rider to earn it—after the American responded to an attack on the Izoard descent before Briançon by their nearest challenger, Swiss national champion Urs Zimmermann. Hinault conceded more than three minutes and fell to third place, behind LeMond and Zimmermann. This year, the chances are that Pogačar will increase his overall lead on Vingegaard—but let’s hope for something unexpected by his challengers on the INEOS Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma teams.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Albertville at 7 a.m.; actual start, 7:15 a.m.; Lacets de Montvernier (Cat. 2, 101.8km to go), 8:32 a.m.; Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (sprint, 93.9km to go), 8:42 a.m.; Col du Télégraphe (Cat. 1, 67.9km to go), 9:36 a.m.; Col du Galibier (Hors Cat., 45km to go), 10:28 a.m.; Col du Granon (Hors Cat., finish, 151.7km), 11:39 a.m.Section divider
Thursday, July 14; 165.1km (mountains, with a summit finish)
A LEGENDARY STAGE
As with the Tour 36 years ago, the Granon stage is followed by an enormous day in the mountains between Briançon and L’Alpe d’Huez. It takes in the Galibier, Télégraphe and Croix de Fer climbs on the way to the Tour’s most famous uphill finish, resulting in the stage with the highest vertical gain: 4,750 meters (15,584 feet). Ironically, in 1986, the most decisive action happened on a downhill—specifically, down the Télégraphe, when Hinault attacked to join a small breakaway that contained La Vie Claire teammate, Steve Bauer, while LeMond then dropped Zimmermann with a sensational descent to join his two teammates. Bauer made a huge effort in the valley to further distance the Swiss rider, while Hinault took over the pacemaking on the Croix-de-Fer that only LeMond could follow. The two of them arrived atop the Alpe five minutes clear of third-place Zimmerman, with LeMond symbolically raising Hinault’s arm in triumph across the finish line. This year, with the stage first going back over the Galibier, we can expect some casualties in the overall standings, while the French fans will be cheering for a home stage victory on their national holiday of Bastille Day—perhaps one for Romain Bardet or Thibaut Pinot. If not, then the 13.8 kilometers and 21 turns of L’Alpe d’Huez will likely see a showdown between the top GC contenders Pogačar, Vingegaard, Thomas, and Adam Yates.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Briançon at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:20 a.m.; Monétier-les-Bains (sprint, 152.7km to go), 7:40 a.m.; Col du Galibier (Hors Cat., 131.9km to go), 8:24 a.m.; Col du Télégraphe (108.5km to go), 8:52 a.m.; Col de la Croix de Fer (Hors Cat., 54.5km to go), 10:41 a.m.; L’Alpe d’Huez (Hors Cat., finish, 165.1km), 12:08 p.m.Section divider
Friday, July 15; 192.6km (rolling)
FINALLY, A BUNCH SPRINT?
