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TOUR ’16 Route: The PEZ First Look

The 2016 Tour de France route presentation was greeted with (mostly) pleasure from the riders, a good mix of flat, time trial and climbing, with the emphasis on the climbing. Our PEZ Grand Tour expert, Ed Hood, was deep in the bowels of the London velodrome at the time of the presentation, but he’s been let out of his cage to give us his Tour’16 First Look.

It seems a tad strange to be talking about Le Tour; it’s dark outside and starting to feel properly cold at night – far removed from the long, sunny days of July, but the prognostication has to start somewhere. . .

The 2016 Route
In line with UCi rules for Grand Tours the race is of 23 days duration with two rest days; on July 11th in Andorra and July 19th in Bern – with both outside the national boundaries the riders get a rest from France as well as the race. The other country visited is Spain in what is a pretty tightly compressed parcours over 3519 kilometres missing out the northern and west coast areas of France entirely.

There are five stages of semi-classic distance of 200K or more with the longest being 232K’s of Stage Four. The split on the 21 stages – there’s no prologue – is: nine flat, one hilly, nine mountain (with four summit finishes) and two time trials.

Stage One starts at the beautiful Mont Saint-Michel and finishes at a name familiar to anyone who remembers World War II, Utah Beach, with the second stage also in Normandy from St. Lo – another name rich in WWII history – to Cherbourg.

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The start is from Mont-Saint-Michel, but no prologue

Stage Three sees the race head south from Granville to Angers then from Saumar to Limoges on Stage Four – so far so good for the sprinters but on Stage Five it gets nasty.

The parcours kisses the Massif Central with the run from Limoges to the ski station at Le Lioran and whichever sprinter was in yellow is now aboard the ‘autobus.’ But Stage Six from Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montaubon is one for the fast guys again.

We’re all the way down to the Pyrenees now with gnarly surfaces and heat – or is it rain? – and Stages Seven, Eight and Nine from L’Isle Jourdain to Lac de Payolle; Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon and Vielha Val d’Aran to Andorra Arcalis respectively mean that the GC is taking shape on the potter’s wheel.

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Stage 8

In a modern Tour there’s no taking back minutes lost due to the highly controlled and level playing field at the top of the GC and a ‘jour sans’ on the Spanish border can be fatal to GC hopes. Movistar’s gravity defying Colombian Nairo Quintana will probably be recce-ing these stages as I write this.

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Stage 9

The rest day is in Andorra with Stage 10 unusually branded ‘hilly’ from Escaldes to Rever.

Stage 11 is for the sprinters and will be hot, damn hot from Carcassone to Montpelier in deepest ‘Roman France.’

Tour de France 2013 stage-15No time to enjoy the lavender

Stage 12 may start by meandering through those lovely Provencal lavender fields but it’s not pretty at the finish line atop the mighty Ventoux. Sky’s defending champion, Chris Froome (GB/South Africa/Kenya/Monaco?) will seek to distance Quintana as he did in 2013 – but somehow we don’t think it will be so easy in 2016. . .

Tour de France 2013 stage-15
Ventoux back for 2016

The 37 kilometres between Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont d’Arc will be the setting for the races first ‘race of truth’ around the Ardeches Gorges; this one should see a ‘chrono man’ win but it’s technical enough for the climbers not to get too much of a bludgeoning.

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Stage 13 TT

Stage 14 is one to make the sprinters smile, from Montelimar to Villars-les-Dommes-Parc-de-Oiseaux.

Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz is the route for Stage 15 and sees the race back in the mountains, this time the Jura and the Col Grand Colombier – twice.

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Stage 15

There’s another chance for the sprinters on Stage 16 from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne before the race’s second rest day.

Stage 17 from Berne to Finhaut-Emosson may not have a familiar ring but could be one of the key stages with a 13K and a 10K climb to the finish crammed into the final 30K.

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Stage 17

Stage 18 is only 17K, Sallanches to Megeve – a short, horrible time trial, basically an extended climb of varying grade – so impossible to find a rhythm – then a short descent. It could be crucial – but then we could say that about all four days in the Alps.

Albertville to Saint Gervais Mont-Blanc for Stage 19 even sounds tough, a classic ‘saw tooth’ profile with a mountain top finish – ouch! But perhaps even more interesting is the that is was on these very slopes, back in 1990, when the Pez himself gave his very first (and last) tv interview with Phil Liggett:


(Sorry for the small picture, but it is 25 years old…)

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Stage 19

There’s always a sting in the tail but this one goes downhill for a change; the organisers will be hoping that it all comes down to a 12K helter-skelter drop into Morzine off the Joux Plane after another ‘saw tooth’ day from Megeve on Stage 20.

