The 2017 Tour de France with visit the Alps twice, with the Pyrénées sandwiched in between and a time trial on stage 20 to decide the overall winner. Riders will face another tough road as they arrive in Dusseldorf, Germany, which will host the Grand Départ on July 1. The race also visits Belgium and Luxembourg within the first four days before skirting down the east side of France until the first rest day. A transfer to the Pyrénées awaits riders ahead of the second week before the race heads back across the Massif Central into the Alps for a second time. But the race won’t be decided by a penultimate-stage summit finish like the past few editions, with a time trial around Marseille likely to decide who will take the famous yellow jersey to Paris.
The innovative route will include some short but intense mountain stages and visit all five mountain regions of France -the first time in 25 years – with a transfer from the east on the first rest day meaning the Vosges and Jura will be followed by the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Alps.
There is no team time trial again in 2017 and only 36km of individual time trials, with the route seeming tipped in favour of the climbers and aggressive overall contenders.There are three mountain finishes at La Planche des Belles Filles, Peyragudes and the Col d’Izoard, while other mountain stages end with testing descents. Time bonuses will be awarded, with 10, 6 and 4 seconds awarded at the finish of the road racing stage. The mountains classification has also been tweaked, with extra points awarded on the Hors Category climbs.
Race director Christian Prudhomme seems to have taken inspiration from the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana by searching out steeper, little-known climbs and reducing stage distances. He also called on the UCI to allow him to reduced team sizes to end what he called a ‘catenaccio’ racing style.
2016 Tour de France winner Chris Froome was in Paris for the route presentation. “Tough,” Froome said when asked of his reaction to the route. “It’s definitely going to be a climbers’ race from what I can tell. It’s very light on time trial kilometres but that’s all part of the race and that’s something I’m going to have to focus my training on, being the best I can be on the climbs.
“Certainly, from my first reaction there were quite a few stages going up over 2,000 metres. The Izoard goes up to 2,300 metres; that’s going to be an absolute beast of a stage. Initial feelings are that it’s going to be a race that is won or lost in the mountains. Of course, it’s the Tour and anything can happen so we have to be ready for all eventualities.”
Richie Porte said: “It’s quite a balanced course. There’s not a lot of time trialling but there is quite a bit of climbing but descending to the finish as well. There’s quite a spread between the Planche des Belles Filles on the fifth stage and then the Col d’Izoard on the 18th. There’s a lot of stages in between there with cross winds. I think it’s typical to stand here now and saw that it’s not a climber’s Tour but the road will always decide that.”
As already confirmed, the German city of Dusseldorf will host the Tour de France Grand Depart with a 13km individual time trial kicking off the action on Saturday July 1, and awarding the first race leader’s yellow jersey of the race. The route will then head to France via Liege in Belgium and Luxembourg, with the first mountain finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles, where Froome won in 2012, and Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
A diversion to Troyes gives the sprinters a chance of success before the Jura and a finish at the Les Rousses ski resort close to the border with Switzerland. The following stage to Chambery is a day for the pure climbers with the Grand Colombier tackled from the Virieu-le-Petit side – which has a section of road at 22% – followed by the terrible Mont du Chat -8.8km at 10%. The stage includes 4200 metres of climbing.
A plane transfer will take the race across France to Perigueux near Bordeaux on Monday July 10 for the first rest day, with the race then heading to Pau and into the Pyrenees with finishes in Peyragudes and Foix. The first includes the Port des Bales and the Peyresourde but the second –on July 14, Bastille Day – covers lesser known, and steeper, climbs packed into less than three hours of racing. It is the shortest stage of the last 30 editions of Tour at just 100km.