After five days in Alps, including the Tour’s two toughest climbing stages, the GC teams will be looking for a respite. But those who have been riding conservatively in the gruppettos awaiting their time to shine will be eager to shoot for a stage win. This could mean success for a long-distance breakaway even though the sprinters’ teams—notably Lotto-Soudal for Caleb Ewan and Quick-Step for Fabio Jakobsen—will be hoping their teams can keep things together for a rare mass finish. On leaving the Alps, the stage passes through Grenoble, hits a few minor climbs, and then crosses the Rhône valley, where there should be little risk of echelons forming. There’s enough flat terrain and wide roads in the final couple of hours for the sprinters’ teams to get organized and create a spectacular bunch sprint next door to the stadium of Saint-Étienne’s hugely popular football team, Les Verts (“The Greens”)—may be a sign that green jersey leader Wout Van Aert could take his third stage win of this Tour.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Le Bourg d’Oisans at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:20 a.m.; Côte de Brié (Cat. 3, 162.2km to go), 8:00 a.m.; Col de Parménie (Cat. 2, 113.4km to go), 9:06 a.m.; La Côte-Saint-André (sprint, 91km to go), 9:35 a.m.; Côte de Saint-Romain-en-Gal (Cat. 3, 44km to go), 10:38 a.m.; Saint-Étienne (finish, 192.6km), 11:37 a.m.Section divider
Saturday, July 16
192.5km (hilly, with hilltop finish)
BAKING HOT IN THE MASSIF
This near-200-kilometer stage through the Massif Central is one of those stages that can catch people out. Before the Saint-Étienne-to-Mende stage in 1995, the overall standings looked pretty set after a long time trial and two stages in the Alps. Race leader Miguel Induráin had a 2:27 lead over second-place Alex Zülle, with top Frenchman Laurent Jalabert in sixth overall, more than nine minutes back. This year’s stage route is not the same as then, being 30 kilometers shorter, but it’s just as difficult, with 3,400 meters (over 11,000 feet) of vertical gain. Furthermore, the mercury is forecast to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (and that’s in the shade; it’ll be even hotter out in the sunshine). The opening kilometers have some long hills ideal for attacks where 27 years ago Jalabert began a dangerous breakaway that grew to six strong, two of them his ONCE teammates. They gained 10 minutes, putting Jalabert in the virtual yellow jersey, as the stage passed through Le Puy-en-Velay and climbed to Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas along remote roads made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson in his 1879 book “Travels With A Donkey.” This year’s stage passes through the same towns before a sharp descent leads to gradual climbs across plateaux exposed to the wind. Back in 1995, Induráin’s team got enough support to begin closing the gap. As before, the stage again finishes atop the fearsome Côte de la Croix Neuve (3 kilometers at 10.2 percent) above Mende, where Jalabert won the stage, consolidated his green jersey, finished almost six minutes ahead of the GC leaders, and moved into third overall. Maybe we’ll get a similarly aggressive stage this year, though the heat-wave conditions and constant climbing will test everyone’s resolve. Whatever develops, that ultra-steep final climb will challenge all the riders vying for the yellow jersey—with Pogačar trying another late uphill attack to glean back some seconds on Vingegaard.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Saint-Étienne at 6:15 a.m.; actual start, 6:30 a.m.; Côte de Saint-Just-Malmont (Cat. 3, 178.3km to go), 6:51 a.m.; Côte de Châtaignier (Cat. 3, 153.4km to go), 7:29 a.m.; Yssingeaux (sprint, 141.8km to go), 7:46 a.m.; Le Puy-en-Velay (107.1km to go), 8:38 a.m.; Côte de Grandrieu (Cat. 3, 57.2km to go), 9:53 a.m.; Côte de la Fage (Cat. 3, 30.4km to go), 10:33 a.m.; Côte de la Croix Neuve (Cat. 2, 1.5km to go), 11:16 a.m.; Mende (aerodrome, finish, 192.5km), 11:19 a.m.Section divider
Sunday, July 17; 202.5km (rolling to flat)
FAVORABLE TO SPRINTERS—AND ECHELONS?
The organizers tried to ensure that this day would smile on the sprinters; but with triple-digit temperatures still around, there won’t be much enthusiasm for chasing down breakaways. Constant ups and downs in the opening hour favor the attackers before a descent into and a climb out of the spectacular Tarn Gorge should consolidate a breakaway’s success. The course then avoids the climbs over the Black Mountains, so if the sprinters’ teams get organized they could close things down prior to the last 10 kilometers on a descending false flat. And with an east wind likely, echelons could even form in the peloton. The finish in Carcassonne will be in the same place as last year, where Mark Cavendish equaled Eddy Merckx’s record for the number of Tour stage wins. This time, a long-distance breakaway should benefit from its gains, but with a rest day coming up the sprinters’ domestiques could sweep the way clear for their fast finishers.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Rodez at 7:05 a.m.; actual start, 7:15 a.m.; Côte d’Ambialet (Cat. 3, 133.6km to go), 8:49 a.m.; Saint-Ferréol (sprint, 55.5km to go), 10:35 a.m.; Côte des Cammazes (Cat. 3, 47.9km to go), 10:46 a.m.; Carcassonne (finish, 202.5km), 11:51 a.m.Section divider
Tuesday, July 19; 178.5km (medium mountains)
A WINNING BREAK, A POGACAR ATTACK?
