2020 Tour de France route includes mountain time trial, gravel, five summit finishes

Race organizers reveal dynamic route packed with innovations, new climbs, and fewer long stages.

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The 2020 Tour de France looks set to be one packed with difficulty and unpredictability.

Race director Christian Prudhomme and top brass from organizing body ASO presented the details of the 2020 Tour de France stages on Tuesday.

The route is one for the climbers, with 29 mountains across all of France’s five mountain ranges and only one time trial. “It will be physically challenging throughout,” said race boss Prudhomme.

“That is really the hardest route I’ve seen anywhere in the past five years,” said four-time Tour winner Chris Froome (Ineos), who attended the presentation.

The 3,470km route kicks off in Nice on June 27, one week earlier than usual to accommodate the Tokyo Olympics, starting July 24. The route sticks to southern and central France throughout.

The race first heads west toward the Pyrenees mountains, north up the west coast, then across the center of the country via a procession of mountain ranges. The peloton then transfers to Paris for the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees.

The focus is undoubtedly on climbing, with the first mountain arriving midway through stage 2, and the last coming in stage 20’s time trial to the steep Plateau des Belles Filles. The 1,607m Col du Turini, climbed on stage 2, will be the highest that the Tour has taken the peloton so early in the race.

With all the mountains come uphill finishes, and the first arrives as early as stage 4. There are five mountaintop finishes in total, with the new climb to the 2,304m Col de la Loze in the Alps being the highest point of the race.

Other notable summit finishes are the notoriously steep Grand Colombiere in the Jura and the punchy Pas de Peyrol in the Massif Central.

The penultimate stage will raise a few eyebrows and should bring an explosive finale to the racing with the Tour’s only time trial. The 36km race against the clock is far from straightforward with a summit finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles.

While the 2019 Tour used an extended version of the Belles Filles climb on a gravel surface, the Tour returns to the traditional, tarmac-only ascent for 2020. Gravel is still on the menu however, with the return to the Plateau des Glières in the Alps, which includes 1.8km of dirt road.

There are nine stages that could be targeted by the sprinters, though Prudhomme warned that “even the so-called flat stages will be very tough for the pure sprinters. There are traps everywhere along the route.”

One of those ‘traps’ looks to be the entirely coastal stage 9, which Prudhomme warned would likely be battered by winds.

“I’m going to have to adapt my training for this,” said Caleb Ewan, who won three sprint stage in 2019. “As far as I can see there are only four real sprints, that’s the way modern Tours are going.”

The Tour steers clear of excessively long days, and returns to the new trend of leaning toward shorter, more dynamic stages, with 13 stages below 170km. Though there is emphasis on punchier racing, there is no return of the super-short experimental stage format trialed in 2018.

After seeing the 2019 Tour being branded one of the most exciting in 30 years, race organizers are focussing on keeping the racing unpredictable and without rhythm.

“Anyone who wants to win will have to concentrate right from the start,” said race architect Thierry Gouvenou. “Stage 2 could see someone win by minutes.”

2019 winner Egan Bernal (Ineos), four-time winner Froome, and 2019 Tour hero Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) were among the riders that attended the presentation.

“It will be won and lost in the mountains but that suits me,” said Froome, who is still limping heavily after breaking his thigh in June.  “I need another month to really say if I can take part anyway.”

Both Froome and his teammate Bernal have both recently shown interest in targeting the 2020 Tour. Bernal is waiting for the announcement of the Giro d’Italia route, revealed October 24, before making final plans.

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