The 2017 Tour de France is set to inspire and challenge all riders that take part in this year’s edition. Race director Christian Prudhomme has stated that the route was designed so “… riders attack each other from early on.” This is evident when you take a closer look at each stage and the route as a whole. The rest of this article will highlight the stages that have impacted the race in the past and are sure to impact the race this year.
Froome shows what is to come…
The Tour is set to start in Dusseldorf with a short time trial. This is the first time the race has begun on German terrain in three decades. The race will quickly move its way through Belgium and Luxemburg over the next several stages and does not enter France for good until stage 5 ending on the La Planche des Belles Filles climb. This is where Team Sky’s Chris Froome took his first TDF stage win in 2012 by attacking rivals in the last kilometer. This win was a snapshot of what was to come for Chris Froome’s three TDF wins.
Relive the finish here:
Yellow Jersey Under Pressure…
Following Stage 5, there are two mountain stages – stage 8 and 9 – that are sure to shake up the General Classification (GC). Stage 9 has three above-category climbs including the Grande Colombier, where in 2012 Thomas Voekle pushed over the top with a small group finally breaking away with 1.5 km is to go, taking the win. Vincenzo Nibali attacked a very strong Team Sky on the descent of the Colombier and quickly put a minute into the yellow jersey holder Wiggins. Sky slowing, reeled in the attack of Nibali and teammate Peter Sagan just before the final climb to keep yellow for another day.
Relive the fireworks from that day in 2012:
There will be a much-needed rest day after stage 9 followed by two stages for the sprinters before heading into the Pyrenees.
The Pyrenees, Where Champions are Forged…
Stage 12 brings the peloton into the Pyrenees from the city of Pau, making its 68th appearance in the race. With five categorized climbs on the route for stage 12 and one of them including the Col de Peyresourde. This is where Chris Froome made his daring descent to snag 13 seconds over his rivals in last year’s race.
The next several stages will be a battle of the GC teams to keep their captain safe and supported over the lumpy terrain that may cause splits in the peloton. These stages are sure to see who has the staying power to be a Grand Tour contender. This will also be a key opportunity to see the breakaway succeed as the terrain is well suited to a small group and those who have lost significant time on the GC contenders will be looking for something to take home from the Tour.
Stage 17 and 18 are the last real test for the GC teams in the high mountains. They will pass over the legendary Col de Galibier before descending to the finish of stage 17. The Galibier is unique for many reasons: it was first featured in the Tour in 1911 just one year after the tour’s debut. That year only three riders made it to the top of the climb. The Galibier has been critical in wins by legends like Marco Pantani, Fausto Coppi and Andy Schleck, who went on a long attack to take victory on the summit of the highest point in Tour history.
At 17.7 km’s with an average gradient of 6.9%, the Galibier is not the longest nor the steepest climb on the 2017 route, but it does require that the riders climb the Col du Telegraphe on their way up to the base of the climb. This climb is sure to show who is strong late in the race and who is beginning to feel the fatigue of three hard weeks of racing.
Stage 18 is sure to impress with a summit finish on top of the Col d’Izoard which has been featured in the tour a total of 34 times since 1922 but has never been a finish site.
There is one more hurdle for the GC contenders before rolling into Paris for a fast finish on the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees. Stage 20 is a short time trial making up only 22.5 km in the race. If the GC battle is close, this could be the deciding stage for Yellow. The Giro this year had an amazing time trial finish where we saw Tom Dumoulin sang the Pink jersey off the back of rival Nairo Quintana. Let’s hope stage 20 brings as much excitement as it did in the Giro.
With the race all but over for Yellow, the sprinters get their last chance for glory in front of the millions or people who will be viewing in person and on television. Stage 21 will be filled with all of the pomp that a grand tour should end with.