Tour de France 2016 route: eight key stages

Where will the battle for the yellow jersey be won or lost?

A challenging but balanced route awaits at the 2016 Tour de France, with four summit finishes and two individual time trials featuring on the route unveiled on Tuesday.

Defending champion Chris Froome believes the route suits him better than this year’s parcours, and that it will take a “complete cyclist” to win, with a selection of technical descents and fast finales also featuring on the route to test each rider’s skill going downhill, as well as up.

Tour de France 2016 route: rider reaction

Nairo Quintana, meanwhile, says the route reminds him of the Giro or Vuelta, with tough stages littered across the three weeks, while the two-time Tour runner-up has previously shone on finishes up Mont Ventoux and in Morzine.

But where exactly will the maillot jaune be won or lost in 2016? We’ve picked out eight key stages to note in your diaries and where the race for the general classification is likely to be settled.

Stage five – Limoges to Le Lioran, 216km

The end of stage five poses the first significant test (pic: ASO)

The third consecutive 200km-plus stage in the first week, stage five also represents the first significant climbing challenge of the 2016 Tour de France.

A stage finish at the Le Lioran may not be enough to blow the GC apart, but it will serve as a form finder and allow those in the best shape to look to open up some early gaps on any rivals who have arrived at the Tour not in peak shape.

There are three climbs in all in the testing 36km finale, starting with the 5.4km ascent of the Pas de Peyrol – the gradient just five per cent at first but rising into double figures in the final 3km and getting steeper until the summit.

The Col de Perthus follows, and is a short, sharp 4.4km at 7.9 per cent before the Col de Font de Cere and uphill finish at Le Lioran concludes the stage.

Stage eight – Pau to Bagneres-de-Louchon, 183km

Stage eight packs in four Pyrenean giants (pic: ASO)

The Tour de France peloton rarely visits Pau without a fierce Pyrenean stage following either immediately before or after.

And the Tour’s 67th visit to the Pyrenees-Atlantiques city will be no different – with four Pyrenean giants lying between Pau and Bagneres-de-Luchon on the route of stage eight.

First up and needing little introduction is the Col du Tour Tourmalet – peaking at 2,115m, the 17.2km giant boasts an average gradient of 7.4 per cent, with some sections nearer 12 per cent.

The Hourquette d’Ancizan is perhaps lesser known, but at 17km with a false flat and step sections closer to one in ten gradient, it deserves plenty of respect.

Another rapid descent makes way for the Col de Val Louron-Azet, before the Col de Peyresourde (8.3km at 7.6 per cent) and its sweeping hairpins end the climbing.

Even then, a rapid descent to the finish follows – once the climbing starts on the Tourmalet the peloton will either be descending or climbing until the finish.

Stage nine – Vielha val d’Aran to Andorra (Arcalis), 184km

The first week closes with a mountainous detour into Andorra (pic: ASO)

Stage nine ventures onto Spanish soil before moving into Andorra and a leg-numbing ascent to Andorra Arcalis marks the first major summit finish of the race.

The climb is 10.1km but with an average gradient of 7.2 per cent – at its steepest between kilometre five and kilometre nine – it’s likely to see plenty of riders ship time.

That climb is the fifth of the day’s stage: Port de la Bonaigua starts the stage, which begins going uphill from the flag, before the Col d’El Canto, Cote de la Comella and Col de Beixalis are all also packed into the 184km route.

Spare a thought for the grupetto – it may not be the ‘toughest ever Grand Tour’ like the Vuelta’s 2015 detour into Andorra, but it’s not a day to be scrabbling climbing for form at the end of the first week. Riders who survive the time cut will be rewarded with a rest day.

Stage 12 – Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, 185km

Mont Ventoux is set to return to the Tour in 2016 on Bastille Day – the tenth time it will have featured in the race as a summit finish (pic: Sirotti)

What else needs to be said about Mont Ventoux? A climb intrinsically linked with the Tour through history, myth and legend, the Giant of Provence returns on Bastille Day.

Tom Simpson infamously collapsed and died on its barren slopes in 1967, while British Tour de France history of a different kind was made in 2013 when, wearing in the yellow jersey, Chris Froome rode to a stunning victory.

This will be the first time since then that the peloton will tackle the famous slopes and will be Ventoux’s tenth appearance as a summit finish at the Tour.

