A mountain time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles is set to be the definitive stage of the 2020 Tour de France – which starts in Nice on Saturday 29 August – with this year’s race set to feature a varied and testing route.
At the route launch, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme introduced a race which, as ever, features key stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps but in which the final battles will be staged in the Vosges Mountains.
The highlight of the race will be the penultimate stage, a time trial starting in Lure and concluding on the Planche des Belles Filles. The 36km test is the only time trial on the 2020 route.
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La Planche des Belles Filles itself is 5.9km long, with an average gradient of 8.5 per cent. There is a real sting in the tail as the gradient approaches one-in-four near the top, however.
Among the four summit finishes on the route are the Alpine ski resort of Orcières-Merlette 1850, Mont Aigoual and Puy Mary in the Central Massif, and Grand Colombier in the Juras.
Intermediate climbs include the Col de la Lusette, Col de Peyresourde, Col de la Hourcere, Col de Marie-Blanque, Montee de la Selle de Fromentel, Col de la Madeleine and the gravel-covered Montee de Plateau des Glieres.
All six of France’s mountain ranges are covered by the route, which for 2020 stays entirely within France.
Nice Grand Départ
It was already known the 2020 Tour de France would roll out from Nice, with the race now set to begin on Saturday 29 August. The race was due to take place in July but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The race starts with a 156km opening stage composed of two loops of a small circuit around Nice and one bigger circuit, with a flat finale expected to suit the sprinters.
Stage two is the first climbing test – a 190km stage that starts and finishes in Nice and includes the Col de la Colmiane, Col de Turini and Col d’Eze. The route will also be used for the Etape du Tour sportive, which will now take place in 2021.
Early climbing tests
The peloton faces another big climbing test on stage four, when the ski resort of Orcières-Merlette (1,825m) hosts the stage finish – a hairpin-laden, 7.1km final ascent with an average gradient of 6.7 per cent.
It will be the first stage to finish atop the resort since a time trial in 1989.
Another climb returning for the first time in more than three decades is Mont Aigoual – last featured in 1987 – where stage six concludes at 1,560m. The stage also includes the Col de la Lusette (11.7km at 7.3 per cent).
The first week concludes in the Pyrenees, before a flat, coastal stage between Île d’Oléron and Île de Ré starts week two – a stage on which crosswinds could be a major factor.
The Col du Grand Colombier is the final climb of the second week of racing – the summit finish to stage 15 on Saturday 12 July.
Peaking at 1,501m, the peloton will tackle the southern ascent – a 17.4km climb with an average gradient of 7.1 per cent.
Mountain time trial
The final week then includes stage finishes at Villard-de-Lans and the stunning Col de la Loze – the race’s highest summit finish at 2,304m – before the eagerly-awaited time trial up La Planche des Belles Filles.
The race concludes, as ever, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris with a largely ceremonial stage ending with the traditional final sprint battle on the famous avenue on Sunday 20 September.
Bernal won last year’s Tour de France, taking the yellow jersey from Julian Alaphilippe on a rain-shortened 19th stage to seal victory for the first time ahead of the Paris finale.
The Colombian was the first rider to win the race for Team Ineos since it took over the sponsorship of the former Team Sky.
Between Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and now Bernal, the team has won seven of the last eight editions of the race.
Bernal leads the team again this year and is among the favourites for the yellow jersey, while the mountain time trial in Thibaut Pinot’s backyard on stage 20 should excite the Frenchman.
With more climbs and no long, flat time trials, Pinot, Bernal and Romain Bardet could all feature at the sharp end of the battle for the yellow jersey.
Tour de France 2020: route
- Saturday 29 August – stage one: Nice to Nice (156km)
- Sunday 30 August – stage two: Nice to Nice (187km)
- Monday 31 August – stage three: Nice to Sisteron (198km)
- Tuesday 1 September – stage four: Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette 1,850 (157km, summit finish)
- Wednesday 2 September – stage five: Gap to Privas (183km)
- Thursday 3 September – stage six: Le Teil to Mont Aigoual (191km, summit finish)
- Friday 4 September – stage seven: Millau to Lavaur (168km)
- Saturday 5 September – stage eight: Cazeres to Loudenvielle (140km)
- Sunday 6 September – stage nine: Pau to Laruns (154km)
- Monday 7 September – rest day one
- Tuesday 8 September – stage ten: Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré (170km)
- Wednesday 9 September – stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers (167km)
- Thursday 10 September – stage 12: Chavigny to Sarran (218km)
- Friday 11 September – stage 13: Chatel-Guyon to Puy Mary (191km, summit finish)
- Saturday 12 September – stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon (197km)
- Sunday 13 September – stage 15: Lyon to Grand Colombier (175km, summit finish)
- Monday 14 September – rest day two
- Tuesday 15 September – stage 16: Tour du Pin to Villard-de-Lans (164km, summit finish)
- Wednesday 16 September – stage 17: Grenoble to Méribel (168km, summit finish)
- Thursday 17 September – stage 18: Méribel to La Roche-sur-Foron (168km)
- Friday 18 September – stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole (160km)
- Saturday 19 September – stage 20: Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles (individual time trial, 36km)
- Sunday 20 September – stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris (122km)
When does the 2020 Tour de France start?
The 2020 edition of the Tour de France will now start in Nice on Saturday 29 August.