Revealed: The route of the 2016 Tour de France

The highest mountain in western Europe, Mont Blanc will take a starring role in the 2016 edition of the Tour de France, whose complete route was unveiled in Paris on Tuesday. The iconic Mont Ventoux will also feature once again.

Revealed: The route of the 2016 Tour de France

Next July, Briton Chris Froome will spend three days staring at the Alpine behemoth, which rises to more than 4,800 metres above sea level, as he attempts to defend the most prestigious title in cycling, which he won for the second time earlier this year.

The departure from the world famous Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy on July 2, 2016, has been known already for a year but that first 188km stage will also doff its cap at history with a finish at Utah Beach, one of the D-Day landings sites during World War II.

It's a Tour described as “a sporting challenge in beautiful surroundings” by Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

The opening stage will pass the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, which Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States of America, once described as the “most beautiful kilometre in France”.

Notably for the hosts, the finish to the 12th stage on July 14, France's Bastille Day national holiday, will take place on the epic Mont Ventoux, a windswept 15.7km long climb that averages a punishing 8.8 percent gradient.

Froome, 30, will likely let a smile crack over his lips in anticipation of that 185km stage as it was by winning there during the 2013 Tour that he tied up his maiden success at the Grand Boucle.

Froome started that day, the 15th stage, 2min 28sec ahead of Bauke Mollema but finished it with 4min 14sec in hand on the Dutchman and his more likely rivals, such as Colombian Nairo Quintana, who was second on the stage at 29sec, remained a distant sixth overall at almost 6min off the pace.

Quintana would recover time and form to finish second overall — as he was earlier this year — but even in winning the penultimate stage he still ended up more than 4min behind Froome when the race reached Paris.

Discover the full route here

Sprint finishes

After the nervy, challenging first week of the 2015 Tour that took in wind, cobbles, driving rain and many difficulties, the 2016 edition will be more inviting and appealing to the sprinters.

The opening stage is almost certain to end with a sprint finish, as are the third and fourth stages.

But the second stage from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg includes a final 3km kick up that should suit a specialist puncher, such as world champion Peter Sagan or Ireland's 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin.

The Tour heads unusually quickly to the mountains where it will dip into Spain and Andorra during the Pyrenean stages before also visiting the Swiss Alps later on.

The fifth stage will offer the first mountainous challenge in the Massif Central, although the finish into Le Lioran is largely downhill.

But the seventh stage will take the peloton into the Pyrenees where a number of monsters loom on the horizon, including the Col du Tourmalet, the ninth stage finish up to Andorre Arcalis and the Port d'Envalira at the start of the 10th stage, which at 2,407m will be the highest point of the race.

In total, there will be four summit finishes, one less than this year, but several stages which include a short but tricky or technical descent to the end after a tough climb.

“The Tour is always for the climbers,” insisted Prudhomme, with 28 high-categorised climbs on the 2016 Tour's menu, three more than the last two years.

There are two individual timetrials, one at 37km long which could provoke significant gaps amongst the contenders, and a second at just 17km, but which comprises 15km of climbing, including the 2.5km long Cote de Domancy with it's 9.4 percent average gradient.

That's one of three stages in which a view of Mont Blanc will be almost omnipresent.

“Three days around Mont Blanc will be fantastic,” said Prudhomme.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.