This year's Tour de France route might be too hilly, says race organiser

The Tour de France's race director Thierry Gouvenou says organisers may consider less mountainous routes following this year’s race

The peloton on stage eight of the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson
(Image credit: Watson)

The Tour de France race director Thierry Gouvenou has said that the 2016 edition of the race might actually be too hilly.

Speaking to Cycling Weekly from the race’s first rest day in the mountainous principality of Andorra, Gouvenou said that this year’s race, which includes nine mountain stages and an uphill time trial, would act as an augur for future Tours when determining how many mountains to include.

“With the route being so mountainous, for me the 2016 Tour will be a reference point,” Gouvenou said. “We’ll find out whether we should continue with this kind of level or whether we need to take the amount of mountains and climbing down a notch.”

Riders tackled almost 5,000m of climbing on stage nine from Vielha Val d’Aran to Andorra-Arcadlis, won by Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).

“I consider this Tour to be the most mountainous Tour in the last 15 years. We will see if it’s too much or whether it’s about right,’ Gouvenou added.

“We’ll have to wait and see and then judge at what point a lot of climbing becomes too much climbing.”

Just 61 seconds separate the top ten riders in the overall classification after nine stages, with only 19 seconds separating the podium of Chris Froome (Team Sky), Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step).

For comparison, by the time the 2015 Tour de France left the Pyrenees on stage 12, Froome’s lead over second place Tejay Van Garderen was 2-52.

Eventual runner-up Nairo Quintana was 3-09 back while the tenth place rider, Bauke Mollema, sat at 8-02.

Watch: Highlights from stage nine of the 2016 Tour de France

Gouvenou said he was pleased by the closeness of the overall battle for the GC and that he expected it to produce more attacking racing in the final two weeks.

“Last year there were basically 10 flat stages and then a very tough summit finish. This year we went into the mountains very quickly but we decided to tone them down a bit to begin with,” he said.

“So the first [on stage seven to Lac de Payolle] was one climb, not too difficult, and a downhill finish. And we’d already been to the Massif Central.”

>>> Tour de France 2016 route and essential guide

He also noted that the racing had been less stressful and there had been fewer crashes as riders saved themselves for a tough sojourn in the Alps in a week’s time.

“At the moment we [organisers] haven’t had any feedback from the riders but I think they found that there were a lot of kilometres covered in the first nine days,” he added.

“What I saw in the first week is that there was a lot less stress in the peloton. I think there was a conscious decision in the bunch to not take risks all the time. To take risks at some moments, yes, but not all the time. There have been a lot fewer crashes as a result.”

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Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.