With little more than a month to go before the presentation of the 2015 Tour de France route, there are already plenty of rumours circulating about potential stages. Among the most surprising is a report from the D!Ci radio station in the southern Alps, which suggests that next year’s Tour will spend three days in that region and could feature a summit finish on the Col de la Bonette-Restefond.
At 2802 metres, the remote Bonette-Restefond is highest pass the Tour de France has ever tackled and would naturally be the highest summit finish in the race’s history, eclipsing the 2645-metre finish on the Galibier in 2011.
According to D!Ci, the Tour, which will start in the Dutch city of Utrecht on 4 July, will reach the southern Alps on 20 July. That day’s stage looks set to start in Digne-les-Bains – which has been confirmed by Digne’s town hall in a separate report – and could finish on the Bonette-Restefond. The Tour would then spend a rest day in the region on 21 July, before heading northwards on 22 July, with L'Alpe d’Huez the probable destination, although the stage could head west to finish atop Mont Ventoux.
D!Ci says that hotels in the region have already been block booked on those dates, but suggests some issues remain to be resolved, primarily the race’s passage through the spectacular Mercantour national park. The park authorities are reported to be opposed to the Tour going through the park, which last featured on the race in 2008.
That year South Africa’s John-Lee Augustyn famously went off the edge of the Bonette-Restefond after leading over the pass and Cyril Dessel subsequently won the stage into Jausiers.
The Tour organisers are said to have a Plan B in the shape of a summit finish at the resort of Pra-Loup, where Bernard Thévenet ousted Eddy Merckx from the yellow jersey before going on to win the 1975 race. Next year will be the 40th anniversary of that historic moment.
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) won this year's Tour de France and is expected to defend his victory in 2015.