The 2023 men's Tour de France began in Bilbao, Spain on Saturday, July 1, with a route that looks set to be one for the climbers. It features four summit finishes, including a return for the iconic Puy de Dôme climb for the first time since 1988.
There is just one time trial across the three-week event, a short uphill race against the clock from Passy to Combloux over 22km. There are also returns for other epic climbs like the Col de la Loze and the Grand Colombier, with 56,400 metres of climbing on the Tour de France 2023 route.
The race started on foreign soil for the second year in a row, with a Grand Départ in the Spanish Basque Country, the setting for the race's 120th anniversary. There were two hilly stages in Spain, before the peloton crossed the border into France for a stage finish in Bayonne on day three.
After visiting Pau for the 74th time on stage five, the race's first real mountain test came on stage six, leaving Tarbes and cresting the Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet before a summit finish in Cauterets.
On stage seven, the Tour’s second most visited city, Bordeaux, will welcome its first stage finish since 2010, when Mark Cavendish claimed his 14th of a record 34 stage wins. Leaving nearby Libourne the next day, stage eight will head east on a 201km slog to Limoges.
Before the first rest day, the riders will wind up to the summit of the Puy de Dôme, a dormant lava dome which hasn’t featured in the Tour for 35 years. They’ll then enjoy a well-earned day off in Clermont-Ferrand before continuing their passage through the Massif Central.
France’s national holiday, 14 July, will be celebrated next year with a summit finish on the Grand Colombier, the site of Tadej Pogačar’s second stage win back in 2020. From there, the mountains keep coming. The riders will climb over the Col de Joux Plaine to Morzine on stage 14, before another mountaintop test in Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc the next day.
The sole individual time trial of the Tour de Franc route comes on stage 16, when a hilly 22km dash from Passy to Combloux will give the GC contenders a chance to force time gaps. The following day will bring the stage with the highest elevation gain, counting 5000m of climbing en route to the Courchevel altiport, via the Cormet de Roselend and the monstrous Col de la Loze.
On stages 18 and 19, the sprinters are expected to come to the fore, with flat finishes in Bourg-en-Bresse and Poligny.
The penultimate stage will play out in the country’s most easterly region, ascending the Petit Ballon, Col du Platzerwasel and finishing in Le Markstein, as the Tour de France Femmes did last year.
The riders will then undertake a 500km transfer to the outskirts of Paris for the curtain-closing stage. The final day will start at France’s national velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, the track cycling venue for the 2024 Olympics, and will conclude with the customary laps of the capital’s Champs-Elysées.
The 2023 Tour de France will begin on 1 July, with the winner crowned in Paris on 23 July.
2023 Tour de France stage table
|2||2 July||Vitoria-Gasteiz||San Sebastian||209km||Hilly|
|5||5 July||Pau||Laruns||165km||Medium mountains|
|9||9 July||Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat||Puy de Dôme||184km||Mountains|
|13||14 July||Châtillon-Sur-Chalaronne||Grand Colombier||138km||Mountains|
|14||15 July||Annemasse||Morzine les Portes du Soleil||152km||Mountains|
|15||16 July||Les Gets les Portes du Soleil||Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc le Bettex||180km||Mountains|
|16||18 July||Passy||Combloux||22km||Hilly ITT|
|17||19 July||Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc||Courchevel||166km||Mountains|
|20||22 July||Belfort||Le Markstein||133km||Mountains|
Tour de France route week summary
Tour de France week one
The race began in Bilbao, starting in the Basque Country for the first time since 1992, when the Tour started in San Sebastian. The first two stages are packed full of climbs, with ten classified hills in over the opening couple of days, meaning there will be a fierce battle for the polka-dot jersey. Watch out for Basque fans going crazy on the roadside.
Stage three saw the race cross into France, which it will not leave for the rest of the 18 days. As expected we saw a sprint finish in Bayonne, even after four categorised climbs en-route. Nothing is easy this year.
The fourth day was another sprint, on a motor racing circuit in Nogaro, as the race moved, ominously, towards the Pyrenees. The Hors Categorie Col de Soudet on stage five was the first proper mountain of the race, and was followed by the Col de Marie Blanque, which has tough gradients. A GC day early on, although they are all GC days, really.
Stage five was a mountain top finish in Cauterets-Cambasque, but its gradients didn't catch too many out; it is the Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmalet that will put people through it.
