After the start at Mont Saint-Michel the first 760 metres of the 2016 Tour de France are on a pedestrian bridge to the mainland. The 1st stage leads to Utah Beach and the most likely outcome is a bunch sprint. Stage 2 looks good for the puncheurs with a short closing climb with steepest sectors at 14%.
From stage 3 onwards the three longest stages in the 2016 Tour de France welcome the riders. Being all over 200 kilometres, the routes to Angers (stage 3) and Limoges (stage 4) are interesting to the fast men, albeit stage 3 ends on a false flat while stage 4 brings a hilly finale with the line on top of a short climb that will delight the likes of Sagan and Matthews. Stage 5 leads over three mountain tops to ski-resort Le Lioran in the Massif Central, while Stage 6 offers chances to both fast men and escapees, depending on how the race to Montauban unfolds.
Climbers will see opportunities when the Pyrenees loom. Stage 7 leads over the Col d’Aspin before the race is set to conclude with a plunge down to Lac du Payolle, while in stage 8 Col du Tourmalet and Col de Peyresourde are to be crested before a summit finish at Pla de Beret. The next day stage 9 goes via three passes to Arcalis, a ski-resort at an elevation of 1,940 metres in Andorra. The sixth smallest nation of Europe (468 km2) is the backdrop for the first rest-day in the Tour de France.
Second week of racing
In stage 10 the pack leaves Andorra to set sail for Revel, a place where Alexandre Vinokourov was victorious in 2010. Stage 11 goes to Montpellier and should be for the sprinters and then it’s party time in the Provence. At Bastille Day the Bald Mountain welcomes the riders in stage 12 for a top-finish at Mont Ventoux after a 21 kilometres drag that is usually complicated by hard winds an/or severe heat (update July 13: stage has been shortened due to dangerously strong winds at the top of Mont Ventoux, finish is at Chalet Reynard, 6 kilometres under the ‘bald summit’). Next is stage 13, a hilly invidual time trial in 37.5 kilometres with a 3.5 kilometres closing climb at 5%. Nasty.
Stage 14 leads to Villars-les-Dombes and could either be for sprinters or for escapees, while only three days after the Ventoux the 15th stage leads through the Jura Mountains and is teeming with climbs, among them two times up the Grand Colombier. Stage 16 is in the Jura as well but tells a different story as the course leads over rolling roads to a short climb leading to the last kilometre. Tough sprinters or escapees?
Tough closing week
The closing week is marked by the Alps. The towering Mont Blanc forms the backdrop for the last three mountain stages to Megève, Saint-Gervais-Mont Blanc and Morzine, while it all starts in Bern, Switzerland. In stage 17 riders are to crest three peaks in the Alps before a top-finish lays waiting at Lac d’Emosson after a 10.7 kilometres closing climb at 8.5%.
At July 21th stage 18 is a 17 kilometres mountain time trial to Megève and then the 19th stage take the attrition that is the last week of the 2016 Tour de France one step further. After cresting four peaks the climb to Saint-Gervais-Mont Blanc lays waiting. In the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné Chris Froome raced to victory.
Stage 20 heads to Morzine with a series of tough climbs in between, such as Col de la Colombière and Joux-Plane, after which the finale is downhill. At July 24th the 21st stage is set to close the Tour de France with a bunch sprint at Champs-Élysées.
All in all, the 2016 Tour de France offers a route to look forward to in awe!
Tour de France 2016: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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