The Tour de France is set to visit the Pyrenees ahead of the Alps for a third successive edition, with a possible first-week summit finish in the Vosges, as rumours and details of the 2017 route continue to emerge.
The full route for the 104th edition of the Grande Boucle will be officially unveiled in Paris on October 18, but that hasn’t stopped regional media outlets from trying to assemble various pieces of the jigsaw. As is the case every year, the Velowire website has collected all the existing information to form an outline of the route, which always proves pretty reliable.
It has already been confirmed that the 2017 Tour will start on German soil in Dusseldorf on July 1 with a flat 13km time trial, which could give German Tony Martin the chance to pull on the yellow jersey. The second stage is confirmed to start in Dusseldorf as well, but the finish location has not yet been announced.
Between the Grand Départ and the habitual finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris, nothing has been confirmed, but the dots are starting to be joined.
Although the organisers regularly swap the order of the race’s two major mountain ranges, in 2017 the Alps are set to feature in the third and final week of the race, following the Pyrenees, for the third consecutive edition.
The first proper summit finish and general classification test, however, could come in the Vosges mountains as early as stage 5, with France Bleu reporting a finish at La Planche des Belles Filles, where Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins took stage honours and the yellow jersey respectively in 2012. Vincenzo Nibali also won there, and took yellow, in 2014.
Visiting Luxembourg and Belgium
As for the three stages that might precede this possible summit finish, the route is likely to visit Belgium and Luxembourg on its way from Germany to France.
A stage finish in Liège, Belgium, on day two is a possibility and, while it could be one for the sprinters, there’s reason to believe the organisers are planning a stage 3 finale that could see the yellow jersey change hands. There were rumours the Luxembourg town of Esch-sur-Alzette would host the stage finish, though recent reports suggest it has been rejected based on the 'selective elements' of its proposed routes. The stage could instead feature the first French finish, just across the border.
Luxembourg, however, could host a stage start the following day, with a symbolic border crossing at Schengen - where EU border regulations were introduced in 1985 - touted in some outlets. Vittel has been heavily linked with a stage finish for this day.
Vosges and Jura
After the Planches des Belles Filles in the Vosges on stage 5, the race could wind its way down for a stage in the Jura mountains on day 8. Jarlinson Pantano was victorious in the area this year, while the general classification contenders largely watched each other.
Another hilly stage could come on the next day, with a finish in Chambery looking likely, which would see the race brush the Alps. If true, this could well feature a descent finish or the sort Chris Froome used to take yellow this year.
According to Velowire, the first rest day would come after this ninth stage and would feature a lengthy transfer west over to Perigeux.
The race could resume with a stage in the Dordogne en route to the Pyrenees. After that, Pau, a Tour de France staple and one of the most-visited locations of the race, is set to host another stage finish as the race braces itself for the mountains – ASO have issued a teaser to this effect on their Twitter account.
Details of the Pyreneen stages are scarce, with the number of summit finishes unknown, but the race could spend four days there.
La Dépêche has Peyragudes down as the finish for the first Pyrenean stage. This would be a summit finish and would be the first visit there since 2012, when Alejandro Valverde tasted a first Grand Tour victory since his comeback from a doping ban. Rodez and Le Puy-en-Velay are other rumoured finish locations for the other stages.
According to new details laid out on Velowire, a second rest day and a stage to Romans-sur-Isere could bring about a swift transition to the Alps.
The most eye-catching rumour here would be a showcase summit finish atop the Col d’Izoard at 2360m altitude on stage 18, with the climb a icon of the Tour but usually deployed mid-stage. The equally famous Col de Galibier could be on the route on the previous day, which is rumoured to finish at the Serre Chevalier ski resort.
Those could be the only two big Alpine stages of the 2017 Tour, as rumours suggest the race could then head south, away from the mountains and into Provence.
Penultimate-stage time trial?
There have been rumours of a penultimate-day time trial in Marseille to decide the general classification ahead of the jaunt to Paris. The last time the Tour had the riders racing the clock – rather than each other – on the penultimate day was in 2014, with Nibali cementing his victory, as Bradley Wiggins did in 2012, while Cadel Evans used the stage 20 time trial to grab victory from Andy Schleck in 2011.
This is all far from confirmed, and the details are vague at this point, but it would leave a lengthy overnight transfer up north for the final stage.