Froome has already highlighted the stage as a key point in the race, experience having already shown what sort of time gaps can be prised open on one of the most iconic climbs of all.

With the first individual time trial following the next day on a rolling 37km route, it’s set to be a critical 48 hours in the race.

Stage 17 – Berne to Finhaut-Emosson, 184km

Finhaut-Emosson in Switzerland concludes stage 17 (pic: ASO)

Another venture off French soil takes the peloton into Switzerland ahead of the second and final rest day, before the final week kicks off with stage 17 and a potentially decisive stage to the picturesque Emosson dam.

Though a newcomer to the Tour, Alberto Contador prised the Criterium du Dauphine’s yellow jersey away from Chris Froome at the same location in 2014 and Tour organisers ASO liked it so much they decided to take the Tour peloton there this time.

However, the stage will allow the peloton to ease back into the rhythm of racing after the rest day, with a fairly sedate start, but the Col de la Forclaz and Finhaut-Emosson provide a very nasty sting in the tail.

The Forclaz is 13km with a largely consistent gradient of eight per cent all the way up and, while the latter is 2.6km shorter, it’s average gradient is 8.4 per cent – the climber getting steeper and steeper until it kicks up to 12 per cent at the denouement.

With a crucial week ahead, any time gained on stage 17 could prove hugely important in the battle for the maillot jaune.

Stage 18 – Sallanches to Megeve (ITT), 17km

The stage 18 time trial will expose any climbing weakness (pic: ASO)

The second of two individual time trials on the route, this shorter 17km uphill TT from Sallanches to Megeve on stage 18 is an intriguing proposition.

While the undulating 37km individual time trial on stage 13 will undoubtedly see gaps open up, with the more-rounded GC men likely to profit, stage 18 will expose any climbing weakness left at the sharp end of the general classification.

After a flat opening four kilometres to settle into a rhythm, things get serious with the short, steep 2.5km ascent of the Cote de Domancy – with its 9.4 per cent average gradient – the first stern test before the road continues to rise all the way to kilometre 15, though the gradient does ease significantly to allow more powerful riders who have lost time on the opening section to potentially make up time.

The stage does conclude with a fast, downhill section into Megeve for the final two kilometres, suggesting this is more than a purely uphill time trial, but if anyone’s left their climbing legs behind in Switzerland they will be found out.

Stage 19 – Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146km

Stage 19 takes the Tour de France peloton to the ski resort of Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (pic: ASO)

Another stage finish tried and tested at the Criterium du Dauphine, Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc will hold much happier memories for Chris Froome than the climb of Finhaut-Emosson after his triumph there in 2015.

Froome outshone Tejay van Garderen on the ascent as he geared up for his 2015 Tour de France win, and the 9.8km ascent with average gradient of 8 per cent packs a mean punch – not least as it rises sharply at the start.

And it’s not the only big test on the road from Albertville – the peloton will already have been thinned by the 12.4km Montee de Bisanne.

While the Montee de Bisanne will likely peak too far out – 50km from the finish – for an attack over the summit to go the distance, the ten per cent gradient of the final climb will serve as a platform on which the best climbers can show themselves.

Stage 20 – Megeve to Morzine, 146km

Four climbs are packed into the 146km stage 20 route, which doubles as the Etape du Tour route in 2016 (pic: ASO)

The penultimate stage of the 2015 Tour de France nearly de-railed Chris Froome’s charge for victory, as his GC rivals – and Nairo Quintana in particular – did all they could to overturn his overall advantage on Alpe d’Huez.

It didn’t work out for the Colombian on that occassion, settling for second overall in the GC, but with another stern test awaiting on this year’s penultimate stage you can expect similar scenes as the last rites of the GC men play out.

Demanding Etape du Tour 2016 sportive route announced

Sportive riders will already have had a taste of the 146km route on the Etape du Tour, packed with four climbs, before the Tour peloton gets there – and it’s not a route for the faint-hearted.

The Col de Jeux Plane is the fourth climb, with the 11.6km test coming with a fierce average gradient of 8.5 per cent to provide the final opportunity for the climbers to attack before a fast descent into Morzine, where the man set to wear the yellow jersey into Paris the next day will be effectively be crowned Tour de France champion.

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