With a full rest day behind them and two of the toughest mountain stages just ahead, don’t expect the GC leaders to make a huge deal of this first day in the Pyrénées. They’ll probably be happy to see a breakaway succeed and reserve their strength for the monster climbs ahead. Even the stage route looks designed for those riders and teams who have so far missed out and are seeking a stage win. The opening 110 kilometers include a couple of Cat. 4 climbs and a sprint that will allow a break to establish an unassailable lead, perhaps 10 minutes or more, while the two Cat. 1 climbs should see the decisive attacks from the break. The Mur de Péguère is very narrow and steep—double digits for the last 3.3 kilometers with pitches up to 18 percent—and access will be prohibited to the public, as was the case in 2017. This might be just the “wall” that Tadej Pogačar needs to drop race leader Jonas Vingegaard; and if he has support from one or two teammates dropping back from the early break he could make any gains stick on the mostly 27 downhill kilometers to the finish in Foix. As for the stage win, look for a survivor from the breakaway, perhaps Alexey Lutsenko, Neilson Powless or Luis León Sánchez.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Carcassonne at 6:30 a.m.; actual start, 6:40 a.m.; Côte de Saint-Hilaire (Cat. 4, 164.8km to go), 7:01 a.m.; Col de l’Espinas (Cat. 4, 141.9km to go), 7:39 a.m.; Lavelanet (sprint, 110.7km to go), 8:23 a.m.; Tarascon-sur-Ariège (81.5km to go), 9:05 a.m.; Port de Lers (Cat. 1, 53.4km to go), 9:56 a.m.; Mur de Péguère (Cat. 1, 27.2km to go), 10:41 a.m.; Foix (finish, 178.5km), 11:11 a.m.Section divider
Wednesday, July 20; 129.7km (high mountains, with summit finish)
WATCH FOR INEOS TO ATTACK
In some Tours, this Pyrenean stage would just see a battle between the GC contenders on the steep summit finish at Peyragudes; but this Tour is very different. With the top GC positions still relatively close, and with INEOS Grenadiers still having a full eight-man squad against the six of Jumbo-Visma and UAE Emirates, the British team has the resources to put key riders in the early break, which will surely form on the 50 kilometers of flat terrain before the day’s four classified climbs. Race leader Vingegaard’s teammates will have to set the tempo on the first two of those climbs, perhaps leaving the yellow jersey isolated on the last two. If INEOS wants to win the Tour, it will need to have Adam Yates or Geraint Thomas make a strong move on the penultimate climb, the grippy 10.7-kilometer Val Louron-Azet, an irregular pass that has a middle section between 8 and 9 percent. Its descent is very fast leading to the early slopes of the Col de Peyresourde prior to what will be a true final challenge: 2.4 kilometers of brutal ascending with pitches as steep as 16 percent leading to the altiport at Peyragudes. This is where Romain Bardet triumphed in 2017, putting 22 seconds into race leader Chris Froome. Coming in the third week of the Tour, these steep percentages could see far bigger damage this time.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Saint-Gaudens at 7:15 a.m.; actual start, 7:25 a.m.; La Barthe-de-Neste (sprint, 96.8km to go), 8:20 a.m.; Col d’Aspin (Cat. 1, 64km to go), 9:14 a.m.; Hourquette d’Ancizan (Cat. 2, 48.1km to go), 9:41 a.m.; Col de Val Louron-Azet (Cat. 1, 20.2km to go), 10:27 a.m.; Peyragudes (Cat. 1, finish, 129.7km), 11:01 a.m.Section divider
Thursday, July 21; 143.2km (high mountains, with summit finish)
A CLASSIC NEW MOUNTAIN STAGE
With the introduction of the much-feared Col de Spandelles between the legendary Col d’Aubisque and the always-decisive finishing climb to Hautacam, it’s as if a new classic Pyrenean stage has been born. When the Spandelles was used at the lesser-known Route du Sud 10 years ago, Colombian climber Nairo Quintana broke clear on the Spandelles and soloed to victory, and some 30 riders abandoned because of the stage’s difficulties, which also included the Tourmalet and Soulor passes. Extremely narrow, with rough pavement, 20 turns, and frequent double-digit pitches, the 10.3-kilometer Spandelles was thought to be impassable for Le Tour, but the regional highways department has done work on it to make the descent safer. “The Spandelles could well cause some damage,” says Groupama-FDJ team rider Mathieu Ladagnous. “It’s a wild pass…I know it well because I live just a few kilometers away. It’s a great find.”
