What You Should Know About the Stages of the 2016 Tour de France
Expect some changes (and some returns to races previous) during the 2016 Tour. Here's a breakdown of each Stage.
From the start, the 2016 Tour de France will come with some surprises. You couldn't ask for a more picturesque setting for the Grand Depart, which takes riders from Mont Saint-Michel to the historic battlegrounds of Utah Beach. The peloton will return to the Pyrenees in the middle stages, but this section will be held completely outside of France. Here's how the race will break down, stage by stage.
Stage 1 - Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach, 188km - Saturday, July 2
For the first time since 2011, the Tour's Grand Depart will take place in mainland France. And the organizers couldn't have picked a more beautiful setting for it: Normandy's Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by more than three million people per year. The 188km stage starts in the shadow of the island and its 10th-century monastery before heading north toward Utah Beach, one of the key battlegrounds of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Thanks to its flat profile, Stage 1 is expected to end in a field sprint, perhaps giving Etixx—Quick-Step's Marcel Kittel the chance to win his third opening stage in the last four years—and the yellow jersey that goes along with it.
Stage 2 - Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-Octeville, 182km - Sunday, July 3
In recent years, Tours that begin with a stage for sprinters often feature a second or third stage that suits punchier, more aggressive riders. Such is the case with this year's Stage 2, a 182km stage from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-Octeville that features three categorized ascents, including the steep climb to the finish line atop the Côte de la Glacerie. Look for a rider like Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez, who took last year's Stage 3 finish atop Belgium's Mur de Huy, to win the day.
Stage 3 - Granville to Angers, 222km - Monday, July 4
Stage 3 takes the peloton away from Normandy with a 222km southerly ride from Granville to Angers. This will be a fast stage, with a possible tailwind and a late-stage intermediate sprint to keep the sprinters' teams at the front and eager to chase down the early breakaway. The finish in Angers suits Lotto-Soudal's Andre Greipel; the German won four stages in Kittel's absence last year, and usually takes a few days to find his top gear.
Stage 4 - Saumur to Limoges, 232km - Tuesday, July 5
At 232km, Stage 4 is the longest stage of the 2016 Tour de France. A largely flat affair that will take the race into the heart of France, it's expected to be another day for the sprinters. The uphill drag to the line in Limoges should suit Tinkoff's Peter Sagan, who first turned heads here in 2010 with a second-place finish during a stage of Paris-Nice. The reigning road world champion hasn't won a stage at the Tour since 2013 and would love to win one while wearing the rainbow jersey.
Stage 5 - Limoges to Le Lioran, 216km - Wednesday July 6
Stage 5 should give the riders a good warmup for the high mountains to come during the following weekend. With six categorized climbs, including four in the final 90 minutes of racing, the stage has the look of an Ardennes classic. With so many summits on the program, this is a good day for a breakaway filled with riders hoping to take an early lead in the Tour's King of the Mountains competition. Behind them, the General Classification (GC) contenders might try a few attacks to see if they can catch someone off-guard and perhaps steal a little time. No matter what, expect this to be one of the most exciting stages of the Tour's first week.
Stage 6 - Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban, 187km - Thursday, July 7
Undulating Stage 6 should give ample opportunities for a breakaway to escape. Unfortunately, the final climb of the day comes more than 40km from the finish in Montauban, which means the sprinters' teams will have more than enough time to reel in any remaining escapees before the line. And they should be extra-motivated: they probably won't have another chance for a field sprint until Stage 11.
Stage 7 - L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162km - Friday, July 8
Stage 7 brings the Tour into the Pyrenees. This 162km stretch will be an interesting one as both the intermediate sprint and the Tour's first Category 1 climb come within the final 25km. Expect teams with green jersey contenders to bring the race back together in the hopes of scoring maximum points at the intermediate sprint. Then watch as climbers and perhaps a few GC contenders try some attacks on the slopes of the Category 1 Col d'Aspin. While the climb will provide an ample launchpad for stage hunters, the quick descent to the finish in Lac de Payolle could be more decisive—especially if it's wet.
Stage 8 - Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 183km - Saturday, July 9
On paper, Stage 8 looks like a classic Pyrenean mountain rampage with four high summits, including the first Hors Catégorie or "Beyond Category" summit of the Tour, the legendary Col du Tourmalet. The stage begins in Pau, a town hosting the Tour for the 68th time, putting it behind only Paris and Bordeaux for most stages in Tour history. Of the day's four categorized climbs, the Tourmalet comes first, followed by a new climb, the Category 2 Hourquette d'Ancizan. The Col de Val Louron and the Col de Peyresourde come before a long downhill plunge into Luchon. Direct Energie's Thomas Voeckler has twice won long Pyrenean stages that finish in Luchon; expect the Frenchman to go on the attack in search of a third.
Stage 9 - Vielha Val D'Aran to Andorra Arcalis, 184km - Sunday, July 10
Stage 9 remains in the Pyrenees, but takes place entirely outside of France. This 184km leg begins in Spain, but once the race enters the tiny principality of Andorra, the going really gets tough. The riders will tackle three of the day's five summits within the final 50km, with little chance for recovery in between. The final climb takes them up to the Arcalis ski resort, which has hosted Tour de France stage finishes twice before. Chris Froome and Team Sky will have this day marked in their race books. The penultimate climb, the Col de Beixalis, featured in last year's Tour of Spain on a stage in which Froome crashed and ultimately lost over eight minutes; he abandoned the next day. Sky will work hard to make sure history doesn't repeat itself. After three days in the Pyrenees, the Tour will head into the first Rest Day with the GC picture starting to come into focus.
Stage 10 - Escaldes-Engordany to Revel, 198km - Tuesday, July 12
Stage 10 offers a rude awakening to the riders after the Tour's first Rest Day. Climbing right from the start, they'll ascend the Port d'Envalira, the highest Pyrenean summit in this year's Tour. The rest of the stage is much easier, save for a sharp Category 3 climb just 7km from the finish line in Revel. While the climb might be too much for pure sprinters like Kittel, Greipel, and Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish, it shouldn't be a problem for Classics stars like Sagan, Giant-Alpecin's John Degenkolb, or BMC's Greg Van Avermaet.
Stage 11 - Carcassone to Montpellier, 164km - Wednesday, July 13
Stage 11 takes the Tour across Southern France for a stage that will have most of the GC contenders looking ahead to Stages 12 and 13. But that should leave the opportunists free to try their chances at scoring a breakaway stage victory—and the sprinters free to try and stop them. With only two Category 4 climbs to tackle, a good bet is on the sprinters.
Stage 12 - Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, 185km - Thursday, July 14
For the second time in four years, the Tour de France is celebrating Bastille Day by sending the peloton up the bald, windswept slopes of Mont Ventoux, one of the hardest climbs in the world. Interestingly, Froome has won two of the last three Bastille Day stages, including the Tour's last trip up Mont Ventoux in 2013. Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) have the best chances of being the first French Bastille Day winner since 2005. Both riders are gifted climbers; Pinot won the stage atop Alpe d'Huez last year.
Stage 13 - Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont d'Arc, 37km (ITT) - Friday, July 15
If Mont Ventoux doesn't shake up the General Classification, Stage 13's 37km Individual Time Trial certainly will. To record fast times, riders will have to pace themselves well—the ITT begins and ends with long uphill grades. On paper, this stage is tailor-made for Froome, who's undisputedly the best individual time trialist of the GC contenders. If Froome dominates these two stages—as many think he will—the two-time Tour champ will be in the driver's seat before the Tour even enters its third week. If he doesn't, expect one of the most exciting finales in Tour history.
Stage 14 - Montelimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208km - Saturday, July 16
When you're not a GC contender, an individual time trial stage is essentially a Rest Day. You wake up, eat, go for an easy spin to preview the course (maybe), take a nap, warm up, race at a pace that's good enough to make the time cut, go back to the hotel, get a massage, nap, and eat. So expect the Tour's remaining field sprinters to go from the bottom of the standings on Stage 13, to the top of them on Stage 14. A relatively flat profile and a likely headwind will doom any early breakaway, thus setting up the Tour's remaining fast men for what could be their final battle before Paris.
Stage 15 - Bourg-En-Bresse to Culoz, 159km - Sunday, July 17
On its way to the Alps and the final mountain showdown of the race, the Tour passes through the Jura, a mountainous region on France's eastern border. With a sawtooth profile that will keep the riders constantly climbing and descending, Stage 15 could be a day that makes or breaks the chances of many contenders. Ascents up two sides of the Grand Colombier mark the finale: a steep, technical climb that will wreak havoc on an exhausted peloton. If Froome is indeed in yellow, look for Tinkoff, Movistar, and Astana trying to put pressure on Team Sky to defend the jersey on these challenging roads.
