Cyclingnews has been able to accompany Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme a few days ago on his recce of the Alpine stages of the 100th edition. Stage 17 from Embrun to Chorges is definitely worth a visit for the protagonists - and the fans as well due to the beauty of the landscape. It's a 32km individual time trial that will feature two grueling climbs of six kilometers each. Former mountain bikers will love it.
The winner of the ITT of the 2012 Vuelta a España Fredrik Kessiakoff who was a runner up to Thomas Voeckler in the fight for the polka dot jersey at this year's Tour de France already looks like a valuable candidate for the win on Wednesday, July 17.
"For the first time in the history of the Tour de France, there'll be three mountain stages after the last time trial", Prudhomme revealed.
"We've chosen carefully the location of the three time trials for the beauty of the scenery."
Stage 17 also features exceptional scenery with a wonderful view over the Serre-Ponçon lake near Gap in the Hautes-Alpes province. However, riders won't cross the causeway at Savines-le-lac. They'll start from Embrun that hosted two starts in 2008: stage 15 to Prato Nevoso won by Simon Gerrans and stage 17 to l'Alpe d'Huez won by Carlos Sastre.
The route remains on the north side of the lake using part of the "Route des Puys", a famous 46.4km ride marked out for recreational cyclists. The very beginning of the stage is a grueling climb called Montée de Réallon station but instead of completing the 11km to the ski resort, the riders will turn left after 6km in direction to Savines-le-lac.
"The gradient is 6.9% but it's very irregular", noted technical director Thierry Gouvenou. In fact, it's a climb suited to climbers who can change their rhythm multiple times on the same ascent. Spanish climbers like Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador might love the effort too.
An extremely technical downhill precedes a second 6km climb, the côte de Saint-Apollinaire. On a larger road, it requires the repetition of the efforts previously done in the Montée de Réallon. The final downhill is not technical at all; it's a wide, fast road heading in the direction to Prunières with a finish line to be drawn in front of the train station of Chorges on the N94 road between Gap and Briançon.
As much of the route of the 2012 Tour de France favoured a time triallist like Bradley Wiggins, the distances to be covered against the clock next year and the characteristics of the courses give a clear chance to the winner of 2011 Cadel Evans to be back in yellow.
Stage 4 will be a team time trial in Nice with a spectacular finish on the Promenade des Anglais and a detour via the newly built Allianz Riviera stadium. Stage 11 will be a flat individual time trial from Avranches to the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. It's the second most visited touristic destination in France after Paris. The riders will make a u-turn in front of the Mont for the pictures to overlook the World's Heritage site.