Tour de France’23: The PEZ Parcours Preview!

Course Breakdown

2023 Tour de France Preview: Yes, the big one, the 2023 Tour de France route has been announced. It’s different, but it’s harder that 2022 with more climbing and less time trial kilometres. Read what Ed Hood thinks of the parcours for the 110th ‘La Grande Boucle’.

The route of the 2023 Tour de France

Back when I was a boy in the early 70’s, there would be a page or two in the English ‘Cycling Weekly’ magazine about the Tour de France route for the following year – and that was that, until the riders lined up for the prologue some eight months later. But now in 2023 the launch event has grown arms, legs and a tail with huge coverage and endless debate. Ah well, I best get involved then. . .

The Bare Facts:

  • This is the 110th Tour de France.
  • 3404 kilometres.
  • Eight mountain stages.
  • Four summit finishes.
  • Four ‘medium’ mountain stages.
  • Eight sprinter stages [say ASO, we’re not so sure?]
  • One Time trial.
  • Longest stage, 209 kilometres.
  • 12 new stage towns.

The Jaizkibel on stage 2

No sprinter ‘en jaune early:’
Stages One and Two take place in one of my favourite places in the world, The Basque Nation, visiting some of my favourite towns – Bilbao, Vitoria, Donostia-San Sebastián.

Stage 1 and 2 are tough, 3 for the sprinters

The parcours on both days is challenging and the weather unpredictable, stages for the ‘puncheurs’ and ‘finisseurs’ taking in the famous Jaizkibel climb from the San Sebastián Classic with the longest stage, at 209 kilometres coming as early as Stage Two. However, much as I love that part of the world, I do lament the fact there’s no prologue time test, I love the tension, the speed, the new equipment. . .

The Tour goes Basque

Stages Three and Four for the Fast Men:
One of the things I do like about this Tour is that it tips its hat to the past, Stage Four finishes in Dax, the nearby village of Narrose was the birthplace of the Tour’s most successful sprinter, Andre Darrigade. Then Cav came along. . . The stage ends in Nogaro where the life of brilliant 1973 Tour de France winner, Luis Ocana ended – rest in peace, sir.

Stages 5 & 6

The Pyrenees:
The ‘Big Pictures’ start early in this Tour with Stages Five and Six in the Pyrenees, not TOO savagely hard stages on paper, albeit the Tourmalet is never a walk in the park, but it looks like the organisers have learned that stages with crazy hard parcours just lead to negative racing as ‘The Bigs’ all sit and wait for the savage last ascent. There should be good racing on these two stages with more riders encouraged to go up the road earlier.

Barry Hoban with Phil Liggett at the Tour

Bordeaux, Stage Seven – ‘Barree!’:
1964 and Britain’s Barry Hoban has good legs, he asks his mechanic to fit his 28 spoke, silk tyred TT wheels for the velodrome finish in Bordeaux – but his manager isn’t convinced by all that stuff and Barry is on his standard road wheels; he loses by a whisker to aforementioned Andre Darrigade, who it later transpires received a hand sling from team mate Graczyk.

1968 and the finish is on the track at Bordeaux again, Barry gets ‘boxed,’ but gets round everyone, except ‘Bulldog,’ Walter Godefroot. . . One year later and there are no mistakes as Barry wins from the break – and does so again the next day in Brive – no wonder he’s one of my heroes. 1975 and Barry does it again, this time from a bunch sprint; and in second place? Rik Van Linden, one of the fastest in the world. In 2023 Bordeaux is still a stage for the sprinters.

One for ‘Cav’ – If he is there

Sprint? but it’s not certain for Stage Eight:
Perhaps for the break?
Perhaps for the sprinters?
It’s down to who wants it most.

Stage 9 to the Puy de Dôme

Le Puy de Dôme, Stage Nine:
And you think I’m going to prattle on about the Pou Pou v. Maitre Jacques duel there in 1964 – especially with the stage starting in the place where Poulidor lived most of his life? No, that would be too obvious.

Too obvious

Let’s go to 1969 instead and Stage 20, lanterne rouge Pierre Matignon is 3:34:08 down on Eddy Merckx, so poses no threat to anyone on GC; with 65K to go he heads off up the road and reaches the foothills of the dreaded volcano with seven minutes on a Merckx lead peloton. At the summit of the stinging spiral the audacious little Frenchman still has 1:25 on the Belgian maillot jaune who gaps all his GC rivals en route second place on the stage. Sadly, Matignon died in 1987 but here we are still writing about the man a half century after his big day. Chapeau, Monsieur Matignon! A highly prestigious stage, it should be a memorable day as the specialists and GC men spar for the L’Equipe headline next day.

The 1975 Tour de France Puy de Dôme Merckx punch

First Rest Day.

The first rest day in Vulcania

Refreshed? or ‘Blocked’? Stage 10:
Some riders come out of the rest day raring to go but some lose the rhythm of the race and ‘block.’ The former will be in the break over the volcanos which should go all the way on this day.

