Five key stages that will define the 2020 Tour de France

Where this year's Tour de France could be won and lost

Peter Sagan of Bora Hansgrohe and Egan Bernal of Team Ineos

Having been pushed back to a late August start as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the eagerly-awaited 107th edition of the Tour de France will finally roll out from Nice on Saturday 29 August.

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A testing route was unveiled for the 2020 race way back in October 2019, with 29 categorised climbs spread across all six of France’s mountain ranges.

The course features a mountain time trial, an unpaved summit and a handful of deceptive, flatter stages that, even with normal preparation, could catch riders unaware if they are not careful.

The 2020 Tour de France route in numbers

The 2020 Tour takes place wholly in France from 29 August to 20 September. The race visits six regions and 32 departments. The route includes:

  • Nine flat stages
  • Three hilly stages
  • Eight mountain stages
  • Four mountain-top finishes (Orcières-Merlette, Puy Mary, Grand Colombier, Méribel Col de la Loze)
  • One individual time-trial stage
  • Two rest days

Given the unusual – and prolonged – build-up to the 2020 race, riders will need to be even more on their guard than usual from the very first stage in Nice.

Here are five stages that could define the 2020 race.

Stage one – Nice to Nice

Saturday 29 August – 156km

Tour de France 2020 stage 1
Stage one is always a skittish affair, with fresh legs and high hopes for the Tour ahead.
A.S.O

This was always going to be a unique stage, at least for the Tour de France, whose currency is usually point-to-point routes. That is even more the case now, given the season to date.

Stage one features three loops of a circuit in and close to the city, including one to be covered twice, with three passages of the Promenade des Anglais along the seafront and two of the 5.8km, 5.1 per cent Côte de Rimiez, up through the suburbs north of Nice.

There’s nothing here that will lead to anything other than one of the sprinters bagging the first yellow jersey of the race, but it’s the pent-up energy in the peloton after such a long pause in racing in 2020 that will electrify this opening stage.

Stage one is always a skittish affair, with fresh legs and high hopes for the Tour ahead, and general classification riders are always aware of the well-worn adage that while they can’t win the race today, they sure can lose it with so much as a misplaced front wheel.

So for the teams with designs on yellow come Paris, keeping their leader out of harm’s way will be the name of the game – a game complicated by those teams with more immediate eyes on the maillot jaune.

Did you know?
Hosting the start can cost as much as all the other stages combined

Who does the stage suit?
Climbers ◉◎◎◎◎
Puncheurs ◉◎◎◎◎
Rouleurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Sprinters ◉◉◉◉◉

Stage four – Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette

Tuesday 1 September – 160.5km

Tour de France 2020 stage 4
Stage four features the first summit finish of the 2020 Tour. The 7.1km climb averages 6.7%, perfect for time-trialling climbers.
A.S.O

There are just five summit finishes this year – and this is the first. While stage two hits the heights early with a brush with the Alps, the likes of the Col de Turini midway through the stage appear too early to reap damage.

Not so today, as the race heads deeper into the Alps, adding to one of the most mountainous opening four days of the Tour in recent history. Further into the race, this sort of profile would have had breakaway specialists in a lather, but they will be on a tighter leash this early into the race.

The showdown comes on the road to the Orcières-Merlette ski resort at 1,825m. Seasoned Tour followers can be forgiven for not recognising the climb, given it was 1989 when it last appeared (in a mountain time trial where Greg Lemond reclaimed yellow in a famous seesaw battle with Laurent Fignon).

It’s a consistently steep 7.1km climb (6.7 per cent), perfect for time-trialling climbers such as Tom Dumoulin and Jumbo-Visma team-mate Primož Roglič. The first summit finish of the Tour is always eagerly awaited and we won’t have to wait as long this year to find out who has the legs in the mountains.

Did you know?
Lemond’s 1989 win over Fignon is the tightest ever: 8 seconds

Who does the stage suit?
Climbers ◉◉◉◎◎
Puncheurs ◉◉◉◉◎
Rouleurs ◉◉◎◎◎
Sprinters ◉◎◎◎◎

Stage 15 – Lyon to Grand Colombier

Sunday 13 September – 174.5km

Tour de France 2020 stage 15
The Grand Colombier is a relative newcomer, first starring in Bradley Wiggins’ triumphant 2012 Tour.
A.S.O

We’re now jumping forward to the final week for our next key stage, but look out for stage six’s summit finish on Mont Aigoual (1,560m) after close to 100 miles at sea level, and stage 13’s up and down epic through the Massif Central to Puy Mary, which may prove unlucky for some.