The seventh day of the race was a chance for the riders to relax their legs as the race headed northwest to an almost nailed-on sprint finish, before another opportunity for the the remaining fast men presented itself on stage eight - after two category four climbs towards the end, and an uphill finish.
The long first week of the race - which will have felt longer because last year had a bonus rest day - ended with the mythical Puy de Dôme.
Tour de France week two
The second week begins with a lumpy road stage around Clermont-Ferrand, starting from a volcano-themed theme park. This will surely be a day for the break. The next day could also be one if the sprint teams fail to get their act together, with two early categorised climbs potential ambush points.
Back into the medium mountains on stage 12, with a finish in the wine making heartland of the Beaujolais, Belleville. Another day for the break, probably, but none of the five categorised climbs are easy.
The following day, stage 13, is France's national holiday, 14 Juillet. The Grand Colombier at the end of the day is the big attraction, with its slopes expected to cause shifts on the GC. Stage 14 is yet another mountain stage as the Tour really gets serious, with the Col de la Ramaz followed by the Col de Joux Plane. The latter, 11.6km at 8.5%, will be a real test for a reduced peloton, before a downhill finish into Morzine.
The final day of week two, stage 15, is yet another day in the Alps before a rest day in Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc. There is nothing as fearsome as the previous days, but 4527m of climbing should still be feared.
Tour de France week three
The third and final week begins with the race's only time trial, 22km long and with a lot of uphill. It is not a mountain event, but it is certainly not one for the pure rouleurs.
Stage 17 looks like the race's Queen Stage, with the final climb up to the Col de la Loze looking incredibly tough on paper, and in real life. That follows the Col de Saisies, the Cormet de Roselend and the Côte de Longefoy, adding up to 5,100m of climbing. The race might be decided on this day.
After that, there is a nice day for the sprinters on stage 18, with a flat finish in Bourg-en-Bresse surely one for the fast men. The next day, stage 19 could be a breakaway day or a sprint finish, depending on how desperate teams are feeling, or how powerful the remaining leadout trains are.
The final mountainous day comes on the penultimate stage, with the men following the Femmes lead and finishing in Le Markstein. However, there's no Grand Ballon, just the Petit Ballon, and so unless something chaotic happens, there should not be great time switches on this stage.
Then, at last, there is the usual finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, after the race heads out of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, which has a long-term deal to host the start of Paris-Nice too. ASO country.
Remember, this will be the last time Paris hosts the Tour de France until 2025. So, be prepared.
Tour de France 2023: The stages
Stage one: Bilbao to Bilbao (182km)
There was no easing into the Tour de France for the peloton this year, with a tough, punchy day in the Basque Country. Adam Yates took the first yellow jersey of the 2023 Tour de France after a scintillating stage in the Basque Country that saw the overall battle for the Tour take shape at the earliest opportunity.
The Briton emerged clear over the top of the final climb of the stage, the short and steep Côte de Pike, with his twin brother Simon a few seconds behind him. The pair worked well together to stay clear of the chasing bunch of GC contenders before Adam rode his brother off his wheel inside the final few hundred metres to claim victory.
Stage two: Vitoria-Gasteiz to Saint Sebastian (208.9km)
This was the longest stage of the Tour, surprisingly. Five more categorised climbs meant it was unlikely to be a sprint stage, including the Jaizkibel, famous from the Clasica San Sebastian, tackled on its eastern side 20km from the finish. This second stage from Vitoria Gasteiz to San Sebastian on the Basque coast followed many of the roads of the San Sebastian Classic, held here every summer.
An early break was soon established in the first 50km and established a three-minute advantage. However, the break was reeled in and a group, including the yellow jersey Adam Yates, pressed towards the finish with Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) clearly hoping it would finish in a sprint.
Victor Lafay (Cofidis) had other ideas however, and with all and sundry already having attacked Van Aert, Lafay finally made it stick with a kilometre to go, holding off the reduced bunch all the way to the line.
Stage three: Amorebiata-Etxano to Bayonne (187.4km)
The third stage took the riders from Amorebieta-Etxano in the Basque Country and back into France, finishing at Bayonne in what was always tipped to be a bunch sprint. Ultimately, despite a very strong showing in the leadout by Fabio Jakobsen's Soudal-Quick Step team, it was Jasper Philipsen who triumphed, having benefited from a deluxe leadout by team-mate Mathieu Van Der Poel.
Mark Cavendish, who is hunting for a record 35th stage win in what will be his final Tour de France, was sixth.
