The course for the 100th Tour de France will be 100% French with highlights including twice up Alpe d’Huez in the one stage and a nocturne finish in Paris
Starting in Corsica for the first time, the race will kick off on 29th June and finish on 21st of July with an evening finish in Paris and the riders covering a distance of 3,360 km that will remain exclusively within France’s borders.
Reactions to the route are as ever mixed but the race certainly has many highlights. It starts with a 212 kilometre road stage on the island of Corsica which may well see Quickstep’s Mark Cavendish in yellow, or perhaps it will be Andre Greipel but who ever it is, the jersey may change again on stage 2 which has a ruddy big lump in the second half of it. A long descent follows so it will still end in a group sprint but will any sprinters be there to contest that kick?
A third stage on the island will see the end of the Tour’s flirt with Corsica before a team time trial over the short distance of 25 km (15 miles) in Nice that may well see yet another yellow jersey change. The team time trial will, for the first time in the Tour’s history, include a team crowned World champions in the discipline, Omega Pharma-Quick Step. With Cavendish riding for that team, there performance in the TTT may well put him into yellow.
The push for the GC will start a week after the race started in Corsica with stage 8 in the Pyrenees when the race will take in the climb to the Ax 3 Domaines ski resort. This will present an opportunity to the likes of Froome, Contador and the Schlecks to shake up the top of the leader board. As ever, the race may not be won there but those in contention for that victory will certainly need to show their faces.
The next stage (9) has no less than five climbs with the final one, 30 kilometres from the end. Will this see some surprise tactics from Contador ah la Tour of Spain to try and take control of the race? With so much of the race to go, will any team want to take control at the top of the GC and then have to defend for so long?
A rest day follows before the first individual time trial comes on July 10 (stage 11) when the riders have another fairly short test against the watch over 33 kilometres to Mont-Saint Michael, the ‘most famous’ rock in France. The Tour may not be won in such a short test against the watch but it could certainly be lost.
A few transition stages for sprinters or breakaway hopefuls follow before the first tasty meal is served up with a stage to the top of the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux, which has not been climbed since 2009. The climb, 21 kilometres long at an average of 7.5% is notorious for being a major obstacle, an inferno even where the hopes of a Tour de France victory could be burnt to cinders on a hellish climb.
It is sure to open the race right up with only six stages before the finish in Paris.
Ventoux won’t be the end of the GC battle though. The climbers will have a few days to wait for the next big test, twice up Alpe d’Huez. In between these two historic monuments of the Tour de France, the Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez stages, will be the second of the individual time trials.
It is another short one, 32 kilometres or 20 miles, but the terrain is very lumpy suiting the likes of Froome and Contador who can both climb and time trial. Oh, and Wiggins of course who even if he doesn’t decide to go for GC, will still enjoy going for a stage victory or three.
It is though stage 18 that has had the rumour mongers busy for many many weeks – twice up Alpe d’Huez! The stage will without doubt, be much anticipated and is sure to be a memorable day in this, the 100th edition of the Tour.
In 1952, Fausto Coppi was the first to triumph at the top of “the Alpe”, where he won the right to wear the Yellow Jersey. Later on, the repeated successes of Dutchmen Joop Zoetemelk, Hennie Kuiper or Peter Winnen earned it the nickname of the “Dutch mountain”, but the Italians excelled too, in the form of Gianni Bugno and Marco Pantani. On the French side, Laurent Fignon picked up precious points here in 1984 during his duel with Hinault – himself a winner two years later.
Doing it twice may even be counter productive though as riders decide to leave making their effort until the second of the ascents of the monument or will we see some heroics? God I hope so!
The first ascent of the 21 hairpin comes 50 kilometres before the final push to the line and with much of that 50 kilometres downhill, the Italians for one may well be tempted to go and play the long game. Please.
The climbing continues on stage 19 & 20 on two stages which vary a lot in length. Stage 19 over 200 kilometres with five mountains and stage 20 only 125 kilometres long, short for a Tour de France stage and with two mountains. That final stage in the mountains (20) though does sees another mountain top finish with a 10 kilometre climb at an average of 8.5 per cent so the GC may well change right up until that penultimate day.
So, it is a great lap of France but as ever, it will be the bravery of the riders that will make it, or not. Will we see another British victory? Perhaps. Wiggins explained to reporters at the launch he’ll aim to be at the race but maybe not to ride for the overall.
“It was always about winning one Tour and then deal with what comes next. It’s more than likely I’ll ride in a supporting role for Chris. I just want to be in a successful team and if that’s Chris, then so be it. He’ll have to grow some sideburns though!”
Wiggins adds on the Sky website He said: “It’s hard to gauge what the course is like by purely looking at the stage graphics, but it’s going to be a tough one. The Tour’s never easy and there’s always something to challenge the riders.”
“Last year a lot of crashes happened in that first week and I think that will be very similar next year. That whole element of staying in front and not going down is going to come into play massively.”
“There’s a team time trial on stage four, but it’s not very long, so the gaps will be very small during that first week. There are two very short time trials as well and some real classic climbing up the Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux.”
“All that means it’s going to be a hard race, but these routes always look harder in October when you’ve put a bit of weight on and not been on the bike for a few weeks (laughs).”
In terms of Team Sky’s approach, Wiggins added: “Our season has only just finished but Dave Brailsford and the management team will go away now and look at everything to see where our chances best lie. It is in their hands as to how they devise the team tactically for next year.