Stage 16 - Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne, 206km - Monday, July 18
After what will likely be an intense day of racing, the riders will ease themselves into the Tour's second Rest Day with this relatively flat 209km stage from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne, Switzerland, the birthplace of Trek-Segafredo's Fabian Cancellara. Riding his final Tour de France in this, his last season as a professional, "Spartacus" has worn the yellow jersey 29 times throughout his career and has won 7 stages. It's not often that the Tour de France honors a current rider with a stop in his hometown, but in Cancellara's case, it's certainly well deserved.
Stage 17 - Berne to Finhaut-Emosson, 184km - Wednesday, July 20
After spending the second Rest Day in Berne, the Tour stays in Switzerland for the first of four stages in the Alps. The first 150km of gradually climbing roads on Stage 17 will give riders a chance to smooth out any remaining kinks from the Rest Day. And they'll need to, because the stage ends with two climbs in quick succession: the Category 1 Col de la Forclaz, followed by the Hors Catégorie climb to the finish in Finhaut Emosson. And with only 7km of descending in between the two, don't be surprised to see ambitious contenders treating the pair as if it were one long climb. Near the end of last year's Tour, Froome weakened as the race entered the Alps, while Movistar's Nairo Quintana got stronger. Unfortunately, the Colombian waited too long to start attacking the Briton—and it cost him the Tour. This stage is a perfect chance for Quintana to show what he's learned from his mistake last year.
Stage 18 - Sallanches to Megeve, 17km (ITT) - Thursday, July 21
Stage 18 brings the second Individual Time Trial of the Tour, a 17km uphill test that will further shape the GC. The stage begins in Sallanches, site of the 1964 and 1980 UCI Road World Championships, then takes the riders over two climbs—with no descent in between. In all, the riders will spend about 14 of the stage's 17km going up. While men like Froome, Quintana, and Contador should end the day near the top of the standings, it's also a good day for Thibaut Pinot. He's spent the last few seasons improving his time trialing, and his hard work has started to pay off: He won time trials at the Tour of Romandie and the Criterium International earlier this season, and he's confident that he now has what it takes to challenge the rest for the yellow jersey.
Stage 19 - Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146km - Friday, July 22
This scenic stage, all of which stands in view of Mont Blanc, kicks off from the terminus only used two times before - Albertville. At 146km, this stage is short, but included are four brutal climbs. First up are the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (Category 1) and the Col de la Forclaz Queige (cat 2). But these are mere leg-looseners for the second half which starts with the climb of the Montée de Bisanne, a super-category 12.4km climb that averages 8.2 per cent: the final 2km touch an average of 10 per cent. This is the longest climb of the day, but is followed by the challenging climb up to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. This is a brutal climb averaging 7.9%, but kicking off with the first kilometer at 12.9%.
Stage 20 - Megeve to Morzine, 146km - Saturday, July 23
Recent Tours de France have ended with summit finishes on the penultimate stage in an attempt to generate some late-race drama. But this year, while still mountainous, the final stage before Paris ends with a descent. Of course, four major climbs come before it, including the Hors Catégorie Col de Joux Plane. But it's the 12km descent into Morzine and the final climb to the finish line that could make a difference for many riders—especially if the gaps between them on the Tour's GC are small. As for the stage winner, expect another breakaway to be given a long enough leash to take the day's honors, possibly containing a few out-of-contention former GC favorites trying to end their Tours on a high note. By the end of the day, we'll know the winner of the 2016 Tour de France.
Stage 21 - Chantilly to Paris Champs-Élysées, 113km - Sunday, July 24
As it has since 1975, the Tour de France concludes with nine laps on the Champs-Élysées. This year's final stage begins in front of the Chateau de Chantilly, one of the Paris region's many architectural masterpieces. And while the day begins with leisurely photo opportunities and glasses of champagne, it ends with one of the most hotly-contested field sprints in cycling. Germans have owned the Champs-Élysées in recent years, with Kittel winning there in 2013 and 2014 and Greipel winning last year. Before them, Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish dominated the Champs, with a record-setting four consecutive wins from 2009 to 2012.