A guide to the Tour de France
A stage by stage guide to the Tour de France 2016. This video gives an overview of the 2016 race route:
The Tour de France 2016 gets under way with a Grand Départ in the French département of La Manche. Mont Saint-Michel will provide a stunning backdrop to the start of Stage 1, and the riders will travel 188km to Utah Beach (Sainte Marie du Mont). The riders will pass through territory associated with the Battle for Normandy, towards the end of World War II, and Utah Beach is one of the Normandy landings beaches used by the Americans in June 1944.
The first part of the route is along the coast, and could be affected by crosswinds. The stage is flat, though, and is likely to result in a bunch sprint. Read about Stage 1, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 2 starts in St-Lô, and makes its way through the Normandy countryside, known as the bocage Normand. Villages along the way include Hambye, Montpinchon, and the town of Coutances. The second part of the stage is alongside dunes on the Channel coast, through St-Germain-sur-Ay, Portbail, Barneville-Carteret, and Les Pieux. The climax of the race is at Cherbourg: after visiting the port, the riders must tackle a 3km, 14% gradient, climb of la Glacerie to the finish line. This could suit a puncheur, rather than an out-and-out sprinter, and it's not out of the question that there could be some time gaps amongst the GC contenders. Read about Stage 2, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 3 starts in Granville, and heads east to Villedieu-les-Poêles. In a test of my keyboard skills, it then turns south on the D999 to another town which has a funny accent over the 'e', Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët. After Louvigné-du-Désert, it goes through Fougères, then Vitré and Argentré-du-Plessis. It'll give a nod to former Tour de France riders by passing through Ballots and Renazé, then continue to Segré. The approach to Angers is via la Pouëze, St-Clément-de-la-Place, and la Meignanne, and the stage is likely to finish with a bunch sprint to the line in front of the Town Hall in Angers. Read about Stage 3, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 4 starts in Saumur and goes south to Montreuil-Bellay, les Trois-Moutiers, Loudun, Châtellerault, Saint-Savin, and Montmorillon. It then passes from the Vienne département to the Haute Vienne, going through le Dorat (where there's an intermediate sprint), and becoming more hilly as it nears Limoges. At 232km, this is the longest stage of the 2016 Tour. There are two categorised climbs towards the end of the stage, but overall, it's flat enough to be likely to end in another sprint, in front of the Town Hall in Limoges. Read about Stage 4, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 5 is the first mountain stage of the 2016 Tour de France. It leaves Limoges, and heads south east into the Massif Central - first the Millevaches Limousin area, then the Volcans d'Auvergne. Early in the stage, it goes through Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, home town of Raymond Poulidor. There's a sprint at Mauriac, then most of the climbing comes towards the end of this 216km stage - with the Col de Neronne, the Pas de Peyrol, the Col du Perthus, and the Col de Font de Cère, before the last 3km downhill to the village and ski resort of le Lioran. Read about Stage 5, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 6 is classified flat, although there are three short climbs. It goes south west from Arpajon-sur-Cère to join the river Lot at la Vieillevie, and continues to Flagnac. The first climb, the Col des Estaques, takes the race away from the Lot, and into the coal-mining country of Decazeville and Aubin. The next climb is out of Aubin towards the intermediate sprint at Montbazens. The riders then go to the historic ville bastide of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, and on to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the Aveyron gorges. The final climb is out of Saint-Antonin, then it's a fast run-in via Montricoux and Nègrepelisse to a probable sprint finish in Montauban. Read about Stage 6, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 7 takes the riders to the Pyrenees, and includes a 12km climb of the Col d'Aspin, before a 7km descent to the finish at Lac de Payolle. This is classified as a mountain stage. Earlier in the day, the riders take a rolling route through villages on the Plateau de Lannemezan. There's a 4th Category climb of the Côte de Capvern, then a sprint at Sarrancolin. It's the Col d'Aspin, though, which could split the field, and the final descent might be significant too, in determining the stage winner, and affecting the General Classification. Read about Stage 7, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 8 starts in Pau and goes via the Catholic pilgrimmage town of Lourdes to the Pyrenees mountains. The intermediate sprint comes before all the climbs, at Esquièze-Sère. This is the main French Pyrenean mountain stage, and it includes four categorised climbs, starting with the toughest, the Col du Tourmalet (HC). Next comes the 2nd Category Hourquette d'Ancizan, followed by the Category 1 climbs of the Col d'Azet Val-Louron and the Col de Peyresourde. From there, it's a 15.5km descent to the finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon. Read about Stage 8, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 9 starts in Vielha Val d'Aran in Spain, just over the border from Bagnères-de-Luchon (where Stage 8 finishes). It's a Pyrenean mountain stage, and the climbing starts from the moment the flag goes down. The first part of the day is in Catalonia, Spain, with climbs of the Port de la Bonaigua (Cat. 1) and the Port del Canto (Cat. 1). Shortly after the race crosses into Andorra, there's an intermediate sprint in the Andorran capital, Andorra la Vella. Then, there are three more climbs - the Côte de la Comella (Cat. 2), the Col de Beixalis (Cat. 1), and the final climb to a summit finish at Andorra Arcalis (hors catégorie, and finishing at an altitude of 2,240m). The riders will probably be relieved that Stage 9 is followed by a rest day. Read about Stage 9, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 10 of the 2016 Tour is a hilly stage, covering 197km from Escaldes Engordany (in Andorra) to Revel (in the Aude département of the south of France). The big (Category 1) climb comes near the start of the stage, to 2,408m at the top of the Port d'Envalira. After that, there's 60km of downhill, before rolling terrain near the finish. The riders reach Revel, then they have to do a finishing circuit involving a Category 3 climb of the Côte de Saint-Ferréol. The survivors of that ascent will battle it out in a sprint for the stage win back in the centre of Revel. Read about Stage 10, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 11 of the 2016 Tour is a flat stage for the sprinters, over 162.5km from Carcassonne to Montpellier. Setting off from Carcassonne, it goes east, between the Canal du Midi and the Mediterranean to the south, and the Montagne Noire to the north. This is wine country, and much of the race is on small roads through vineyards, visiting villages such as Saint-Chinian and Murviel-lès-Béziers. There are two Category 4 climbs early in the stage, the Côte de Minerve and the Côte de Villespassans; the intermediate sprint is at Pézenas. It's likely to be a bunch sprint to the finish line at the Altrad Stadium in Montpellier. Read about Stage 11, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 12 of the 2016 Tour leaves Montpellier and heads east through vineyards and past the Perrier mineral water source and bottling plant. It crosses the river Rhône, and goes to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where van Gogh lived for a year. Crossing the Durance at Cavaillon (famous for its melons), it passes the Montagne du Lubéron (associated with the book A Year in Provence), and continues to the perched village of Gordes. Here, the climbing starts, with the Côte de Gordes (Category 4) and the Côte des Trois Termes (Category 3). After that, Mont Ventoux looms, large, and an hors catégorie slog to the finish at 1,912m. Read about Stage 12, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 13 of the 2016 Tour is an individual time trial, 37km from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to la Caverne du Pont-d'Arc. It starts with a climb out of Bourg-Saint-Andéol, gaining 314m in the first few kilometres, then continuing on a plateau to Saint Remèze. After the Col du Serre de Tourre, the route descends to the Gorges de l'Ardèche and the famous Pont d'Arc. It passes through the village of Vallon Pont d'Arc, and goes uphill to the finish at la Caverne du Pont-d'Arc. Read about Stage 13, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 14 of the 2016 Tour is 208.5km up the Rhône valley from Montélimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux. There are three Category 4 climbs, which all come before the half-way point in the race. The intermediate sprint is at la Fayette, after 145.5km. Romans-sur-Isère is the main historic town of interest along the way. The Mistral blows down the Rhône valley about 50% of the time, so there could well be a head-wind. The finish is at a bird reserve, the Parc des Oiseaux, Villars-les-Dombes - set in a watery, and flat, landscape. Bank on a bunch sprint. Read about Stage 14, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 15 of the 2016 Tour is 160km in the Jura