Race Preview: Tour de France race director, Christian Prudhomme, presented the 2020 French Grand Tour route in Paris on Tuesday. The 107th edition of the Grand Boucle includes 29 categorised climbs (Cat.2 and above), 6 summit finishes, gravel roads and one mountain time trial. Ed Hood takes a ‘First Look’ at the French parcours.
Is the 2020 Tour designed to combat the Ineos tactics?
Those guys at ASO obviously have a crystal ball; here’s what yesterday’s press release told us:
“The route of the 2020 Tour de France, which will take place between 27 June and 19 July, was unveiled this morning at the Palais des Congrès in Paris in front of 4,000 spectators, including defending champion Egan Bernal and four-time winner Chris Winner, as well as the leading contenders for top placings.”
‘Chris Winner‘ What does ASO know?
That’s good to know for Tour preview time, they continue:
“Its defining characteristic is the inclusion of all the mountain ranges in France. The spread-out, varied and exceptionally steep climbs will give ambitious climbers one opportunity after another throughout the race, from the finish at Orcières-Merlette to the time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles, not to mention the Puy Mary, the Grand Colombier and the Col de la Loze, overhanging Méribel.”
The only tie wearer amongst the riders at the Tour presentation – Caleb Ewan
And before we go any further; ‘respect’ to Caleb Ewan, the only one of the contenders to bother to put on a tie for the presentation – yeah, I know, I’m a dinosaur. Okay, that’s off my chest: ‘It’s all about the climbs,’ this one with six summit finishes, 29 climbs with a rating of 2nd category or harder – including a mountain time trial – and five mountain ranges to grovel through.
All the stage profiles
No Heartlands of Brittany, Normandy or the Industrial North; best forget this Tour if you’re a rouleur.
Could Bernal’s arms get any thinner?
I can just hear the DS’s telling the nutritionists; “skinny isn’t good enough this year, I want them super-skinny! To which the man with the diet sheets might reply; “but Boss if we get Egan and Chris’s arms any thinner then they won’t be able to get out of the saddle, their arms won’t take the weight!”
The 2020 Tour presentation
There are a number of ways to look at this Tour:
# A delight for lovers of la Belle France’s mountain scenery – and of course, for semi-naked deranged exhibitionists who run alongside the riders – but maybe Superman Lopez won’t have so much of that problem after he laid into that guy who knocked him off at the Giro?
# We can all pretend that Thibaut Pinot and Roman Bardet can win the race with all these mountains; whilst the truth is that it’ll be Ineos – between Bernal and Froome.
# Another extension of the endless competition among the Grand Tours to see who can come up with the most/highest/worst surfaced/most outlandish climbs. And a Tour which neglects the North and many of the towns/cities/regions which have contributed to the Tour’s legend. But one saving grace is that stages have been kept short and sharp.
Parcours/Route – Tour de France 2020
Whichever sprinter wins Stage One on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice best enjoy the jersey at the start of Stage Two; he won’t be wearing at the finish, not after two climbs which top 1500 metres in the Nice ‘High Country.’
Grand Départ – Nice 2020
Respected English cycling journalist William Fotheringham sums up the first part of the race from Stage Two onwards, in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper: ‘Heading east-west: Orcières-Merlette in the Alps, Mont Aigoual in the Massif Central, and then the Pyrenees with Loudenvielle and Laruns, the latter concluded over the super-steep Col de Marie-Blanque. Added to day two’s climbs that will make for arguably the hardest opening nine days the Tour has ever known.’ Indeed.
Stage Three into Sisteron is one for the sprinters before the Stage Four horrible summit finish at 1825 metres in Orciere Merlettes. The sprint trains should still be fresh for Stage Five into Privas but Stage Six to Mont Aigoual is a tough one and those GC boys best be on their guard.
Nice – Tour de France 2020
Stage Seven to Lavaur is another ‘breakaway’ stage with little flat. Stage Eight is short at 140K but razor sharp – Col de Mente, Port de Bales and Col du Peyresourde are all en route Loudenvielle – with a downhill finish which suits the Nibalis of this world.
