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Let's take a closer look at the main talking points of the route via a broadly chronological sweep through the race's evolving narrative….
Starting in Brest on the Atlantic coast, four stages in the home region of both Bernard Hinault and Warren Barguil will cater for the puncheurs and sprinters, with the early leader of the race more likely to be a Wout van Aert than a Sam Bennett.
That's because Stage 1 culminates with the punchy climb of the Cote de la Fosse aux Loups 3km at 5. Breaking up those last two sprints into Libourne Stage 19 and Paris Stage 20 will be the deciding time trial — the second of two races against the clock.
A combined length of 58 kilometres amounts to the most time trialling since The first tests comes in Stage 5 as the race leaves Brittany with a 27km TT that could provide an early indication of the pecking order for the maillot jaune.
But as this year's Tour and Giro both proved — it could well all come down to this final individual race of truth.
The km Stage 7 from Vierzon to Le Creuset not only sees the Tour go on a rare venture through the Loire and Cher regions south of Paris, it also is longest stage in 21 years.
Coming just 18km from the finish, it should ensure that this long day in the saddle ends in drama. The race only visits the Alps for two days, a third would have allowed for one of those.
The top of the final climb here is a de facto finish line as anyone with 20 seconds can hope to keep this to the line.
Who does it suit? Before we get to the GC contenders the course suits plenty with the opening stages looking ideal for Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert, Marc Hirschi, Max Schachmann and possibly Mathieu van der Poel if he rides given his Olympic ambitions.
Will the sprinters be happier? There are probably seven opportunities which is as much as and there now seems to be a house policy at ASO to avoid multiple sprint stages.
The time trials look ideal for Tom Dumoulin but that depends on whether he can recover form last seen in , similar for Geraint Thomas and the relative short distance caps their gains and Chris Froome gets a course to work towards too.
Remco Evenepoel might fancy his chances. The same for Thibaut Pinot who can sometimes do a good time trial but prefers a hilly course, Nairo Quintana even more so.
Maybe the organisers think the tour needs to be more distinguishable from the Giro and the Vuelta in terms of parcours?
The start in Brittany played its part, crossing the flat lands meant several sprint stages in a row so they wanted to drop a time trial in for variety.
They can be much easier to control than more rolling terrain. So in recent years the bigger the mountain stage sometimes the more the big trains can make them quite boring.
Good to see the often dismissed and less wealthy Pyrenees Orientales feature, and the return of the Col du Puymorens for the first time since , a classic from the 60s and 70s.
Interesting to hear the reason behind the downhill finishes, makes perfect sense I suppose. I wonder, though, how long it will be until a top GC man or two crashes and the whole thing is considered a bit too risky.
The exchange rate between climbs and time trials is interesting. The Angliru is about as hard as any climb can reasonably be and even there the time differences were tiny really, if we consider Carapaz as a climber and Roglic as a time trialist.
Historically its the climbs that have provided all the myth and drama at Grand Tours with all sorts of heroic stories from Coppi, Gaul, Merckx and whoever else.
Now its the time trials. You pretty much have to have a time trial as the last proper stage to decide who the winner will be or else the top riders, whoever they are, will be more or less tied on time after following each other up to the top of a series of hills.
Everyone is a climber. And everyone seemingly is towards the upper limit of how fast you can possibly go up a hill. Top prospects are always good against the clock as they are climbing up the mountains.
It just feels that way. Big Mig. Conversely pure climbers rarely win GTs. Lopez basically a Colombian Virenque — or, a lesser Quintana.
And Lopez a Colombian Virenque… go upstairs and wash your mouth out with soap. Virenque was my first cycling hero, despite all the obvious stuff.
More importantly idea has been to have more suspense that lasts longer and one way of doing this is to have a bigger cast of characters in contention late into the race.
Kind of, but historically Gaul, Van Impe, Pantani etc were the best climbers of their era and could outclimb the GC men even if they did get mowed down in the TT though I think Gaul was quite good at TTs, but we all probably would be if we got stuck into enough amphetamine.
I think it must be to do with modern training and racing. Like they know that 6. I wonder if it is self fulfilling — i.
GC candidates get the top level of resources, best coaching, top sport science, nutrition planning etc that allows them to be amongst the best climbers in the world?
The days of the romantic climbers such as Robert Millar, Richard Virenque, Tommy Voeckler though perhaps not a true climber and Pantani just used to saunter off during a stage.
In and TdF Hinault and Lemond did similar sorts of raids. But since US postal team we now we have science of the trains. Teams seem to have this nailed.
This year of all years has seen us treated to the closest GTs of all time. And they have to get to the line first to pick up those bonifs.
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This article is more than 2 months old. Jeremy Whittle. Wed 9 Sep Tour de France Caleb Ewan wins stage 11 in chaotic finish — live!