Opinion: Is the 2024 Tour de France too hard?

With so much packed into the route, is it too rich a meal?

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard
(Image credit: Getty Images)
Adam Becket
Adam Becket

Senior news and feature writer at Cycling Weekly, Adam brings his weekly opinion on the goings on at the upper echelons of our sport. 

This piece is part of The Leadout, the offering of newsletters from Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Last week saw the glitziest event of the cycling off-season, the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes route presentations, where we all found out which bits of l’Hexagone would be graced by the men’s or women’s pelotons next summer.

The 111st men’s Tour begins in Florence, Italy, which we already knew, and ends in Nice, France, just over three weeks later, which we already knew too. The absence of Paris will still feel very weird, until the end, and the race organisers will certainly hope that the battle for the maillot jaune will still be alive by the time the riders hit the Côte d'Azur.

It is a hard route, that is fair to say. There are almost no easy days, right from the beginning, to the very end. While ASO, the race organiser, claims that there are eight sprint opportunities, these are unlikely to all go to plan, and they come after some seriously tough days in the mountains.

Day one features 3,800 metres of climbing, the most for any opening stage of the Tour de France, and will mean that it will be a climber or a puncheur in the yellow jersey from the beginning. Thinking back to Bilbao at this year’s race and how selective that proved from the beginning, with the final top five all finishing within the top 14 on that stage, then this could very well be repeated in 2024. The race will be on from the very beginning, there is no easing in here, more jumping straight into an ice bath.

There are seven days in the high mountains, including four or five summit finishes, depending on who you ask, although there are not more than two super climbing days in a row at any point. The first mountain stage comes on stage four, incredibly early, in a move which could either prove a damp squib or yet another early day of action; one can already imagine the likes of Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič or Remco Evenepoel seeking to land an early blow on Jonas Vingegaard, but at what cost?

This is the Tour of non-stop action. The hilly days in Italy, the early Alpine test, the stage seven time trial, stage nine’s gravel mayhem, flat stages where the wind might blow, the Massif Central, the Pyrenees then the Alps again, and the final day race against the clock. It’s main course, after main course, after main course. No starters or desserts here.

It might be too much. While one of the attractions of the Tour is seeing riders pushed to their limits, for their endurance to be tested, this many days of action might result in some of those exciting looking stages being rather quiet.

What it will almost definitely mean is that the marked flat or sprint stages, especially earlier in the race, will be very dull, like stages three, four, and seven of this year’s Tour - all sprints won by Jasper Philipsen, all stages that I have little memory of.

With the final three stages so decisive in the overall battle - two mountain top finishes followed by a hilly time trial - we might also see defensive riding from the general classification men until it finally explodes, as we have seen all too often at the Giro d’Italia in recent years, including the May just gone.

The one thing that should change this is the presence of Pogačar, the live wire who cannot stop sniping and attacking, and also Roglič, who loves to impress himself on a race early on. Where this especially will be true is on the white roads of the Champagne region on stage nine to and from Troyes, which should suit Pogačar, winner of Strade Bianche in the past, and a man who looked as adept at the Tour of Flanders as the strongest Classics men. This could be his chance to gain something on Vingegaard.

For all the grumbling from the usual suspects about gravel, it is an exciting addition, and could be a decisive day. There’s nothing wrong with the GC battles taking place on hilly, technical days, as well as the big mountain tests. This is a route for the versatile rider, from TTs to gravel to summit finishes.

It looks like an epic route, a real battle to sort out the big four, but my hope is just that the general classification battle takes place throughout, and that really quiet days are few and far between. What we also don’t need is a procession, as happened from stage 16 onwards at this year’s race. That’s up to the riders, not the route organisers. Over to you.

Tour de France 2024 route: Two individual time trials, five summit finishes and gravel sectors

There's no way to Jumbo-proof the Tour de France - 2024 route analysis

Tadej Pogačar: The end of the 2024 Tour de France route 'makes me smile'

'We had to come up with something clever' – Why the 2024 Tour de France has a gravel stage

This piece is part of The Leadout, the offering of newsletters from Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

If you want to get in touch with Adam, email adam.becket@futurenet.com.

Tour de France Femmes 2024: A good route, just shame it isn't a longer race

The podium of the 2023 Tour de France

(Image credit: Getty Images)

I’m very excited for next year’s Tour de France Femmes already. Each year has been better, bit by bit, and next year is no different, with its two days in the Alps, including the finalé up Alpe d’Huez. 

The Paris Olympics does put a bit of a fly in the ointment, with the fact that Paris is hosting them meaning that not only is the Tour de France Femmes cleaved from the men’s Tour de France, but it is just seven days long. This has been massaged by the introduction of a split stage day - so the race still has eight official stages - but it is a shame that the Olympics has got in the way.

In just the third edition, it is a credit to the organisers that we already want more, not less. A ten-stage race does not seem like too much, and it surely can’t be too far away from growing . If the 2022 edition was just a test, then it already seems like the race is here to stay.

Next year’s race looks great on paper, and it will surely be in practice, from the exposed flat stages in the Netherlands, via the mini Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Belgium, to the Alps, with Montée du Chinaillon and Col du Glandon on the menu before Alpe d’Huez.

Demi Vollering is the woman to beat, but we can be assured of some great racing next August.

Opinion: The Tour de France Femmes is delivering on its promises of growth

‘I’m in serious danger’ - Alpe d’Huez QOM holder reacts to climb’s Tour de France Femmes inclusion

Tour de France Femmes 2024 route: Alpe d'Huez finale confirmed

Demi Vollering excited for Alpe d'Huez at Tour de France Femmes

This piece is part of The Leadout, the offering of newsletters from Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

If you want to get in touch with Adam, email adam.becket@futurenet.com.

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