The 2016 Tour de France will start at the foot of the spectacular Mont-Saint-Michel monastery in Normandy on the northern coast of France.
Race organiser ASO announced that Mont-Saint-Michel and the surrounding Manche department will host the Grand Départ of the 103rd edition of the Tour de France during a press conference in Mont-Saint-Michel attended by race director Christian Prudhomme.
The opening stage will be held on Saturday July 2. There will be no prologue time time. The 2016 Tour de France begins with be a 188km road race stage that follows the Normandy coast and finishes on Utah Beach in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, the site of the D-Day landings of World War II.
Stage two on Sunday July 3 will cover 182km, starting in Saint-Lô and finishing Cherbourg-Octeville, on the three-kilomtre Côte de la Glacerie climb behind the port. The climbs includes a section at 14%.
Stage three will start in Granville but ASO did not reveal any further details. The full route of the 2016 Tour de France will be unveiled in Paris on October 20, 2015.
“The Manche is a very beautiful department with breath taking scenery," Prudhomme said in a statement published by ASO.
"It offers varied terrain that will favor the sprinters at Utah Beach, and allow the punchers their chance to standout in the hills above Cherbourg-Octeville. Let us not forget the Mont-Saint-Michel that will majestically enhance the very first pedal strokes of the riders of the peloton, three years after it was the backdrop for the 100th Tour de France.”
Normandy has hosted stage finishes of the Tour de France 23 times since 1911 but has never hosted the Grand Départ. Mont-Saint-Michel hosted the finish of a 33km individual time trial stage in 2013, with Tony Martin winning the stage and Chris Froome extending his overall race lead.
Mont-Saint-Michel has been a monastery since the eighth century. It is built on a fortified island that is six hundred metres away from the Normandy coast and was protected by the strong currents and tides of the Mont-Saint-Michel bay. It is connected by a permanent causeway but a new hydraulic dam is helping to clear the silt and a new footbridge will replace the elevated road. Mont-Saint-Michel is a Unesco World Heritage site and attracts three million visitors a year.
The 2015 Tour de France will start in Utrecht in the Netherlands on Saturday July 4.