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Stage 20

Then for the journos there’s the long drive to Paris where Cav will be out to prove he still has ‘it’ – Kittel will be thinking the same but they both have to get round Greipel.

Tour de France 2015 - stage 21
Paris again for Greipel?


Le parcours 2016 en 3D / The 2016 route in 3D por tourdefrance

And we just have to have an opinion from our podium finishers:
Alberto Contador says of his swan song Grand Tour: “Next year’s parcours appears to be very difficult and one has to start in good form because the fifth stage already has a fairly demanding finish. The two time trials stand out and are probably the ones that make the difference from the 2015 parcours. Both of the time trials are tough, the first one not excessively long and I like them both. The mountain stages are evenly spread out from start to finish and you will have to manage your forces very well in order not to reach the final stages worn out. Overall, it is a parcours that I like, but as it is well known with the Grand Tours, it can turn against you at any moment. Without any doubt, it can be a nice and attractive Tour and I will prepare for it one hundred percent.”

Tour de France 2015 - stage 18
Leave the camouflage at home Bert

Christopher Froome meanwhile, says: “The route certainly suits me well. It’s a parcours that tests every aspect of cycling. You’re going to have to be able to time trial well. You’re going to have to be able to climb extremely well. You’re going to have to be able to descend properly and in the first week I would imagine crosswinds are going to be quite prevalent also so you’ll have to have a strong team to protect you there.”

We have to agree with Christopher – the boy does know a wee bit about the race, after all. . .

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Confident for Tour’16?

But what does Nairo Quintana think? “It’s a good parcours for us. I think the mountains really suit us, plenty on them on the course with some finishes I know and shone on in the past, like Mont Ventoux or Morzine. Also, from what I could see, the long ITT isn’t completely flat, so it shouldn’t be bad for us. Even though we saw last year that the pavé wasn’t a big disadvantage for us last year, not having it in 2016, combined with an ‘easier’ first week, will keep us under full focus, just like in every Tour start, but we’ll tackle it with more confidence. What I really miss on this year’s route is the TTT. It really favoured us on previous editions, as we could fight for the stage win and take a bit of a gap over our rivals. It’s a shame we won’t ride it this time.”

La Vuelta 2015 stage-12
From second to first for Nairo?

And the winner will be?
We’ll miss the TTT too, Nairo – but we don’t think it’ll stop you winning, amigo. Yup, that’s out top three: Contador, Froome, Quintana.

Why do we go for that?

Stage 20 of the 2015 Tour was actually Stage One of the 2016 Tour; Movistar Mastermind Unzué held his boy back ‘til late; they didn’t want to blow the podium – this year there’ll be more confidence and they’ll go for the win. Froome is still very good – but we think Quintana is better. And Alberto will go out on the podium – but we’d just love him to surprise us. . .

Tour de France 2015 - stage 21
Froome on the podium in 2016 with a baby?

Stages: 2016 Tour de France:
Stage 1 July 02, 2016 Mont-Saint-Michel – Utah Beach / Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont 188 km
Stage 2 July 03, 2016 Saint-Lô – Cherbourg-Octeville 182 km
Stage 3 July 04, 2016 Granville – Angers 222 km
Stage 4 July 05, 2016 Saumer – Limoges 232 km
Stage 5 July 06, 2016 Limoges – Le Lioran 216 km
Stage 6 July 07, 2016 Arpajon-sur-Cère – Montauban 187 km
Stage 7 July 08, 2016 L’Isle-Jourdain – Lac de Payolle 162 km
Stage 8 July 09, 2016 Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon 183 km
Stage 9 July 10, 2016 Vielha Val d’Aran – Andorre Arcalis 184 km
Rest Day 1 July 11, 2016 Andorra
Stage 10 July 12, 2016 Escaldes-Engordany – Revel 198 km
Stage 11 July 13, 2016 Carcassonne – Montpellier 264 km
Stage 12 July 14, 2016 Montpellier – Mont Ventoux 185 km
Stage 13 July 15, 2016 Bourg-Saint-Andéol – La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc 37 km
Stage 14 July 16, 2016 Montélimar – Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux 208 km
Stage 15 July 17, 2016 Bourg-en-Bresse – Culoz 159 km
Stage 16 July 18, 2016 Moirans-en-Montagne – Berne 206 km
Rest Day 2 July 19, 2016 Berne
Stage 17 July 20, 2016 Berne – Finhaut-Emosson 184 km
Stage 18 July 21, 2016 Sallanches – Megève 17 km
Stage 19 July 22, 2016 Albertville – Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146 km
Stage 20 July 23, 2016 Megève – Morzine 146 km
Stage 21 July 24, 2016 Chantilly – Paris Champs-Élysées 113 km

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It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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