Stage four: Dax to Nogaro (181.8km)
Now this one was always going to be a sprint finish, right? It finished on a motor racing circuit in Nogaro, meaning teams have a long old time to sort their leadout trains. After a sleepy day out all hell broke lose on the finishing circuit with a series of high speed crashes. Jasper Philipsen was one of the few sprinters to still have a lead-out man at his disposal and when that lead-out man is of the quality of Mathieu van der Poel he was always going to be very difficult to beat. So it proved with Australian Caleb Ewan chasing him down hard but unable to come around him. Philipsen's win handed him the green jersey too.
Stage five: Pau to Laruns (162.7km)
The first Hors Categorie climb of the race came on stage five, the Col de Soudet, which is 15.2km at 7.2%, before the Col de Marie-Blanque and its steep gradients. It certainly ignited the GC battle!
A break that at one point contained 37 riders was never allowed more than a few minutes, but that proved unwise for Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar behind. Ultimately, with the break already splintering on the final big climb – the Col de Marie-Blanque – Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), riding his first Tour de France, attacked.
With Hindley time trialling the largely downhill 18km to the finish, Vingegaard attempted to chase him down – and put time into Pogačar as he did so.
Picking up strays from the early break on the way, Vingegaard got to within 34 seconds of Hindley, but it wasn't enough to stop the Australian from taking the stage win, and the yellow jersey.
Stage six: Tarbes to Cauterets-Cambasque (144.9km)
A day of aggressive racing in the Pyrenees towards the first summit finish saw Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) take the yellow jersey but Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) win the stage.
Having had his team set a blistering pace on the Col du Tourmalet, Vingegaard attacked with 4km until the summit. Only Pogačar could follow him as yellow jersey holder Jai Hindley dropped back to the peloton
Having joined up with super domestique Wout van Aert over the top, the group of favourites were towed up the first half of the final climb before Vingegaard attacked. Once again Pogačar followed and with two kilometers to go the Slovenian counter-attacked.
He clawed back nearly half a minute by the line, making the race for yellow a three horse race between those two and Hindley in the process.
Stage seven: Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux (169.9km)
Renowned as a sprint finish town, Bordeaux didn't disappoint the hopeful fastmen –except perhaps for Mark Cavendish, who had to concede victory to hat-trick man Jasper Philipsen, despite a very strong charge for the line from the Manxman.
With Cavendish hunting that elusive 35th record stage win, and having won here last time the Tour came visiting in 2010, many eyes were on the Astana Qazaqstan rider, with on-form Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who has won twice already, starting as favourite.
The day began with Arkéa-Samsic's Simon Gugliemi forging what turned out to be a solo break that lasted 130 kilometres. He was joined by Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) and Nans Peters (Ag2r-Citroën) halfway through the stage, the trio forming a purposeful triumvirate of home riders.
However, with the sprinters and their teams on the hunt and few places to hide on what was a hot day crammed with long, straight roads, the break served only as a placeholder for the day's main action in Bordeaux.
A technical finish with roundabouts aplenty, first Jumbo-Visma (in the service of GC leader Jonas Vingegaard) and then Alpecin-Deceuninck took the race by the scruff of the neck in the final. Philipsen enjoyed a marquee leadout from team-mate Mathieu Van Der Poel, but when Cavendish turned on the afterburners at around 150m and leapt forward, the whole cycling world held its breath.
That 35th stage win had to wait for another day though, with Philipsen sweeping past in what was yet another command performance from the Belgian.
Stage eight: Libourne to Limoges (200.7km)
Pedersen, the Lidl-Trek rider, now has two Tour stage wins to his name, in a finish which mixed pure sprinters and punchier riders. Alpecin-Deceuninck's Philipsen was third, with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in third. To prove how mixed the top ten was, however, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished behind the likes of Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis).
On a day which could have been one for the breakaway, the race was controlled expertly by Jumbo, Trek and Alpecin for their options, and so the escapees were never allowed much time. Sadly, stage eight turned out to Mark Cavendish's last - the Astana-Qazaqstan rider crashed heavily and was forced to abandon.
Stage nine: Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat to Puy de Dôme (184km)
Jorgenson had gone solo form a breakaway with 40km left to race. However, on the slopes of the Puy de Dôme where the gradient remains over 105 for more than four kilometres, Woods closed the gap and came around Jorgenson with just 600m left to go.
In the final kilometre, of what had been a blisteringly hot day with temperatures north of 30 degree Celsius, Tadej Pogačar managed to drop Jonas Vingegaard but the Jumbo-Visma captain dug deep to minimise his losses and came across the line eight seconds down.
