The 107th Tour de France is almost upon us. It may be August going into September but never mind the Tour is the Tour. While there are still worries about Covid-19, it is a relief to see that we have a race on but will the 2020 Tour make it all the way round from Nice to Paris?
The Grand Départ kicks off the yearly tradition of opening the Grand Boucle but there is an added concern that Nice is now a red zone for the virus. Organisers ASO and the local authorities have made it clear that there will need to be tight controls on spectator numbers restricted at the start and end of each stage.
It is a shame that we won’t see packed crowds or podium presentations at each stage finish but these are sadly the times we’re living in. We have a race and the 107th Tour de France is certainly a mountainous edition.
As you’ll see below this year’s route covers southern France and is entirely French for the first time since 2013. Nothing to do with Covid-19 but there are no ventures into Italy, Spain, Switzerland or Belgium (although borders are close) – every kilometre is inside the French border.
Three weeks from Nice to Paris all five of the country’s mountain ranges – here is the 2020 route map and the stage-by-stage guide.
Stage 1 Nice – Nice @ 156 km (Saturday 29th August)
A first Grand Départ for Nice since 1981 and the 36th time on the Tour map. The start of this year’s Tour is unusual but could offer some exciting racing after two days.
Stage 1 is two loops north of the city including the hardest obstacle of the day – the Côte de Rimiez. The finish is on the Promenade des Anglais. There are 38 km between the final climb and the flat finish, so could an attacker steal it from the sprinters.
The opening stage should see a bunch sprint to determine who will wear the first yellow jersey.
Stage 2 Nice – Nice @ 187 km (Sunday 30th August)
A mountain stage only two stages in should provide the perfect indicator as to who’s on form or off form. First category Cols de la Colmiane and Turini are the two important climbs of the day but it’s the Col d’Èze, familiar if you watch Paris-Nice, that’ll provide the winning move if there’s a select group of riders towards the finish.
9 km out from the line the Èze summit could be the catalyst for attacks. A contender for yellow could just sneak in a move to put some time into their rivals. Also worth a mention is the new format introduced in 2018 by the organisers – bonus seconds situated at the top of climbs throughout the three weeks. The Col des Quatre Chemins is actually the first part of the Col d’Èze, so bonus seconds of 8, 5 and 2 seconds are awarded for the first three riders across the line.
Stage 2 could be where the Tour is either won or lost so an important day.
Stage 3 Nice – Sisteron @ 198 km (Monday 31st August)
A scenic stage across Provence as the Tour says goodbye to Nice and heads through towns such as Grasse and Digne les Bains before finishing on flat arounds in Sisteron.
Stage 3 heads along the Route Napoléon, so which of the pure sprinters will be emperor of the bunch sprint here?
Stage 4 Sisteron – Orcières-Merlette @ 157 km (Tuesday 1st September)
Mountains on stage two and a summit finish as early as stage four – this is one unusual Tour de France! An early route into the Dévoluy mountains will be great for the helicopter shots but the 1,800m summit finish at Orcières-Merlette will the first big test for the GC men to show what they’ve got.
There will be a GC shake up but perhaps too early to conclude who’s won or lost the Tour. Stage 4 could suit a Julian Alaphilippe attack or maybe a Dan Martin type of stage?
Stage 5 Gap – Privas @ 183 km (Wednesday 2nd September)
Undulating roads and largely downhill, Stage 5 will be another opportunity for the sprinters. There is an uphill false-flat road with 7 km to go but the pure sprinters shouldn’t be troubled.
Stage 6 Le Teil – Mont Aigoual @ 191 km (Thursday 3rd September)
Another tough summit finish for the second time in three days. Stage start Le Teil and finish Mont Aigoual have never hosted the Tour de France so this will be a new finish for all of us. Bonus seconds are on offer atop the Col de la Lusette but they could be swept up by a breakaway.