Another sprint ‘opportunity’

Fast Men step forward please, Stage 11:
A new finish town, Sam Bennett out-sprinted Caleb Ewan and Fabio Jakobsen here in the 2019 Paris-Nice.

Sprint win for Bennett in Moulins

Echappe encore, Stage 12:
The organisers reckon there are eight sprint stages but the weighting seems to me more towards the Baroudeurs who should take the day after a finale through the vineyards.

Ah, the wine

Serious climbing, Stages 13, 14 & 15:
Bastille Day and another day when L’Equipe reserves the front page – can a Frenchman spark home interest or will it be a Dane with an unpronounceable name – or one of them Slovenian guys to be first to the top of the tough Grand Colombier on Stage 13? A short stage, ‘gentlemen of the gruppetto,’ watch that time cut please.

Stage 14 profile

Stage 14 and a ‘saw tooth’ Alpine profile including the difficult Joux Plane with that fast downhill to the finish there to help some get out of jail.

Mont Blanc is a regular in the Critérium du Dauphiné

Stage 15 is a monster of a stage with a finish on Mont Blanc, enough said.

Stage 15 profile

Rest Day two – keep those legs turning, chrono tomorrow. . .

The second rest day in Passy

Chrono, Stage 16:
A mere 22K but HARD, no cruise for the sprinters this one. The parcours tips it’s hat to Bernard Hinault’s 1980 Worlds win on these roads. Tour Boss, Monsieur Prudhomme isn’t a chrono lover but many of the public are, instead of waiting hours to catch a glimpse of a peloton flashing past in seconds you can make a day of it with riders passing for several hours. And let’s not forget that late time trials gave us three of the best finishes in recent years; 1968 Janssen/Van Springel – 1989 Lemond/Fignon – 2020 Pogačar/Roglič. But I’m an old time tester, so I would say that.

Stage 16 TT

The roof of the Tour, Stage 17:
Another ‘saw tooth’ of a day with the last tungsten point the 28 kilometre long, 2304 metre high Col de la Loze, the highest point of the 2023 Tour de France. The ‘Souvenir Henri Desgrange’ prime is worth 5,000 Euros and is a notch all the specialist climbers would like on their gun – but the chances are it’ll go to a GC contender.

Stage 17 profile

Break or sprint? Stage 18:
We all know the situation by this stage; the teams who don’t have a star or big sprinter will be ever more desperate for a stage win – the sprint teams who haven’t won a stage equally so. There should be no, ‘paint drying’ today, hand to hand combat.

A day for attacks

‘Penultima,’ Stage 19:
In Spain the last drink of the night is the ‘penultima’ – the last drink comes when you cross the Jordan, or Styx depending on how you lived your life. This the second last chance for the sprinters before those Elysian Fields – the break will go but it’s hard to see them survive.

A day for the top men on GC

Could this be THE day? Stage 20:
Short, sharp, savage with five hard climbs and 3,600 metres of climbing to finish in the gnarly Vosges Mountains. ASO will be hoping for late ambushes and if the maillot jaune is running on fumes this is a day where it could all change.

Stage 20 should sort out the GC

Playground of the Gods, Stage 21:
The Elysian Fields; the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent. Any sprinters still standing will indeed be heroes and to win on those cobbles does confer immortality.

The traditional final in Paris

# To use the cliché, ‘the riders make the race’ but ASO have given them a good canvas to create their work of art upon, roll on July. #

2023 Tour de France Route:
01/07 – Stage 1: Bilbao – Bilbao (182 km)
02/07 – Stage 2: Vitoria-Gasteiz – San Sebastian (209 km)
03/07 – Stage 3: Amorebieta – Bayonne (185 km)
04/07 – Stage 4: Dax – Nogaro (182 km)
05/07 – Stage 5: Pau – Laruns (165 km)
06/07 – Stage 6: Tarbes – Cauterets Cambasque (145 km)
07/07 – Stage 7: Mont-de-Marsan – Bordeaux (170 km)
08/07 – Stage 8: Libourne – Limoges (201 km)
09/07 – Stage 9: Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat – Puy de Dôme (184 km)
10/07 – Rest day
11/07 – Stage 10: Vulcania – Issoire (167 km)
12/07 – Stage 11: Clermont-Ferrand – Moulins (180 km)
13/07 – Stage 12: Roanne – Belleville-en-Beaujolais
14/07 – Stage 13: Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne – Grand Colombier (138 km)
15/07 – Stage 14: Annemasse – Morzine (152 km)
16/07 – Stage 15: Les Gets – Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc (180 km)
17/07 – Rest day
18/07 – Stage 16: Passy – Combloux (22 km, ITT)
19/07 – Stage 17: Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc – Courchevel (166 km)
20/07 – Stage 18: Motors – Bourg-en-Bresse (186 km)
21/07 – Stage 19: Morans-en-Montagne – Poligny (173 km)
22/07 – Stage 20: Belfort – Le Markstein Fellering (133 km)
23/07 – Stage 21: Velodrome National de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Paris (115 km).

Who will be in yellow in Paris in 2023?

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