The 2020 Tour de la Provence will feature a stage finish on Mont Ventoux on the penultimate day. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) are among the riders expected to tackle the Giant of Provence in the four-day stage race, which takes place from February 13-16.
Given the early juncture in the year, the finish of stage 3 will be at Chalet Reynard, six kilometres shy of the summit of Mont Ventoux. The Paris-Nice peloton has regularly climbed as far as Chalet Reynard, which lies 1,429m above sea level.
Chalet Reynard was also the site of the Tour de France stage finish in 2016 when high winds meant that the race could not safely climb to the summit, which is at an altitude of 1,912m.
The haul to Chalet Reynard comes at the end of a 138km stage from Istres, which takes in the short category 3 ascents of the Col de Lauris and Col des Cedres before the summit finish on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. The climb from Saint-Estève to Chalet Reynard is 15.5km at an average gradient of 8.8 per cent.
Race director Pierre-Maurice Courtade told La Provence that the event has a contingency plan should weather conditions prevent the peloton from climbing Mont Ventoux in mid-February.
"Yes, it's a challenge," Courtade said. "Some back-up plans will be in place in case it proves impossible to climb to 1,400m.
"Our idea was the propose a harder Tour, but also a more varied one. We want to continue to amaze. The area proposes novelties as well as picture postcard landscapes."
The inaugural Tour de la Provence was held in 2016, when Thomas Voeckler emerged victorious, and the event has established itself as a fixture in the early-season calendar, with Rohan Dennis (2016), Alexandre Geniez (2018) and Gorka Izagirre (2019) adding their names to the roll of honour.
The event, organised by French newspaper La Provence, will form part of the new UCI Pro Series in 2020, having previously been a 2.1 stage race. The Pro Series is the second tier of racing below WorldTour level, replacing the old HC class of events.
The four-day race begins with a flat stage from Châteaurenard to Les Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer on Thursday, February 13, before a more rugged leg from Aubagne to La Ciotat on stage 2. The 175km stage features 2,500m of total climbing, including the category 1 ascents of the Col de l'Espigoulier and Col La Courtronne as well as an uphill finish on the short climb of Les Cretes.
After the Mont Ventoux finale on stage 3, the race concludes with a hilly 171km stage between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, though the fast run-in will offer the sprinters a chance of disputing the stage honours.
Courtade told La Provence that the race will have "between 14 and 16 WorldTour teams at the start."
2020 Tour de la Provence route
Stage 1: February 13, Châteaurenard – Les Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer, 149km
Stage 2: February 14, Aubagne – La Ciotat/Les Crêtes, 175km
Stage 3: February 15, Istres – Mont-Ventoux/Chalet Reynard, 138km
Stage 4: February 16, Avignon – Aix-en-Provence, 171km