There will be a 22 km hilly time trial in the Alps and exciting and demanding mountain stages in all five of France's mountain ranges. Unlike previous Tours, this one will be unique with no typically classic mountain top finishes like Mont Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez but will have other tough Hors Catégorie climbs to provide spectators with just as much exciting entertainment and opportunities for the pro peloton to get their teeth into and to ride away to victory.
What climbs can we expect this year to have us hanging off the edge of our sofas? Eight mountain stages include summit finishes where the climbers can make a statement and where more spectators have easier access: at the Tourmalet on route to the Cauterets-Cambasque in the Pyrenees, on the volcanic and legendary Puy de Dôme in the Massif Central, the Grand Colombier in the Jura on the French-Swiss border, the Vosges, and at Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc in the Alps. Stitching these critical mountain stages together, comprising a total of 3,404km, includes eight flat stages to balance out the profile and four hilly stages where breakaways are tactically sure to occur.
The yellow jersey, maillot jaune, is the most coveted and prized in the race. The yellow jersey colour came about because it was the colour of the sports daily newspaper that L'Auto-Vélo, the race's sponsor and predecessor to L’Équipe, was printed on. The award goes to the rider who finishes the race in the least amount of time and, as a result, tops the General Classification (GC) leaderboard. Jonas Vingegaard, from Denmark of Team Jumbo–Visma, was the winner in 2022 and wore the prized yellow jersey.
The winners jerseys
The points winner will don the green jersey or maillot vert. It originated in 1953 on the occasion of the Tour de France's 50th anniversary and is awarded to the rider winning intermediate sprints or 'hot spots' and recorded in the points classification. The points offered will vary depending on the type of stage that provides the most points, mostly on flat and sprint stages when sprint opportunities present themselves. The points are added together after each stage and also accumulate from points from earlier stages. The jersey is green because the original sponsor was a lawnmower and garden company.
The rider who succeeds in climbing to the summits first is awarded the King of the Mountains (KOM) jersey or maillot à pois rouges with points, and the more brutal the climb, the more points awarded. The categories start from 4, the least difficult, 1 being the most difficult and Hors Categorie representing the most difficult KOM categorization. The HC category awards the first eight riders, and category four climbs award only the first riders over the top. However, the points get doubled if the stage has a mountain-top finish. These points are added after each stage and at the end of the Tour. The jersey, characterised by its prominent white with red dots, originated in 1975. The original sponsor was Chocolat Poulain, one of the oldest chocolate brands in France, and the wrapper of the chocolate bar had polka dots on it.
The white jersey goes to the best and fastest under-26 rider, introduced in 1975. The earliest young riders to earn the white jersey were Marco Pantani, Alberto Contador, Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar, and they laid the foundation for their career successes and potential stars of the future.
The final two category awards with no jersey are for the most combative rider and the best Team classification.
The most overall winners of the Tour
Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx (all 5)
The most overall stage wins
Eddy Merckx, Mark Cavendish (34) (Mark is aiming and hoping to win his 35th at this year’s Tour before he retires)
Eddy Merckx won the Tour de France 5 times and the most overall stage wins over time.
In week one on Stage 6 (and also in the Tour de Femmes Stage 16), the pros will battle it out up the Col du Tourmalet, which will be the second of three climbs. The Col is an iconic and legendary climb, and one of the highest paved mountain passes in the French Pyrenees, in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées.
Col du Tourmalet on ROUVY
Starting from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, at the foot of the steeper eastern side, the pros climb to the ski station at La Mongie. The first four kilometres head up through the beautiful Vallée de Gripp at 5% gradients which can serve as a good warm-up. Then, the road becomes steep, which remains so for the 12 kilometres that lie ahead. Try the Tourmalet climb yourself on ROUVY from home and compare your time with the STRAVA KOM and QOM.
On Stage 9, starting in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, the riders cover a distance of 184 km on this mountainous stage and finish on the legendary and mythical Puy de Dome volcano summit. This bucket-list climb in Auvergne forms part of the Massif Central, and the riders approach it from the Clermont Ferrand side situated on a UNESCO site, and admittance to the final and most brutal 6km is officially only allowed once a year for a limited number of cyclists.
Puy-de-Dome, the mythical volcano pass
Due to logistical difficulties in reaching the summit and associated risks due to the masses of spectators, the Puy de Dôme was no longer part of the French Tour for 35 years until 2023, so this is a momentous and exceptional occasion including it for the Tour. The riders will tackle a highly demanding 10% over almost 6km, which no spectators will be allowed access to due to the narrowness of the path. The first half of the climb is straight but then starts to curve and spiral like a curled-up snake on a very narrow road alongside a railway around the volcano tip.