As on stage 17, there are more than 50 kilometers to cover before the real climbing begins; but everyone will need to warm up in Lourdes before the stage leaves the pilgrim city. That’s because the stage opens with a stiff 5-kilometer climb on narrow roads, followed by a steeper descent back to Lourdes, before it heads west and south toward the mountains. Again, teams such as INEOS, DSM, Arkéa or Groupama-FDJ will need to get riders in the early break if their team leaders are going to challenge the “unbeatable” duo at the top rather than simply waiting for a showdown on Hautacam. And depending on who is feeling strong—maybe Pogačar, Thomas, Bardet, or Quintana—they should attack on the Spandelles, because the fast, technical 14-kilometer descent takes them straight to the foot of the Hautacam climb—which is well known for favoring lone riders. The five previous stage finishes here have included solo victories for Tour winners Vincenzo Nibali (2014) and Bjarne Riis (1996). With this being the final mountain climb of the 2022 Tour, expect major time deficits behind the stage winner. But remember, the podium might still be open; there’s a long, tricky time trial to come in 48 hours that could well favor Thomas over Vingegaard and Pogačar.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Lourdes at 7:30 a.m.; actual start, 7:40 a.m.; Louvie-Juzon (97.3km to go), 8:45 a.m.; Laruns (sprint, 84.7km to go), 9:04 a.m. Col d’Aubisque (Hors Cat., 66.5km to go), 9:47 a.m.; Col du Soulor (56.9km to go), 9:59 a.m.; Col de Spandelles (Cat. 1, 33.2km to go), 10:41 a.m.; Hautacam (Hors Cat., finish, 143.2km), 11:38 a.m.Section divider
Friday, July 22; 188.3km (flat to rolling)
A REWARD FOR THE SPRINTERS?
With the mountains behind them and a time trial to follow, everyone will be looking for some respite on this theoretical sprinters’ stage, one of the flattest this year. In any case, everyone will be tired from the past two weeks of heat-wave weather and repeated climbing. Top sprinters Caleb Ewen (who is lying last on GC) and Fabio Jakobsen (who just made the time cut on Wednesday) have battled more than anyone to survive the first 18 stages, and they will be looking for the reward of a stage win at Cahors. Also in contention could be Mads Pedersen, Peter Sagan, and Michael Matthews—which means that at least five teams will be trying to control the race and shooting for a sprint finish. There will be other teams of course that hope a long-distance breakaway will stick, which will be a difficult task on the flat terrain. In any case, the finish into the center of Cahors drags up from the Lot River on a gradual 5-percent grade that best suits Ewan, Matthews, and Pedersen—and perhaps the Dane will be inspired by the finish at Cahors being close to the Château de Caïx, which belongs to the Danish royal family.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in Castelnau-Magnoac at 7:05 a.m.; start, 7:10 a.m.; Auch (sprint, 149.9km to go), 8:02 a.m.; Valence d’Agen (82.8km to go), 9:34 a.m.; Côte de la cité médiévale de Lauzerte (Cat. 4, 52.6km to go), 10:15 a.m.; Côte de Saint-Daunès (Cat. 4, 35.7km to go), 10:38 a.m.; Cahors (finish, 188.3km), 11:27 a.m.Section divider
Saturday, July 23; 40.7km (individual time trial)
A TT FOR THE PRESTIGE
Even though minutes, rather than seconds separate riders in the top 10 overall, which deprives this time trial of last-minute suspense, it will be a stage you won’t want to miss. It takes place in the department of Lot, on the edge of the famed Dordogne region, and 90 percent of the 40.7-kilometer course is on narrow country roads that are rarely straight. And tens of thousands will be on hand to greet the riders near the close of one of the best Tours in the modern era. The scenic route starts in Lacapelle-Marival, said to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, with a castle dating from the 13th century; and it ends in Rocamadour, a medieval pilgrimage site whose ancient buildings cover a rocky promontory. Two hills make the final 6 kilometers particularly challenging: the first 1.6 kilometers at almost 5 percent, the one to the finish 1.5 kilometers at almost 8 percent.
