Mark Cavendish also gave his seal of approval on the Tour de France route for next year, which features fewer climbs than the last edition
Concerned about the lack of set-piece contests between the favourites at this year’s Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme on Tuesday unveiled a 2017 Tour de France route that he hopes will ensure there is more action involving the GC favourites.
‘Our primary aim has been to unlock the fight for the yellow jersey, to encourage the favourites to attack each other from early on the race and right through until its finale,’ Prudhomme explained at the race launch in Paris’s Palais des Congrés.
Starting with a 13km time trial in Düsseldorf on, the race features just three summit finishes and a total of 23 categorised climbs (HC, first- and second-category). ‘This is less than normal, but we believe that this will lead to a more dynamic race because of their locations,’ said the Tour boss.
The penultimate stage is a second time trial, extending to 23 very scenic kilometres based Marseille’s beautiful Mediterranean seafront.
For the first time for almost three decades, the Tour features stages in all five of France’s mountain ranges – the Alps, Pyrenees, Massif Central, Vosges and Jura. Including all five of these massifs means that the three summit finishes are regularly spaced throughout the race.
The first comes on stage five at La Planche des Belles Filles, where Chris Froome won his first Tour stage in 2012, the second is at Peyragudes in the Pyrenees on stage 12, with the final one a first-ever finish atop the legendary Col d’Izoard on stage 18.
However, this is far from the end of the climbing. In keeping with this year’s tendency towards mountain stages with valley finishes, there are three more notable ones: on stage nine to Chambéry over three very tough ascents in the Jura, including the toughest side of the Grand Colombier, on stage 12 to Pyrenean Foix that also features three climbs, and stage 17 to Serre Chevalier, which crosses the Ornon, Croix de Fer, Télégraphe and Galibier.
There are as many as nine stages that could end in sprints, which delighted Mark Cavendish. His team manager at Dimension Data, Doug Ryder, revealed he had just had a message from that said he was happy with his first look at the route. Cavendish’s message ended with three thumbs-up.
Reaction to the race at the presentation was also very upbeat. Defending champion and three-time winner Chris Froome said he was pleased to see just three summit finishes on the route. ‘It looks a well-balanced Tour but one that should promote plenty of attacking racing,’ said the Sky team leader.
‘I’m really pleased to see La Planche des Belles Filles back on the route as that’s a climb that I have very happy memories of and that I know suits me well. I would have liked to have seen a few more time trialling kilometres, but I’m pretty pleased with my first impressions,’ he added.
Froome added that his motivation to win the Tour is as strong as it ever has been. ‘That’s something I’m not worried about at all,’ said the Briton, who revealed he is about to returning to training on the bike after holidaying with his family over recent weeks.
Etixx-QuickStep’s Dan Martin was another happy man. ‘I’m not disappointed that there are only two time trials and that they are quite short. I really like the look of the mountain stages. There’s plenty there that will suit me, especially as there are time bonuses and I’m good in a sprint on stages in that kind of terrain,’ said the Irishman.
Orica-BikeExchange’s Adam Yates was singing from the same hymn sheet as Martin. ‘I really like the look of it. There’s not too much time trialling and the mountain stages look right up my street,’ said Yates.
Movistar DS Alfonso Galilea said he expected his team leader Nairo Quintana to be pretty content as well. ‘The shortness of the time trials will certainly please him, but we’ll have to look at the route in more detail next week when we have our first team meeting in Spain,’ said Galilea.