The route for the 2017 Tour de France was released yesterday to a full house in Paris, a very different route to previous Tours as race organisers look to take note from the Giro and Vuelta by including shorter, sharper mountain stages that will make for exciting racing every day! With a time trial to start the tour, current World time trial champion Tony Martin will be favored to take the first yellow jersey of this years race in his home country of Germany.
The race starts in the city of Dusseldorf, celebrating 30 years since the race last began in Germany. In the first stage time trial look out for Tony Martin, Rohan Dennis and Tom Dumoulin as the winner will likely hold onto the yellow jersey for the next few days. Don't discount Luxembourg time trial champion Bob Jungels as his motivation will be high to wear the yellow jersey as the race makes its way south into his home country after a short stay in the Ardennes region of Belgium. When the race hits France on stage 4, it will pass through the Vosges mountain region, the first real test for the GC contenders.
Some punchy stages await, and you would be a brave sole to bet against 2 time World Champion Peter Sagan from taking a stage win over the next few days. Race organisers have included all five French mountain ranges in this years tour, the first time since 1992, in a bid to make the race exciting and unpredictable. The first mountain range the tour visits will be the Vosges as the riders fight to the top of La Planche des belles Filles on stage 5, the same finish as stage 10 of the 2014 tour where Vincenzo Nibali was victorious. Can he mark himself as one of the favorites for this year's race by repeating his victory?
There will be a few flat stages before the race hits the Jura mountain range and its first rest day, so the likes of Mark Cavendish, Brian Coquard and German duo of Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel will look to make the most of these sprint stages. They will pass through the beautiful Burgundy vineyard region as they leave the stunning medieval city of Troyes. Sprint teams including Quick Step, Lotto Belisol and Dimension Data will have to keep an eye out for an attempt to break the stage open on these windy roads. The rest day will see the peloton transfer by plane to the west of the country as they make their way towards the Pyrenees.
The highlight of the second week of the tour will be the 2 Pyrenean stages. This year's race will bypass the famous Col du Tormalet, instead climbing lesser known Pyrenean climbs including Col des Ares and Col de Mente before a final ascent to Col de Peyresourde, finishing on the runway of Peyradgudes. The final 200m will be selective as the road kicks to 16%. The next stage will be just as action packed. Taking inspiration from the Vuelta's short mountain stages, stage 13 will be 100km long, the shortest Pyrenean stage in the Tours history as they face 3 category 1 climbs on their way from Saint-Girons to Foix. Will we see Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contodor attack Chris Froome and Team Sky like they did in this year's Vuelta?
As the tour makes its way east to the Alps, we will see the race head to the Massif Central , which will ensure there is no easy stages for the GC contenders before they arrive at the second and final rest day of the Tour in Le Puy en-Velay.
The final week of the tour sees the peloton head into the Alps, with a penultimate time trial in Marseille the 3 days in the Alps will be crucial for the pure climbers like Nairo Quintana, Contador and hometown favorite, Roman Bardet. We can expect Bardet to be primed for an assault on the final week of the tour as the rest day and stage 16 depart are just outside his home town of Brioude. We will see the race climb some iconic passes of tours past on their way to the ski station of Serre-Chevalier including the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Galibier. The queen stage of this year's tour sees the first summit finish atop Col d'Izoard, will the winner today determine the overall winner or will the final time trial see a change to the final wearer of the maillot jaune?
9 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 5 mountain stages and 2 individual time trials gives ample opportunity for riders of all shapes and sizes to vie for a stage win or one of the four famous jerseys of the tour. The tour will visit 3 other countries, 34 different regions of France, all 5 mountain ranges and cover a total of 3,516km, culminating in the final sprint along the famous Champs Elysees, can German sprinter Andre Greipel make it 3 victories in a row on the famous avenue?
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By Phil Skerman