Tough early climbs will liven up Tour next year

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme presenting next year's route. The race will start in Germany and go through Belgium and Luxembourg before entering France.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme presenting next year's route. The race will start in Germany and go through Belgium and Luxembourg before entering France.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Organisers have unveiled an unconventional route for the 2017 Tour de France featuring many early climbs in a bid to limit the opportunities for strong teams to dominate stages, and reward aggressive riders looking to shake up the sport's greatest spectacle.

Race director Christian Prudhomme peppered the 2017 course with steep climbs, five of them making their first appearance on the Tour and many early in stages, which will start from Dusseldorf, Germany, on July 1 and go through four countries before ending in Paris on July 23.

"We want to favour the long-range attacks," he told reporters before unveiling the route yesterday. "We want to break the catenaccio on the race," he added, referring to the conservative tactics top teams are able to impose on flatter stages.

There will be only four summit finishes. But attackers will get a chance to make an early impression with two of them coming in the first week, which will end with a gruelling mountain stage in the Jura featuring three daunting out-of-category ascents.

Organisers hope that the top teams will not be able to impose their rule in such a stage, having seen Britain's all-powerful Team Sky in particular often control many stages with meticulously planned and executed group riding.

"Let's hope that some aggressive top riders will be able to break away in the Col du Grand Colombier (the second of the three big climbs in the stage) and hold on to their lead all the way to Chambery. It will be difficult to control that stage," said Prudhomme.

The course, which features two short individual time trials - including the penultimate stage in Marseille, starting and ending at the Stade Velodrome - could favour France's Romain Bardet, who finished second overall this year.

However, anyone wanting to win will have to find a way to beat Chris Froome, aiming for a third successive victory and fourth in all, and his dominant Team Sky, who have won four of the last five races.

"There seems to be a lot of mountain stages. I don't think the race will be decided only on the summit finishes," the Briton said.

"It's quite a challenge we've got for next year. The stage that stands out is the stage finishing at the Col d'Izoard (18th stage at 2,365 metres).

"It's very light on time trials."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Tough early climbs will liven up Tour next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe