Oxygen mask recommended: the Tour de France 2024, with a unique route, which plans a departure from Italy and an arrival in Nice, will gain altitude next summer, with several incursions beyond 2000 m and the passage by the highest asphalt road in France.
Presented Wednesday at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, the 111e edition of the Grande Boucle will be unlike any other since it will be the first departure from Italy, from Florence, on June 29, and the first arrival outside Paris, in Nice, on July 21.
These two new features, unveiled a few months ago, are linked to the holding of the Olympic Games in Paris. Going from abroad, for the third year in a row, and arriving far from the capital had become necessary in order not to overload the police and not to interfere with the final preparations for the Olympic Games.
This redraws the balance of a centuries-old race which will start a week earlier than usual, pass through the Alps twice, cross the Galibier on the fourth day and finish in Nice with a second individual time, 35 years after the defeat by eight seconds of Laurent Fignon against Greg Lemond on the Champs-Élysées.
The same logic pushes the women’s Tour de France to set off for the first time from abroad, from Rotterdam, on August 12, the day after the closing ceremony of the Olympics, and to have half of its eight stages outside the borders of France, before arriving at Alpe d’Huez.
25 km above 2000 m
The men will spend most of their time in France, but they will start with three stages on Italian soil, which has never before hosted a “grand start” — “an anomaly of history for this country of cycling legend », According to the boss of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme.
The peloton will then reach France by crossing the Alps for the first time via the endless climb towards Sestrières (40 km!), the Montgenèvre, Lautaret and Galibier passes to arrive at Valloire.
This stage foreshadows a Tour that is less mountainous than this year’s – 27 passes, or 3 fewer than in 2023 – but which will often be close to the sky.
From its height of 2642 m, the Galibier is often the roof of the Tour. It will be passed this time by the summit of the Bonette, which sits at 2802 m, the highest asphalt road in France, which the peloton will take during the 19e stage, towards Isola 2000, which also passes through the Col de Vars (2109 m).
If we add the venerable Tourmalet (2115 m), in the Pyrenees, the runners will spend no less than 25 km beyond the 2000 meter altitude barrier. A place where Tadej Pogačar has never felt very comfortable, unlike his rival Jonas Vingegaard.
“It’s a beautiful course, very hard. It suits me well. I’m very happy with what I saw,” said the outgoing two-time winner.
A time in the vineyards
The French champion, Valentin Madouas, has “rarely seen a Tour where the last ten days are so hard”. British sprinter Mark Cavendish said he was downright “in shock” at the difficulty of the route, which also includes a compact penultimate stage (133 km), but steep, to the top of the Col de la Couillole, and a timed very hilly 34 km between Monaco and Nice on the last day.
There will previously be a first 25 km time trial, rather flat, at the end of the first week, in the vineyards between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin, a call for the Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel, who should compete in his first Tour in 2024.
There will obviously also be several stages promised to the sprinters, including the one arriving at the foot of the Cross of Lorraine in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, the village of General de Gaulle. But also, to break the routine of the plain stages, a loop around Troyes on aesthetic white paths – 14 are on the program, for a total of 32 km.
The Tour will also revisit the Massif Central, in a potentially explosive eleventh stage totaling 4,350 m of elevation gain. Before heading towards the Pyrenees for two of the four summit finishes of the 2024 Tour: at Pla d’Adet first, via the Tourmalet, for the 50th anniversary of Raymond Poulidor’s last victory, and the next day on the plateau by Beille.
In short, there should be something for everyone during this very special edition, before a return to more classic bases in 2025, with a return already confirmed on the Champs-Élysées and a possible departure from Hauts-de-France .