Today, however, is notable for the toughest summit finish of the race so far.

The Jura mountains’ Grand Colombier is a relative newcomer, first starring in Bradley Wiggins’ triumphant 2012 Tour. Its most recent appearance was in the very memorable stage nine to Chambéry in 2017, won by Rigoberto Urán, though that race went over the tougher Virieu-le-Petit side.

What this year’s Culoz side lacks in steepness (7.1 per cent) it makes up for in length (17.4km) – on top of the fact it’s a summit finish this time around, for the first time.

As ever, the difficulty and excitability of a stage is dictated by many more factors than how it looks on paper, and the fact it will run directly into the second rest day can send it either way – a thrilling, leave-it-all-on-the-road stage before a day off, or the calm before the storm of a final week that packs in both the Alps and Vosges mountains.

Did you know?
There are four routes to the summit of Grand Colombier

Who does the stage suit?
Climbers ◉◉◉◉◉
Puncheurs ◉◉◎◎◎
Rouleurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Sprinters ◉◎◎◎◎

Stage 17 – Grenoble to Méribel Col de la Loze

Wednesday 16 September – 170km

Tour de France 2020 stage 17
The Col de la Madeleine is one of the most oft-visited cols of the race and will climb from its steepest southern side from La Chambre (17.1km, 8.4%). The Col de la Loze climb, however, is brand new.
A.S.O

The race’s toughest finish and the only stage where the Tour busts through the 2,000m altitude barrier, which makes it one of the lowest loops of France we can remember.

After the familiar comes the unknown; the Col de la Madeleine is one of the most oft-visited cols of the race and will climb from its steepest southern side from La Chambre (17.1km, 8.4 per cent). Hot on its heels comes the stinging final climb, up through the Méribel ski resort and onto the Col de la Loze; not just a new climb for the race but a new climb full stop.

It’s not every day that new, paved mountain-top roads are opened in the Alps, but that’s the case with the Col de la Loze. It’s a road that connects the ski resorts of Méribel and Courchevel, which is good news in itself, but the best thing about it is that above both resorts the road is open only to cyclists.

Thirteen kilometres of traffic-free bliss for us, but perhaps not for those riders duking it out for the yellow jersey at the sharp end of the race.

Until Méribel (or, more specifically, 1,830m and kilometre 17 of the 21.5km climb), there’s little of concern to riders, but then the climb goes berserk in steep and irregular ways, averaging ten per cent over the final 4.5km, as the riders climb to the ceiling of the race (2,304m).

Did you know?
The newly-paved Col de la Loze is now the seventh-highest mountain pass in France

Who does the stage suit?
Climbers ◉◉◉◉◉
Puncheurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Rouleurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Sprinters ◉◎◎◎◎

Stage 20 – Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles

Saturday 19 September – 36.2km

Tour de France 2020 stage 20
After completing a lap of France, could the race be decided on the penultimate stage?
A.S.O

The mountain time trial is back – well, sort of. This is the only solo test of the race and it will have a big impact on the whole three weeks, affecting every choice along the way.

It’s not a long time trial, even by recent standards, but its finish on La Planche des Belles Filles is highly unusual. After riding 3,464.1km, so much could happen in its final 5.9km, as the leading contenders roll onto the gruelling slopes of the 8.5 per cent climb.

So much consideration will need to go into not just the calculation of effort but the choice of kit and, in particular, the bike.

We saw a similar, if easier, end to a time trial at the 2017 World Championships in Bergen, Norway, and the best testers – like winner Dumoulin and third-placed Chris Froome – stayed on their time-trial bikes rather than swapping to a road bike (second-placed Roglič switched to good effect).

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Mountain finish or not, the GC contenders who struggle in the discipline will need a huge buffer of time heading into stage 20 – as much as they’ll enjoy the finish on the mountain, the 30.3km leading into it is the sort of terrain where the likes of Dumoulin and Roglič can run riot.

Did you know?
2020 has the fewest time trial kilometres in Tour de France history (36.2km)

Who does the stage suit?
Climbers ◉◉◉◉◎
Puncheurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Rouleurs ◉◉◉◎◎
Sprinters ◉◎◎◎◎