mountains from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz. There are six categorised climbs on the day, and really no respite - either the riders are going up, or they're going down. The intermediate sprint is on a rare piece of flat road at Hauteville-Lompnes. The major ascent on the stage is of the Col du Grand Colombier (hors catégorie). After the col, they join a 'finishing circuit', which involves descending to Anglefort, riding beside the river Rhône to Culoz, ascending part way up the Grand Colombier on the Lacets du Grand Colombier, descending to Anglefort again, and making a final dash along the river to Culoz and the finish line. It's a relatively short, but intense, stage, and it'll be important for the GC contenders that they don't have a bad day. Read about Stage 15, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 16 of the 2016 Tour is 209km from Moirans-en-Montagne in the Jura, France, to Bern, Switzerland. Although the stage is classified as flat, it's rolling terrain in the Jura, and the riders reach an altitude of 902m at the border with Switzerland. From there, the race descends the Val-de-Travers to the Lac de Neuchâtel, and passes along the north western shore of the lake. The one categorised climb of the day, the Côte de Mühleberg (Category 4), comes as the race leaves the lake behind, and heads towards Bern. In Bern, the riders pass close to the river Aare, then climb away from it in the penultimate kilometre; the final kilometre, up Papiermühlestrasse to theStade de Suisse, is flat. Read about Stage 16, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 17 of the 2016 Tour de France is 184.5km from Bern to the Emosson dam, in Switzerland for the whole day. There are two Category 3 climbs in the Bernese Oberland, around the middle of the stage, then an intermediate sprint after 150km at Martigny. It's a tough end to the day's racing, with the climb of the Col de Forclaz (Category 1) closely followed by an hors catégorie climb to the finish at the Emosson dam. There could be a shake-up in the GC. Read about Stage 17, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 18 of the 2016 Tour is an uphill individual time trial, 17km from Sallanches to Megève. After an opening 4km on the flat, the rest of the route climbs - steeply up the Côte de Domancy, with a shallower gradient through Combloux and Demi-Quartier, then steeply again up the Côte des Chozeaux. The last little bit is downhill into the chic ski resort of Megève. Read about Stage 18, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 19 of the 2016 Tour is an Alpine stage from Albertville to St Gervais Mont Blanc (Le Bettex). The main climbs are the Collet (and Col) de Tamié, the Col de la Forclaz (Montmin), the Col de la Forclaz (Queige), the Montée de Bisanne and Col des Saisies, and the Côte des Amerands and Montée de Bettex. This mountain stage will almost certainly split the field, and help decide the General Classification. Read about Stage 19, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 20 is another mountain stage in the Alps, and regarded as the Queen Stage of the 2016 Tour. The route from Megève takes in the climbs of the Col des Aravis, the Col de la Colombière, the Col de la Ramaz, and the Col de Joux Plane. The final part of the day is a 12km descent to Morzine. Afterwards, only the processional ride to Paris remains, so the rider leading at the end of Stage 20 will almost certainly win the Tour. Read about Stage 20, Tour de France 2016.
Stage 21 is the traditional final stage of the Tour de France, with the GC already settled, and a prestigious stage win on the Champs-Elysées at stake. The riders start north of Paris in Chantilly, and wend their way to the outskirts of the city, before crossing the Seine to the Bois de Boulogne, then entering Paris via the Porte Maillot. They pass the Arc de Triomphe, and descend via place de l'Alma and place Concorde to the Louvre. Here, they begin 8 complete tours of the finishing circuit, up the Champs-Elysées, and back down to the Louvre via place de l'Alma. The ninth time over the line (part way up the Champs-Elysées) is the important one, which will determine the stage winner. Read about Stage 21, Tour de France 2016.
The 2016 Tour de France begins at Mont St Michel, in the Manche département of France.
The Michelin Guide asks of Mont Saint-Michel, 'What is the
reason for the world's fascination with Mont Saint-Michel? No doubt it
is something which goes beyond the beauty of the architecture or its
long history; perhaps it is the whiff of mystery that seems linked to
the movement of the tides, to the play of the twilight on the water and
the walls, to the cry of the gulls gliding above the salty grass marsh.'
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