“Once that’s decided we will train to the demands of that event. That’s what Tim (Kerrison) and the performance team will do.”
Chris Froome meanwhile says “It’s not quite as hard as I expected it to be. For the 100th edition I was expecting the organisers to go all-out in the mountains. There are definitely some challenging stages though – the Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez to name to name but a few.”
“I like it; it’s a very testing circuit. The two time trials are around 30km each and then there are about four stages where the GC should be decided in the mountains. It’s going to be an exciting race.”
“The fact that it could go down to the last days is a nice twist, and for the GC riders, that will always be something we have at the back of our minds. It’s not over until the very end and the Alpe d’Huez stage will be one of the deciders, along with that brutal one up Mont Ventoux. I’ve never ridden Ventoux but at the end of a 240km stage after 2 weeks of racing, that is going to be tough…”
Cavendish meanwhile, says “The first stage should be a sprint and I’ve never had the opportunity to wear the yellow jersey, so it’ll be nice to try for that, and then at the end of the Tour there’s a spectacular finish in Paris which has a few changes on the final circuit.
“We’ll go all the way around the Arc du Triumphe on the laps, which is a nice way to finish the Tour next year. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
BMC’s Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 edition, said the course should make for a more exciting and unpredictable result. “In the last week, we won’t have an idea who’s going to eventually be the winner in Paris,” he said. “It’s long on road stages, but shorter on time trial kilometres. I think it suits me a little bit better than 2012. It’s a real mix and variation of stages right from the start to the finish. That third week is going to be very tough.”
Gilbert, the reigning world road champion, said the course best suits an all-arounder. “There will be many opportunities for sprinters at the start, then the team time trial and two individual time trials – one easy and one difficult – and then some uphill finishes,” he said. “So this 100th Tour was built for a very complete rider.” Ten towns that have never hosted a Tour start or finish are included and six stages are longer than 200 kilometers. “To me, the queen stages will be the one that climbs l’Alpe d’Huez twice and the 242 km stage which finishes up the Mont Ventoux,” he said. “They will be very tough and should affect the overall standings.” Another highlight organizers added is a night-time finish of the final stage in Paris.
White jersey Van Garderen joined Evans and Gilbert on stage at the end of the hour-long presentation, something he said was comparable to attending a movie premier. “Being here, you get even more of a sense of the magnitude of just how big the Tour is,” he said. Last year’s fifth place finisher and winner of the best young rider classification, van Garderen likened himself to a student after watching route videos revealing stage lengths and terrain.
“Now that we know the material, it’s time to do the homework and study for the test,” he said. “Two times up l’Alpe d’Huez on the same day? It’s not going to be easy. I would have liked maybe a little bit more kilometres in time trials, but I think it’s a good course. It’ll be fun.”
Andy Schleck says of the parcours, “I believe it’s a really hard parcours. It already starts in the first days, with the Grand Départ given in Corsica. I know the roads there quite well, from racing the Critérium International, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“I see the Alps, and especially the 242 km stage to the Mont Ventoux as the key to win the race. I expect that the heat will be a factor on that stage”, says Schleck. “Overall, I think I can’t complain about the parcours. I want to forget about my 2012 season as soon as possible. My injury is still not completely healed, but I can ride my bike relatively well. We’ll see how it goes for the preparation for the Tour. I’ll be racing a lot in order to be fit, that’s certain.”
On the topic of the USADA case against Lance Armstrong, Andy Schleck was repeatedly asked by the press for a reaction. He replied “What has happened in the past has been really bad. We cannot just put it aside. But on the other hand: most of these things are from the past and we need to draw a line. The young generation, and I count myself in that, has nothing to do with this past and we are the victims of it, in a way. So I’m saying: let’s not forget about what has happened, but let’s take lessons from it and move on.”
IN SHORT - The 2013 Tour de France will include 28 mountain climbs or altitude finishes ranked Cat2, Cat1 or HC. During the last three editions of race, in total there were: 25 in 2010, 23 in 2011 and 25 in 2012
7 flat stages
5 hilly stages
6 mountain stages with 4 summit finishes
2 individual time trial stages
1 team time trial stage
2 rest days
STARTS June 29
Stage 1 Porto-Vecchio Bastia 212 km
Stage 2 Bastia Ajaccio 154 km
Stage 3 Ajaccio Calvi 145 km
Stage 4 Nice Nice (TTT) 25 km
Stage 5 Cagnes-sur-Mer Marseille 219 km
Stage 6 Aix-en-Provence Montpellier 176 km
Stage 7 Montpellier Albi 205 km
Stage 8 Castres Ax 3 Domaines 194 km
Stage 9 Saint-Girons Bagnères-de-Bigorre 165 km
Stage 10 Saint-Gildas-des-Bois Saint-Malo 193 km
Stage 11 Avranches Mont-Saint-Michel (Ind TT) 33 km
Stage 12 Fougères Tours 218 km
Stage 13 Tours Saint-Amand-Montrond 173 km
Stage 14 Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule Lyon 191 km
Stage 15 Givors Mont Ventoux 242 km
Stage 16 Vaison-la-Romaine Gap 168 km
Stage 17 Embrun Chorges (Ind TT) 32 km
Stage 18 Gap Alpe-d’Huez 168 km
Stage 19 Bourg-d’Oisans Le Grand-Bornand 204 km
Stage 20 Annecy Annecy – Semnoz 125 km
Stage 21 Versailles Paris Champs-Élysées 118 km
Finish July 21
Stage 20. Mountains right up until the final stage proper …
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