Stage 10: Vulcania to Issoire (162.7km)
The breakaway had its day in Issoire, as Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) won beneath the scorching sun in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
After a frantic start, the mood finally settled and a 14-rider move went clear. Krists Neilands (Israel Premier Tech) launched a solo bid with around 30km remaining, but was caught in the closing moments by a chasing group led by Bilbao. The Spaniard then policed attacks in the finale, before sprinting to his team's first victory at this year's race.
"For Gino," Bilbao said afterwards, dedicating his win to his late teammate, Gino Mäder.
Stage 11: Clermont-Ferrand to Moulins (179.8km)
After a difficult previous day that was hot and hilly, the bunch allowed the break to go very quickly, with Andrey Amador, Matis Louvel and Daniel Oss quickly gaining three minutes. They were kept on a tight leash though, with the sprinters' teams eyeing a bunch finish. And this they delivered, with Jasper Philipsen winning a fourth stage after a tricky finale.
Stage 12: Roanne to Belleville-en-Beaujolais (168.8km)
Just like stage ten, Thursday's stage 12 was a fast and frenetic affair on the road to Belleville-en-Beaujolais. A strong group of puncheur type riders eventually got up the road after the breakaway took more than 80 kilometres to form. Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) came out on top at the finish, soloing to the line after a big attack on the final climb of the day.
Stage 13: Châtillon-Sur-Chalaronne to Grand Colombier (138km)
Michał Kwiatkowski took an impressive solo victory on the summit finish of the Grand Colombier. The Polish rider caught and passed the remnants of the day's breakaway which included Great Britain's James Shaw to grab his second-ever Tour stage win. Behind the Ineos rider, Tadej Pogačar attacked and took eight seconds back on Jonas Vingegaard in the fight for the yellow jersey.
Stage 14: Annemasse to Morzine Les Portes du Soleil (151.8km)
Carlos Rodríguez announced himself on his Tour de France debut on stage 14 with a career-defining victory in Morzine. While all eyes were on Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar, the Spaniard broke free on the descent of the Col de Joux Plane and descended as if on rails to the finish.
Stage 15: Les Gets Les Portes du Soleil to Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc (179km)
The breakaway had its day at the summit of Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. After dedicating his career to domestique duties, the victory went to Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), who launched a late attack on the steepest slopes and held off Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to the line.
Stage 16: Passy to Combloux ITT (22.4km)
Stage 16 brought the fewest time trial kilometres at the Tour de France in 90 years. On the uphill test to Combloux, Jonas Vingegaard proved the strongest, and by quite a way, too. The Dane's winning margin of 1-38 over Tadej Pogačar left him in the driving seat to taking his second Tour title.
Stage 17: Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc to Courchevel (165.7km)
The Queen stage brought a career-defining victory for Austrian Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), but all eyes were on the GC battle, and the demise of Tadej Pogačar. The UAE Team Emirates rider cracked on the slopes of the Col de la Loze, losing almost six minutes to Jonas Vingegaard, and slipping to 7-35 in the overall standings.
Stage 18: Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse (184.9km)
Denmark's Kasper Asgreen put in one of the best performances of the race to grab his first-ever Tour victory. The Soudal Quick-Step rider was part of a four man breakaway that managed to hold on all the way to the line by just a handful of seconds ahead of the peloton.
Stage 19: Moirans-en-Montagne to Poligny (172.8km)
Matej Mohorič of Bahrain Victorious took an emotional victory in Poligny after a chaotic day of racing. The Slovenian rider launched an attack with Kasper Asgreen and Ben O'Connor on the final climb of the hilly stage before beating his breakaway compatriots in a three-up sprint for the line. It was Mohorič's third-ever Tour victory.
Stage 20: Belfort to Le Markstein Fellering (133.5km)
The race might be very near Germany at this point, but Belfort remained French after the Franco-Prussian War, unlike the territory the penultimate stage travels into.
This is the last chance saloon for all teams and riders who aren’t sprinters, especially those with GC ambitions. However, it is not quite the task of the previous Alpine days, with the six categorised climbs not the most testing. Still, there will be a lot of people trying to make things happen.
Stage 21: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines to Paris (115.1km)
This will be the last time the Tour heads to Paris until at least 2025, so make the most of those shots of the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. The classic procession will happen for the first 55km until the race hits the Champs for the first time 60km in. From that point on, anything goes, although that anything will probably be a bunch sprint.
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