This stage looks tailor-made for a breakaway winner. Could this be Thomas De Gendt’s day or maybe a Frenchman? Pierre Rolland might be a good bet or possibly Julian Alaphilippe again?
The favourites will also have to be super focused – a stage that could offer some interesting moments.
Stage 7 Millau – Lavaur @ 168 km (Friday 4th September)
The Aveyron and Tarn regions can be windy, so echelons could have an impact on how this stage unfolds. 168 km starting from Millau and its famous viaduct to Lavaur with a lumpy day in between. Stages in the Massif Central can always throw up some unexpected moments and this stage could do exactly that. The parcours isn’t entirely flat so it come down to a breakaway stealing the show. Another three days until a pure sprinters stage, the sprinters teams won’t want to be denied here with the Pyrénées on the horizon.
Stage 8 Cazères-sur-Garonne – Loudenvielle @ 140 km (Saturday 5th September)
This is a typical stage for the Pyrénées. Two category one ascents and the first super-category climb of the 2020 Tour – the Port de Balès.
We’ve lost count how many times the Grand Boucle has climbed the Peyresourde, a mountain pass that always provides drama. Stage 8 should be where either Jumbo-Visma or Team Ineos control the pace. If a GC contender is in the yellow jersey at this point what do they do – attack or defend?
The descent to Loudenvielle is the key – perfect for Primož Roglič to have a go.
Stage 9 Pau – Laurns @ 154 km (Sunday 6th September)
A stage for the breakaway. The Col de la Hourcère and Col de Soudet have been ridden before but the Col de Marie Blanque is a new climb for all to see.
154 km from Pau, which makes its 73rd appearance at the Tour to Laruns, where Primož Roglič descended the Aubisque to take a stage win in 2018. Three ascents with an elevation of more than 1,000m – Stage 9 should provide the perfect end to week one.
Stage 10 Île D’Oléron – Île de Ré @ 170 km (Tuesday 8th September)
A well earned rest day and a transfer from the Pyrénées to the Atlantic coast. 170 km from one island to the other on the flattest stage of the entire Tour. Passing through the seaside towns of Saint-Palais-sur-Mer and Royan before a loop north through Rochefort and on towards the Île de Ré via La Rochelle – a bunch sprint is inevitable unless the wind blows and splits the race. The GC men won’t want to be caught out here.
Stage 11 Châtelaillon-Plage – Poitiers @ 167 km (Wednesday 9th September)
By the time we reach the Poitou-Charente region we’ll know which sprinters have won already. Back-to-back sprint stages don’t come often and here the ones who have yet to score a win will be desperate to do so.
A bunch sprint in Poitiers, back on the Tour de France map for the first time since 1978.
Stage 12 Chauvigny – Sarran @ 218 km (Thursday 10th September)
The longest stage and enters right into the heart of France. Chauvigny is as French as it comes with an ancient church on the banks of the Vienne river before the stages becomes lumpy as the Tour heads back towards the Massif Central.
The toughest uphill en route is the Suc au May. The first three riders atop this 5.7 km climb at 8.8% gain time bonuses of 8, 5 and 2 seconds.
Given that its over 200 km and the lumpy nature of the stage, a breakaway is likely to be successful again here.
Stage 13 Châtel-Guyon – Puy Mary @ 191 km (Friday 11th September)
This is arguably the hardest stage and in recent years the organisers have been bold with new historic firsts.
In 2017 never before had the Tour stopped atop the Col d’Izoard, for 2020, the Tour has never finished at the top of the Puy Mary – until now.
An elevation gain of 4,400 metres, Stage 13 is one not to be missed as we’ll definitely see attack after attack. We haven’t reached the Alps just yet but this stage is where you really need to show if you’ve got what it takes to win the Tour de France.
Stage 14 Clermont-Ferrand – Lyon @ 197 km (Saturday 12th September)
If the Tour manages to continue after leaving Nice for the Grand Départ (fingers crossed) then apart from Paris, the cities of Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon will be the only other large urban areas the Tour de France will enter.