The inactive volcano was, up till 1988, the battleground of many cycling Tour legends who sent fiery sparks flying as they hit swords up the slopes. The Puy de Dôme is one of the iconic and mythical climbs of the Tour where victors such as Fausto Coppi in 1952, Federico Bahamontes, Julio Jimenez, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocana, Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk claimed first place on the podium. Eddy Merckx, in 1975, sustained an injury from a spectator while wearing yellow and could not win his 6th Tour de France due to losing the jersey the next day after a fall. It was here that Poulidor and Anquetil had their famous battle, even leaning against each other during their dramatic battle.
Puy de Dôme with the narrow path and railway alongside spirals up to the summit
Puy de Dôme is above Clermont-Ferrand or the Augustonemetum in Roman times, and one can see a 2nd-century Gallo-Roman Temple de Mercure at the summit.
Strava data and mapping tools have helped to create the Tour de France routes, including the iconic Puy de Dome. Compare your time to the KOM and QOM on Strava on this famous climb.
After the second rest day, the only individual time trial occurs in the Arve Valley in the Rhone Alpes near Sallanches. The pros must overcome the short and sharp Côte de Domancy, a 2,5km climb at a steep 9,4% gradient with 221m before the road continues to climb to the line for another 3,5 km at 5%. Will they need to change bikes at the bottom of the climb? The 22km route between Passy and Combloux will test the riders' bike handling and climbing skills as much as their time-trialling abilities on this rolling course.
The Arve Valley in the Rhone Alpes near Sallanches
The Côte de Domancy was where Bernard Hinault triumphed in a solo victory at the 1980 World Championships road race. The route also formed part of the final week time trial in the 2016 Tour de France. The last time the pros time-trialled up the climb in the Tour was in 2021.
The Col de la Loze is a rollercoaster climb with many changing gradients that follow every curve of the mountainside, used for the second time ever in the Tour on what will undoubtedly be the queen stage of over 5,000m of tortuous ascent. The Col is ranked one of France's most challenging climbs to conquer, situated in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France, nestled within the Vanoise National Park.
Miguel Angel Lopez took a great solo victory at the summit of the Col de la Loze in 2020
The climb begins in the forest and follows through alpine pastures with magnificent open views of Mont Blanc, the beautiful Méribel valley and la Grande Casse via 17 hairpin bends. The main characteristic of this challenging profile is the frequent and abrupt changes of gradient up to 23% and the narrow road. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange, which symbolises the highest point of the race, is presented as a prize for the rider who reaches it first.
On this queen stage, the pros have to race 166 km and conquer the Col des Saisies firstly at 13,4km long (1,650m) and average 5%, then via the Beaufort valley up to the Cormet de Roseland, 19,9 km long at 6%, then the fourth climb of Notre-Dame-du-Pré through Brides-Les-Baines to the final hurdle - the Courchevel (a climb and a top resort in terms of its hotels and ski destination), then to Meribel and then the feared Col de la Loze.
The climb starts gently at 7% gradients, and then the steep ramps follow for the next 5 km, followed by a 6 km downhill before reaching the final 10% 600m sting in the tail up to the Altiport. With this rolling and mountainous profile, it should be a day for breakaways to happen.
The views will take one's breath away, but so will this climb, rated the eighth highest and one of the toughest in France. Diarise July 19th to watch the pros battle it out on these savage slopes with crowds of spectators coming to watch the show on this famous col closing in energetically and noisily on the narrow path on the final 6 km, part of the Via 3 Vallées bicycle path. The climb averages a 7.5% gradient for 22.6 kilometres gaining nearly 1,700 metres.
Tour legends have shown their mettle at the altiport summit of Courchevel: Richard Virenque won there in 1997, followed by Marco Pantani in 2000 and Alejandro Valverde in 2005. Miguel Angel Lopez took a great solo victory at the summit in 2020.
Get into the vibe and get to know and follow the riders and their teams on Strava and see their uploads after each stage. You can follow the world's best pro racers to see their performances on every stage and show your support by sending them kudos.
Motivate yourself on Tour de France routes on ROUVY and think like a pro does knowing that:
Immerse yourself in the exciting Tour de France atmosphere from home on your trainer while testing your perseverance and endurance limits. Keep the passion for your riding alive and at the very top of your training agenda with the help of realistic ROUVY routes.
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