What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago there was a sense that the Tour de France route planners had created a parcours that few people actually wanted to ride.
Indeed, Chris Froome even suggested he might have skipped the race, such was his disappointment with the lack of time trials and the difficulty of the first week.
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This year, though, as the 2016 route was presented in Paris, the response is more positive. Riders and managers alike are praising the varied route, which offers a lot for climbers, sprinters, puncheurs and time trial specialists.
Sir Dave Brailsford (Team Sky manager)
“It looks exciting, I think there’s quite a good mix of hilltop finishes, mountain stages with a downhill finish, and I think the two time trials make it really interesting. I haven’t looked at it properly, but I think where the emphasis of the race is, it’s all to be played for in the last section.”
Vincent Lavenu, (Ag2r La Mondiale manager)
“The 2016 Tour is at least as difficult as this year’s race. There is a lot of focus on the Alps, but also the Pyrenees will present some tough stages.
“These days you need mountain stages early on. The level of cyclists is so high that you have to have a difficult Tour in order to make a difference between the riders; the equipment is universally hi-tec and riders all arrive in the same top condition.
Marc Madiot (FDJ manager)
“It’s balanced for everyone, rouleurs, grimpeurs, sprinteurs, baroudeurs… and ‘les chronomans.’ There’s something for everyone.”
Chris Froome (Team Sky rider, 2x Tour de France winner)
The best bits of the 2015 Tour de France
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo rider, 2x Tour de France winner)
“Next year’s parcours appears to be very difficult and one has to start in good form because the fifth stage already has a fairly demanding finish. The two time trials stand out and are probably the ones that make the difference from the 2015 parcours. Both time trials are tough, the first one not excessively long and a priori I like them both.
“The mountain stages are evenly spread out from start to finish and you will have to manage your forces very well in order not to reach the final stages worn out. Is it a Tour for climbers? Yes, it is, although last year’s Tour was even more since it didn’t have so many time trials. It clearly is a course well suited to the profile of climbers.”
Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo rider)
“It’s pretty hard but it’s the Tour de France so it will always be pretty hard. There’s a bit less uphill finishing, one day less, and a bit more time trialling.
“It’s also an Olympic year and I’m thinking about maybe not riding GC and riding for stages, to do that for once [in order to save energy for the Olympics], but it’s a bit early to say.”
Steven De Jongh (Tinkoff-Saxo sports director)
“It’s a very challenging parcours for Tour de France 2016. The first part consists of mainly flat sprinters’ stages, however on the first stage there’s an uphill finish, which could suit Peter Sagan.
“The plan is naturally to go for the win with Alberto but it’s too early to go into any specifics with more than eight months to the start in Mont Saint-Michel. We will have to study the parcours in detail and evaluate our strategy in due time.”