Mountains abound in the 2023 edition of the men’s Tour de France

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The 2023 route of the men’s Tour de France on Thursday unveiled passes crossing the country’s five mountain ranges, favoring climbers such as 2019 champion Egan Bernal.

The 3,404km route departs from the Spanish Basque Country on July 1 for a course comprising eight mountain stages and four hilly stages with a single medium-length individual time trial placed at the start of the final week.

The route, however, ignores almost all of western and northern France.

“In five or six years, it balances out and you end up going everywhere,” said race organizer Christian Prudhomme.

The killer stage in the 21-day race appears to be Stage 17 from Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc to Courchevel, dotted with four peaks and rising well above the tree line to 2,300m in altitude where oxygen is scarce.

This kind of mountain stage would seem tailor-made for Bernal and give him hope against the two men who have won the title since, Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingaard.

Gone is the 20-day individual time trial that has produced such drama in the past two editions.

Instead, organizers have this year placed a blockbuster mountain race on this 20th stage from Belfort to Le Markstein Fellering, with five devastating mountains to climb on what is apparently the final day.

Emerging rider Remco Evenepoel won the Vuelta a Espana and the world championships in 2022, but the young Belgian is likely to be discouraged by the absence of a time trial on this edition.

“We would be absolutely delighted if he came,” Prudhomme said.

The route for the women’s Tour de France from July 23-30 was also unveiled on Thursday with a 1,000km route starting in Clermont Ferrand and taking riders through the south and a climb of the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees as the highlight.

Invitation to attack

Continuing efforts to liven up the race, especially the early action, the 2023 men’s course is criss-crossed with terrain beckoning the great one-day specialists to soak up the glory.

The wooded hills around Bilbao on stage one are an open invitation for one-day specialists to pull out all the stops for the coveted overall leader’s yellow jersey from day one.

It should also force a first small skirmish among the overall contenders.

A daredevil finish on the 20km descent to the chic resort town of San Sebastián should put on a show on the second stage.

Day three brings the action back to France where the 22 teams of eight riders each travel to the Pyrenees on the first weekend with legendary mountains, the Tourmalet and Aspin, bringing the overall contenders into the thick of the battle.

The race then heads towards the Massif Central where the giant Puy de Dôme volcano awaits you before passing through the Jura, the Alps and finally the Vosges.

Arrivals at altitude in Cauterets-Cambasque, Puy de Dôme, Grand Colombier and Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc.

Tradition suggests the race will be won in the Alps, but can only be won on Stage 20 in the Vosges where five mountains could provide a late twist. The first ten days, however, offer an open invitation to new “total cycling” enthusiasts in the peloton.

This 110th edition of the Tour de France will be broadcast in 190 countries.

(AFP)


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