It’s a course where even top riders could concede minutes rather than seconds. The rolling, technical nature of the TT course favors a specialist, maybe world champion Filippo Ganna or European champ Stefan Küng; but with the GC pretty much wrapped up and continued scorching weather this TT should be one for the prestige. Tadej Pogačar would love to beat Jonas Vingegaard one last time, and third-placed Geraint Thomas has the incentive of finishing on a stage podium for the first time this Tour. Also in the mix will be the indefatigable Wout Van Aert, if he has recovered sufficiently from his unbelievable breakaway and climbing performances this past week.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Start in Lacapelle-Marival (0km), first rider, 7:05 a.m., last rider 11 a.m.; Aynac (time split 1, 10.6km, 30.1km to go), first rider 7:18 a.m., last rider 11:13 a.m.; Gramat (time split 2, 22.1km, 18.6km to go), first rider 7:31 a.m., last rider 11:26 a.m.; Couzou (time split 3, 32.6km, 8.1km to go), first rider 7:44 a.m., last rider 11:39 a.m.; Rocamadour (finish, 40.7km), first rider 8:04 a.m., last rider 11:49 a.m.Section divider
PARIS LA DÉFENSE ARENA–PARIS CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES
Sunday, July 24; 115.6km (flat)
A DOUBLE TREAT
While the men’s Tour will have been decided after the previous day’s time trial, and their final stage into the Champs-Élysées will likely see a mass-sprint finish in the early evening on Sunday, the first Women’s Tour de France with Zwift gets underway a few hours earlier on the same course. An interesting aspect of the men’s stage 21 is that it starts indoors, just to the west of the French capital, in the Paris La Défense Arena—a French rugby team’s stadium, a major concert venue and what will host the swimming competitions at the 2024 Olympic Games. From there, the men will climb Mont Valérien, head through Versailles and then pick up the same route taken last year. It will pass by the Luxembourg Gardens and in front of the Louvre pyramid, after which the riders will enter the traditional finishing circuit on the Champs-Élysées. As last year, the finish will be 200 meters farther up the avenue than in the past. As a result, the sprinters will need an extra lead-out man. Van Aert could repeat his 2021 stage victory here, but he’ll have plenty of opposition from the likes of Dylan Groenewegen, Jasper Philipsen, and Caleb Ewan.
SCHEDULE (all times EDT): Ceremonial start in the Paris La Défense Arena at 10:30 a.m.; actual start, 10:45 a.m.; Côte du Pavé des Gardes (Cat. 4, 72.3km to go), 11:48 a.m.; entry to Champs-Élysées circuit (56.1km to go), 12:12 p.m.; Paris-Haut des Champs, 3rd passage (sprint, 40.1km to go), 12:35 p.m.; Paris Champs-Élysées (finish, after 9 laps, 115.6km), 1:34 p.m.