Stage Nine is another nasty with the Col de Marie Blanque on the 154K route to Laruns. The rest day comes on Monday 6th July.
Col de Marie Blanque
Stage 10 is a unique 170K island to island job from Ile D’Oleron to Ile De Re around the bay formed by the two isles separated by the Pertuis d’Antioche waterway – cross winds? splits? And the end for some GC guys – a day for the smartest and toughest sprinters.
Stage 11 for Démare?
Stage 11 with 167K to Poitiers, flat but could serve up more splits in the cross winds; the organisers are already tipping Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) for the win – he won the French Championship here in 2014. Stage 12 is the longest of the race at 218K over ‘grippy’ roads to Sarran – ‘a breakaway day’ for sure.
Stage 13: that’s an unlucky number, but so is 4,400 – that’s today’s elevation in metres before the line at first time climb, Puy Mary after 191K.
Battle between break and bunch on stage 14
On to Stage 14 to Lyon over 197K and the organisers tell us; ‘promises a battle between the breakaway specialists, the climbers and the sprinters,’ sounds interesting. If it’s not a sprint the fast men have a long wait, until Paris for their next – and final – chance.
Stage 15 – Grand Colombier
Stage 15 and the good news is that it’s rest day tomorrow; the bad news is that the finishes atop Grand Colombier – ouch! Stage 16 finishes in Villard-De-Lans after 164K – and it’s a ‘mountain resort’. . .
Villard-De-Lans in 1993
Col De La Loze is where Stage 17 concludes with passages at 20% – just what the gruppetto likes at the end of 168K. Reassuringly, the organisers tell us; ‘only a great champion can win at the Col De La Loze – right. . .’
Stage 17 climbs
Stage 18 and the organisers way with words continues; ‘The course of the day is made for the most enduring climbers. Indeed over 4,000m of climbing will be on the menu,’ over the 168K to La-Roche-Sur-Foron. I’m just writing about it and need a stiff brandy before we go any further.
Stage 18 profile
Stage 19 over 160K to Champagnole is one for the barodeurs, it has Jackie Durand written all over it – what do you mean, ‘he retired in 2004?’
Jackie Durand – He’s retired?
Stage 20 sees the race’s only chrono – and it’s a peach, 36K with the final six up La Planche Des Belle Filles at an average of 8.5%; the organisers will be hoping it all comes down to this day – and it may well. Expect HUGE crowds especially if Julian, Thibaut or Romain are still in the frame. . .
The TT stage for Froome?
Stage 21 and the surviving sprinters – there might not be many – have their day in the sun.
The end of the road
And despite my polemics at the start of the piece; ‘Le Tour est Le Tour!’ the Greatest Show on Earth, for sure.
Christian Prudhomme presenting the 2020 Tour de France
Saturday June 27 to Sunday July 19 – Tour de France 2020 Stages:
Stage 1: Nice Moyen Pays to Nice (156km)
Stage 2: Nice Haut Pays to Nice (187km)
Stage 3: Nice to Sisteron (198km)
Stage 4: Sisteron to Orcieres-Merlette (157km)
Stage 5: Gap to Privas (183km)
Stage 6: Le Teil to Mont Aigoual (191km)
Stage 7: Millau to Lavaur (168km)
Stage 8: Cazeres to Loudenvielle (140km)
Stage 9: Pau to Laruns (154km)
Monday July 6 – rest day
Stage 10: Ile de Re to Il d’Oleron (170km)
Stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers (167km)
Stage 12: Chavigny to Sarran (218km)
Stage 13: Chatel-Guyon to Puy Mary (191km)
Stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon (197km)
Stage 15: Lyon to Grand Colombier (175km)
Monday July 13 – rest day two
Stage 16: Tour du Pin to Villard-de-Lans (164km)
Stage 17: Grenoble to Meribel (168km)
Stage 18: Meribel to La Roche-sur-Foron (168km)
Stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole (160km)
Stage 20: Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles ITT (30km)
Stage 21: to Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris (122km).
The full presentation in Paris
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.