The route of the 2013 Tour de France was presented in Paris on Wednesday and the 100th edition of La Grande Boucle is set to be a balanced affair, with two individual time trials offset by four mountain top finishes and a testing final week in the Alps.
While rumours of a final stage to l’Alpe d’Huez proved wide of the mark, the Alpine climb does feature in a novel way in the 2013 Tour, with the peloton set to scale it twice during stage 18. That other enduring summit finish of Tour lore, Mont Ventoux, also features on the route, while there is a tough foray into the Pyrenees at the end of the opening week.
There is novelty, too, in the final stage of the race as the peloton will reach the Champs-Elysees as night falls, with the stage finish in Paris set for 9:45. For the first time, the peloton will go all the way to the top of the Champs-Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe as part of the finishing circuit, as Paris showcases itself as the City of Lights.
Once again, there are two individual time trials, but they are significantly shorter than in 2012, at just 32 and 33km in length, respectively. Although an opening week team time trial in Nice pushes the quota of racing against the clock up to 90km in total, three consecutive mountain stages follow the final time trial in Chorges, tipping the balance back towards the climbers in the closing days of the Tour.
As had been previously announced, the Tour gets underway in Corsica on June 29 with three rolling road stages, before hugging the Mediterranean coast in week one on its return to mainland France, with the Nice TTT and road stages to Marseille and Montpellier.
A tough weekend in the Pyrenees follows, and it features a summit finish at Ax-3 Domaines and a stage over the Portet d’Aspet, Menté, Peyresourde, Val Louron-Azet and Hourquette d'Ancizan to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, ahead of a long rest day transfer north to Brittany. Week two sees a strategic time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel before the race sweeps down through central France towards the next major rendezvous – a summit finish at Mont Ventoux.
After Bradley Wiggins spent over two weeks in yellow at the 2012 Tour, the organisers seem determined to increase the suspense quotient this time around, with the race’s most crucial stages – on paper – shoehorned into the final few days of racing.
A sinuous stage to Gap has the potential to catch some general classification contenders unawares on the eve of the Tour’s final time trial on stage 17, a very hilly and technical 32km test from Embrun to Chorges, in which the climbers may be able to limit their losses. In any case, unlike in 2012, the rouleurs will not hold the ace card, as three mountain stages in the Alps follow before the nocturnal Parisian finale.
Stage 18 brings the peloton over the Col de Manse and Col d'Ornon before the first ascent of l'Alpe d'Huez. The race then peels off over the Col de Sarenne, before later doubling back for a second haul up l'Alpe d'Huez to the finish. The following day sees the Glandon, Madeleine and Croix-Fry on the agenda before the finish at Le Grand Bornand, while the penultimate stage of the Tour has a summit finish at Mont Semnoz, above Annecy.
10.7km and a gradient in 8.5%, the climb to Semnoz has never been raced at the Tour before, although it has featured on the route. In 1998, the Tour passed over the Semnoz en route to Aix-les-Bains, but amid protests over the police searches that followed the Festina and TVM doping affairs, the peloton staged a go-slow and the stage was neutralized.
Route of the 2013 Tour de France:
June 29, stage 1: Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, 212km
June 30, stage 2: Bastia to Ajaccio, 154km
July 1st, stage 3: Ajaccio to Calvi, 145km
July 2nd, stage 4: Nice to Nice, TTT, 25km
July 3, stage 5: Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille, 219km
July 4, stage 6: Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier, 176km
July 5, stage 7: Montpellier to Albi, 205km
July 6, stage 8: Castres to Ax-3 domaines, 194km
July 7, stage 9: Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 165km
July 8: Rest day in Saint-Nazaire, Loire-Atlantique
July 9, stage 10: St-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo, 193km
July 10, stage 11: Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel, ITT, 33km
July 11, stage 12: Fougères to Tours, 218km
July 12, stage 13: Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond, 173km
July 13, stage 14: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon, 191km
July 14, stage 15: Givors to Mont Ventoux, 242km
July 15: Rest day in the Vaucluse province (Avignon, Orange)
July 16, stage 16: Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap, 168km
July 17, stage 17: Embrun to Chorges, ITT, 32km
July 18, stage 18: Gap to l’Alpe d’Huez, 168km
July 19, stage 19: Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand, 204km
July 20, stage 20: Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz, 125km
July 21, stage 21: Versailles to Paris/Champs-Elysées, 118km