The organisers have produced an interesting stage here where it looks easy on paper but with roughly 15 km to go the riders tackle the Côte de la Duchère: 1.6 km at 4.1% with the first half toughest at 6.8%. The route continues over the Montée de l’Observance – 500m high at 10% – before cresting the Côte de la Croix-Rousse – 1.8 km long at 4.5% – then a 5 km downhill to the line.
Stage 15 Lyon – Grand Colombier @ 175 km (Sunday 13th September)
This is where you have to show your Grand Tour credentials. If you want to win the Tour de France, taking a stage win atop the Grand Colombier would mean a mighty step forward to achieving your aims.
A super-steep climb in the southern Jura, the Grand Colombier is a Tour de France legend but like the Puy Mary on Stage 13, never before has the Grand Boucle finished atop the famous summit.
This is where Thibaut Pinot could excel if he wants to become the first Frenchman in over thirty years to win the maillot jaune.
Stage 16 La Tour-du-Pin – Villard-de-Lans @ 164 km (Tuesday 15th September)
Into the third and final week and the first stage in the Alps offers a punchy finish to Villard-de-Lans. An 11 km climb into the Vercors Massif, the stage finale might suit an early breakaway and the winner will be a typical mountain goat. You could be tempted to go for Richie Porte or his Trek-Segafredo team-mate Bauke Mollema here.
Stage 17 Grenoble – Col de la Loze @ 168 km (Wednesday 16th September)
2,304m above sea level after 21.5km climbing, with gradients of 20% – this is one heck of a stage. The final general classification could be confirmed on Stage 17 where we’ll see the Col de la Madeleine feature before a new summit finish atop the Col de la Loze.
Could this be the stage where defending champion Egan Bernal seals his second successive Tour de France title?
Stage 18 Méribel – La Roche-sur-Foron @ 168 km (Thursday 17th September)
The final mountain stage before the final time trial on Stage 20. All the GC contenders will need to be at the top of their game as Stage 18 is no easy day in the saddle.
168 km long with five Alpine monsters to get over including the Col des Aravis and the gravel roads of the Plateau de Glières. Stage 17 is the toughest of the three stages in the Alps but never discount a surprise on Stage 18. The final in La Roche-sur-Foron features a final climb called the Col des Fleuries, not the hardest Alpine pass in the world but the scenery will be immense.
Stage 19 Bourg-en-Bresse – Champagnole @160 km (Friday 18th September)
Remember 2017 when Edvald Boasson Hagen took Stage 19 into Salon-de-Provence, a day where the breakaway could have some fun?
Well Stage 19 from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole is broadly the same sort of stage where teams who have yet to win a stage will do their upmost to try and salvage something from this Tour.
There is a likelihood that this stage could also finish in a sprint only if you’ve survived the mountains that is!
Stage 20 Lure – La Planche des Belles Filles @ 36 km (Saturday 19th September)
One final time trial but not as you know it!
A 36 km individual time trial to determine who will win the 107th Tour de France but the caveat is that the finish is atop the new Tour de France legend – La Planche des Belles Filles.
The uphill drags on for 5.9 km at 8.5% before the steepest stretch at 20% appears just before the line – we’re expecting to see some mountain time trial bikes here! Stage 20 is going to be unmissable and the Tour at its most brutal. Less time trial kilometres in recent editions means more exciting racing so we do hope the Tour makes it this far into the Vosges mountains.
Stage 21 Mantes-la-Jolie – Paris Champs-Élysées @ 122 km (Sunday 20th September)
The final procession into Paris and once again if the Tour makes it to the Champs-Élysées then we’ll be very happy to see the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triumphe as though they’re our best friends we haven’t seen in a while.
One final bunch sprint before the traditional dishing out of the jerseys and the winner of the 107th Tour de France is crowned.
Caleb Ewan won the sprint last year so who will it be this year?