What We Can Expect From Tour de France 2024
The routes of the 2024 Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift were unveiled in Paris, and we’ve since spent some time poring over both routes. Here are some of our early takeaways:
Foreign Starts for Both Men and Women
The Summer Olympics are taking place in Paris next summer, which presents a major logistical problem for the Tour de France for two main reasons: the men’s race usually finishes in Paris and the women’s race usually starts on the day the men’s race ends, which means the women’s race would reach its exciting climax just as the games are getting underway. To avoid this, the organisers have planned foreign starts for both events, with the men starting in Italy (which sounds weird–but also awesome) and the women starting in the Netherlands (which has already hosted the starts of all three men’s grand tours). And these stages will be nothing to sneeze at, with profiles and formats that will shape the battle to win each Tour, so the race to win the yellow jersey will be well underway by the time each peloton gets back into France. And to prevent their thunder from being stolen, the women’s race will begin on Monday, August 12th, 2024–after the conclusion of the Olympic games.
An Early Trip Through the Alps for the Men
To get the race back into France, the organisers are sending the men right into the Alps, with a stage that will ignite the GC battle (if it hasn’t started already). Beginning in Pinerolo, the stage covers four categorized climbs, including one of the toughest climbs in the French Alps: the hors categorie (“beyond category”) Col du Galibier, a 2 600-meter summit that the riders usually don’t have to worry about until the second or third week of the Tour. The stage ends with a hair-raising descent down the mountain and into Valloire, where a yellow jersey could be waiting for the winner.
The women were the first to race on gravel when they tackled the Champagne region’s gravel roads in 2022. Now the men get a turn on Stage 9, where a circuit beginning and ending in Troyes will send them over 32km of white gravel roads divided into 14 sectors–6 of which come in the finale of the stage. For fans, this will be a fantastic way to end the first week, but for the riders, it should be one of the most stressful and anticipated days of the Tour–and it comes just two days after the Tour’s first individual time trial, so at least a few riders will come into the stage already licking their wounds and desperate to gain back some time.
Back-to-Back Summit Finishes in the Pyrenees
After starting in the Basque Country, the 2023 Tour de France hit the Pyrenees early–like, first-week early–which made them a bit of an afterthought (even though the racing was incredibly aggressive). So this year the organisers have made the mountain range the focal point of the Tour’s second weekend, with back-to-back summit finishes on Stages 14 and 15. Over the course of the weekend, the riders will face 8 categorised climbs, one of the highest climbs in the Pyrenees (the 2115-meter Col du Tourmalet), and 8 750m of elevation gain. It’s also the Bastille Day holiday weekend, which means the roads will be lined with thousands of drunk celebratory fans.
A Trip Over the Highest Paved Road in France
The third week brings the men’s Tour across the south of France, which means there’s time for another–more significant–foray into the Alps. Stage 19 is the centerpiece here, with three 2000+m ascents including a summit finish at the Isola 2000 mountain resort. But the day’s second climb is the one that stands out to us: it’s called the Cime de la Bonette, and at 2 802m it’s the highest paved road in France (and the second-highest in the Alps). The panoramic views from the top are breathtaking–not that the riders will have time to stop and appreciate them.
A Riviera Wrap-Up for the Men
For the first time in history the Tour can’t finish in Paris–so it’s finishing in Nice. But the final weekend won’t be so nice (pun intended) for the riders with one last summit finish and a long individual time trial to decide the Tour once and for all. The final weekend begins with Stage 20, a trip through the Maritime Alps with four categorised climbs including a summit finish on the Col de la Couille. If you’ve ever watched March’s Paris-Nice week-long stage race, you might recognize the terrain. The Tour ends Sunday with Stage 21, a 34km individual time trial from Monaco to Nice’s Place Masséna (just off the Promenade des Anglais) that will pass through some of the French Riviera’s most luxurious terrain. If the race is still close, this race against the clock will determine the winner of the 111th Tour de France.
A Tough Course for Cav
After crashing out of this year’s Tour and failing to break the record for the most stage wins in Tour de France history, Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish has postponed his retirement in the hopes of winning one more stage. Unfortunately, this year’s course will do him even fewer favours than last year’s with lots of mountains and fewer chances for sprinters. (Cav himself called it one of the hardest routes he’s ever seen.) That said, we never count out the Manx Missile, and his Astana squad has signed Denmark’s Michael Mørkøv–one of the best lead-out men Cavendish has ever raced with–away from Soudal-Quick Step to help him break the record.
Two Stages in One Day for the Women
Once upon a time, Tour de France riders often raced two stages in one day, usually a short road stage in the morning followed by a time trial in the afternoon. But the Tour hasn’t done that since 1991 as they were felt to be too taxing on the riders (which–during an era in which Tour stages were much, much longer than they are today–they were). But after starting the Tour on a Monday instead of a Sunday, the women will race both Stages 2 and 3 on Tuesday, August 13th. Stage 2 is a short, morning road stage from Dodrecht to Rotterdam that’s expected to end in a field sprint; and Stage 3 is a 6.3km, individual time trial in downtown Rotterdam that could be messy if it rains.
Two Classics in One Stage for the Women
Stage 4 is one of the most interesting–and potentially explosive–of this year’s Tour de France Femmes with a route that combines the best and most challenging features of two of spring Classics: the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The day begins in Valkenburg, home to the finish of the Amstel Gold Race, and heads south–but not before taking the riders around a loop containing four of the climbs that form the finale of the Dutch Classic. The stage then heads into Belgium, where the riders will tackle four climbs in the Belgian Ardennes, including three of the hardest climbs from the final half of Liège–Bastogne–Liège. This will be an explosive stage from start to finish, and one that could shape the outcome of the Tour.
A Spectacular Alpine Finish for the Women
The Tour de France Femmes concludes with back-to-back Alpine summit finishes. Saturday’s Stage 7 is the longest of the Tour at 167km and covers five categorised climbs including a summit finish on Le Grand Bornand. And that’s the easiest stage of the weekend, as Sunday’s Stage 8 takes the riders over the hardest side of the Col du Glandon followed by a summit finish on one of the most famous ascents in cycling: Alpe d’Huez, a climb known for its 21 hairpin bends, each of which is named in honour of a rider who has won the race to the summit. Mark your calendars now for Sunday, August 18th–you won’t want to miss it!