By far the most coveted cycling race is the annual grand tour, The Tour de France. It’s a grand tour, and equivalent to the Wimbledon Grand-slam, as the oldest and most prestigious race in the sport.
In a ceremony in Paris on 20th Oct, the route for the 2016 Tour de France was unveiled. Attending the ceremony were 2013 and 2015 Winner, Chris Froome and other top cyclists such as Tony Martin, Mark Cavendish and his spiriting rival and friend, Andre Greipel and one of the top French Cyclists now, Thibaut Pinot were all in attendance for the announcement of the route.
The route, is a more balanced route compared to the 2015 edition and is overall, much longer by 158.7 kms. The biggest changes is that the starting stage will not be a time trial but a mass stage, and there are 2 Individual Time Trials in the race, including one in the mountains. There is no Team Time Trial.
The Race will be relatively flat, the first 7 stages, starting in the North Western France and riding down south to the Pyreenes mountains.
The biggest surprise will be for Stage 2, which has a very, very steep finish, but could very well be the stage Peter Sagan breaks his Tour de France stage win drought. 2 Mountain stages will complete 9 stages before the first rest day. A majority of stage 10, will be in Spain and the first of the 2 rest days will also be in the tiny state of Andorra, an increasingly popular spot in cycling races around the region.
Stage 10, will start In Spain once again but finish in France. After a flat stage 11, Stage 12 is a mountain top finish a top Mont Ventox, which will be visited for the 10th time. A challenging mountain top finish, but no stranger to defending champion, Chris Froome who won the last stage here. Stage 13, on 15th July, will be the first of the 2 Time Trials and will be a 37 km individual pursuit over flat terrain. This is where Chris Froome might really get an edge over all other GC contenders who might join the race, except for maybe Tejay van Garderen.
Stage 14, classified as flat will be a tough stage and then the Tour enters the Alps. The stages 15 and 16 are relatively modest in comparison to what lies ahead, and Stage 16 will have a bit of a celebratory spirit. Stage 16, which will mostly be staged in Switzerland after starting in tiny commune of Moirans-en-Montagne in France, will finish at the Swiss Capital of Bren, home to Fabian Cancellara.The Swiss legend, who is approaching the end of his illustrious career.
The 2nd rest day will be at Bren itself, where no doubt the city will be celebrating the arrival of the tour, the Career of home boy, Fabian Cancellara and Fribourg Treaty of 1516, which was an agreement signed by Switzerland and France, and started the Swiss Neutrality.
The Brutal GC battles of the tour will be fought over the next 4 stages, 3 Mountains and a Mountain Time Trial in the Alps. The first decisive battle is likely to be stage 17, a 10.4 km ascent atop the Gueulaz , before a finish on the edge of the Emosson Dam.
Stage 18 is the second of the two Time Trials but is a short gradual ascent, 17 km long trial with a steep 2.5 km section which has a 9.4% gradient. It is highly possible that to combat this section with the least loss of time, riders might opt for their regular road bikes over the time trial ones. However, this will be suiting most of the GC riders to win, rather than Time Trial Specialists.
Compared to stage 17, Stage 19 will be a less of a challenge, as the 146 km stage finishes with a 7 km climb with a 7.7% Gradient. This finish was part of the 2014, Critérium du Dauphiné, a stage where Froome beat Tejay van Garderen. Stage 20, is also 146 km long but it will be a long final battle. The last 60 kms will feature some challenging climbs , especially the climb on top the Col de Jauex Planne, before a few flat kilometers and a downhill finish to Morzine. The Yellow Jersey will be won here.
The Tour will then take a flight to Paris, for the traditional finish in Paris. Here, the final flat stage will see the sprinters fight for bragging rights as the best sprinters, with no attacks to be made on the General Classification Leader.
Chris Froome, is very happy with the course , claiming it does suit him.
“It challenges every aspect of cycling – time trials, mountains, a technical descent,It’s such an amazing, special race. I’m still 30 years old and feel I have a lot left in my legs.
“It suits me better than this year’s Tour . The beautiful thing about the Tour de France is that it’s not specifically about one stage – I think it’s going to take a complete cyclist – but the stage that certainly stands out for me is Mont Ventoux,
“I know how difficult this climb is and how much time can be won or lost.”
In the same ceremony, Mark Cavendish said,
“It’s so hard,’ For 21 days, it’s going to be full gas.”
Leading French Cyclist, Thibaut Pinot who finished 3rd in 2014 said
The favourite will be Chris Froome. He’s the most complete rider. He’s the stronger, But it will also be good for Nairo Quintana
The Course is no doubt more technical and complete compared to the 2015 Edition. There are fewer mountain climbs, more time trials and technical descents. This might not work to Nairo Quintana’s advantage who is by far the best mountain climber in the sport right now.
The favorites for this course will be Chris Froome without a doubt but he will be facing stiff competition from Alberto Contador, who is widely expected to be retiring following the conclusion of the 2016 season. Tejay van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot and Nairo Quintana are the other favorites for this race. Wildcards who might actually have a shot for the overall race could be Pierre Rolland, Romain Bardet and Astana’s Fabian Aru, who will be supported by Vincenzo Nibali.
2014 Winner, Nibali will not be in contention, as he will be focusing on the Giro D’italia as he stated a few weeks prior and the Olympics. He also said that he will be riding in support of Aru, should be participate in the Tour.
It will be an interesting Tour to savor when it starts in July of 2016.