The first three stages of the 2025 Tour were announced at a presentation in Lille, over 18 months before they are set to take place, with sprints, punchy finishes, and possibly crosswinds. However, there was no mention of pavé sectors. We already knew it would begin in the Nord Department, but now the details have been fleshed out.
Stage one will be a loop from Lille to Lille, with wind possibly a factor, and early classified climbs en route: Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Mont Cassel (via its cobbled side) and Mont Noir. With the last of these 40km from the finish, it will probably be one for the sprinters back in the largest city in the Hauts-de-France.
The second stage is from Lauwin-Planque to Boulougne-sur-Mer on the Channel coast, or La Manche if you're French. This day will be one for a puncheur, with a finale on the Côte d'Opale, with climbs at Saint-Etienne-au-Mont and Outreau in the final 10km. It might well be a stage in the sights of Wout van Aert, who won the last time the Tour finished on this coastline, in Calais in 2022. Expect the yellow jersey to change hands.
The third stage sees the race return inland to Valenciennes, again near to the cobbles of Arenberg, but the route heads northwest to Dunkerque for another finish by the sea. There will be an intermediate sprint at Isbergues, and a climb on the Côte de Cassel before an ending almost in view of the Channel.
Stage four begins in Amiens, as the race heads south in France, but no more is known at present. However, after its time in the Hauts-de-France region, it is thought that the Tour will head to Normandy and Brittany on its journey towards the Pyrenees and Alps.
There was speculation that cobbles would feature, as they normally accompany the Tour when it heads to Lille, as happened in 2022 and in 2014, but it will largely be a tarmac affair. The gravel stage in the 2024 Tour might have prevented the route directors from heading off-asphalt again so quickly.
Both the 2023 and 2024 routes largely ignored the north of the country, with the most northerly place being Paris in the former, and Troyes in the latter. This was partly due to both having Grand Départs in countries to the south of France: Spain and Italy respectively.
Therefore, 2025 will also mark the first time in four years that the Tour actually begins in France, resetting a pattern of one foreign start, one domestic, that was interrupted by the pandemic. After a run of three in a row outside of France - Copenhagen, Bilbao, and Florence next - it is a return to tradition.
Lille hosted the Grand Départ once before, in 1994, when Chris Boardman won the prologue before Djamolidine Abduzhaparov won a sprinter friendly stage one. That year, the Tour ended up jumping into the south of England for two stages in the opening week.
The Tour last started in the Nord de France area in 2001 when Christophe Moreau won the prologue time trial and pulled on the first yellow jersey.
2025 will also represent a return to normality in another way, as the race will conclude in Paris on the Champs-Élysées after a hiatus in 2024, when the Tour is concluding in Nice.
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