2013 Tour de France preview

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It’s mere days until the 100th edition of the Tour de France gets underway and the excitement is definitely starting to build. It’s sure to be three weeks of phenomenal scenery, spirited racing, and plenty of highlights but before the race gets underway check out our stage-by-stage preview, featuring route profiles and stage notes from Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

For the first time in a decade the Tour de France will be raced entirely on French soil. After the Grand Departe and three stages on the Mediterranean island of Corsica Le Tour heads to Nice for a team time trial before heading west. After three transitional stages the riders tackle two stages in the Pyrenees, including the summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines on stage 8.

On the first rest day after the Pyrenees there’s a long transfer from the south west of France to the Brittany region in the north west. Over the following few stages the riders contest an individual time trial and a number of flatter stages before cutting a path south east through the centre of France on transition to the Alps.

Stages 15 to 20 are all contested in and around the French Alps including three summit finishes: Mont Ventoux (stage 15), Alpe d’Huez (stage 18) and Annecy-Semnoz (stage 20).

After a long transition to Paris after stage 20 the 100th edition of the Tour de France ends with a twilight stage, the riders hitting the Champs Elysees for the final time a little before 10pm local time.


By the numbers

  • 21 stages in total
  • 3,360km
  • 7 flat stages
  • 6 mountain stages
  • 4 summit finishes
  • 2 individual time trials
  • 1 team time trial
  • 2 rest days

Here’s a stage-by-stage breakdown of the 100th Tour de France. Click on any of the links below to jump to a stage:

Stage 1 Stage 8 Stage 15
Stage 2 Stage 9 Stage 16
Stage 3 Stage 10 Stage 17
Stage 4 Stage 11 Stage 18
Stage 5 Stage 12 Stage 19
Stage 6 Stage 13 Stage 20
Stage 7 Stage 14 Stage 21

Stage 1

Date: Saturday June 29
Route: Porto-Vecchio to Bastia
Distance: 212km


Doing away with the traditional prologue, or short time-trial, is designed to showcase the stunning beauty of Corsica but also make the first wearer of the 100th yellow jersey work for the privilege.

The race opener is 212 km long and undulates for the first third of the course. After the early breakaways, the teams with top sprinters, like Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Matt Goss will be expected to take over the chase in a bid to set up an anticipated bunch sprint finish in Bastia.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

After a splendid course that runs around the bay of Palombaggia and the cliffs of Bonifacio, the sprinters will have an immediate opportunity to conquer the yellow jersey. Since the prologue first took place in 1967, the only two inaugural stages fought out in normal racing fashion in 2008 and 2011, favoured the punchers. The finish was uphill. This time, it will be on the flat.

Stage 2

Date: Sunday June 30
Route: Bastia to Ajaccio
Distance: 154km


The overnight race leader will have to dig deep if he is to keep the yellow jersey at the end of stage two. The second day on the “Island of Beauty” climbs steadily from the start and drags the peloton over two mountain passes, of 5.2 km and 4.6 km-long respectively, before a long descent towards Ajaccio.

To maintain the suspense and give the sprinters food for thought, organisers have thrown a small climb 12 km before the finish line into the mix.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

Before triumphing in the Imperial City, the riders will have to take on a medium-mountain stage including the Vizzavona pass. The final will be reminiscent of a spring classic, with the ascent of Côte de Salario 12km from the finish. The finish will be set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Iles Sanguinaires.

Stage 3

Date: Monday July 1
Route: Ajaccio to Calvi
Distance: 145km


Although short, the 145 km third stage from Ajaccio to Calvi — rumoured to be the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus — could host a thrilling battle between the “punchers” who excel on small, punchy climbs. There is barely a metre of flat road, meaning the likes of Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel, Samuel Sanchez or Simon Gerrans could have the stage marked.

After 50 km the field tackles the first of two climbs, the 7.5 km-long Col de San Martino, before racing over undulating, technical terrain before tackling the second climb, the 3.3 km-long Col de Marsolino. The summit is 13 km from the finish.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

Corsica’s spectacular landscape continues to unfold. After passing through Cargèse and Porto, the peloton will discover the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Calanques de Piana. However, let’s not forget the day’s five climbs. At this point, the first rider(s) to make it through the Marsolino pass will only have 13km to go before they reach Calvi.

Stage 4

Date: Tuesday July 2
Route: Nice to Nice (TTT)
Distance: 25km


The first time-trial of the race is a team affair, meaning the finishing times are taken from when the fifth rider crosses the finish line in Nice. It is only 25 km long but the short distance will be welcomed after a stressful three days on Corsica. The Tour de France will not be won here but time gaps between the yellow jersey protagonists will be expected.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The team time trial will, for the first time in the Tour’s history, include a team crowned world champion of the discipline. In theory, the relatively short distance will not allow any significant gaps to open up between the favourite teams. But watch out for seconds dropped on the Promenade des Anglais.

Stage 5

Date: Wednesday July 3
Route: Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille
Distance: 219km


Beginning in Cagnes-sur-Mer just outside Antibes, stage five is long, undulating and will be made even tougher by the likely crosswinds blowing off the coast. A sprint finish is a possibility, however the sprinters and their teams could be pushed into using up precious reserves on the Col de la Gineste, whose summit is 12 km from the finish line in Marseille.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

During the last two finish stages in Marseille, Jakob Piil, in 2003, and Cédric Vasseur, in 2007 enjoyed breakaway victories. Adventurous riders will be inspired by these two recent examples and can count on the Gineste climb, well known to the Marseille-Cassis road runners, to succeed in their efforts.

Stage 6

Date: Thursday July 4
Route: Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier
Distance: 176km


On paper, stage six is flat, uncomplicated and at 176.5 km not overly long. The road from Aix to Montpellier, however, is near the coast and could be subject to crosswinds or headwinds, especially close to Saint Gilles where the wind usually blows in from a southerly direction.

The risk of being caught out by the unforgiving pace of a leading echelon remains for the yellow jersey contenders, meaning the likes of Alberto Contador, Chris Froome and Cadel Evans — as well as their key team-mates — will look to stay out of danger by staying near the front of the peloton with the spinters’ teams.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

This will be a superb opportunity for masters of the sprint. With the help of their teammates, they will unleash their energies and engage in a robust combat on the approach to the finishing line which, once again, will span the entrance to the Yves du Manoir stadium. In the battle for the green jersey, precious points are up for grabs.

Stage 7

Date: Friday July 5
Route: Montpellier to Albi
Distance: 205km


After a week of giving the sprinters a chance to shine, stage seven is a warm-up for the Pyreneean stages to come. It features a total of four categorised climbs, although the category four Cote de Teillet — whose summit is 34.5 km from the finish — should be too far from the finish to be used as a springboard for a “puncher” with victory ambitions.

After a week of racing, the yellow jersey contenders and teams with sprinters could give their tacit agreement for a breakaway to go all the way.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The landscapes of the Hérault and the Tarn include some hilly terrain that should raise the hopes of brave riders attempting a breakaway. They will however need to be determined and inspired if they are to foil the game-play of the sprinter teams, aware of the following Pyrenean sequence that will see them losing out on the leading positions.

Stage 8

Date: Saturday July 6
Route: Castres to Ax 3 Domaines
Distance: 194km


The first stage of the race in the high mountains is a 195 km ride to Ax-Trois-Domaines in the Pyrenees and features a total of 23.1 km of climbing at an average gradient of 8.1 percent. After a relatively flat 150 km, the peloton tackles the 15.3 km climb to the Porte de Pailheres — a notoriously difficult ascent with some passages surpassing 10 percent.

A long descent leads to the foot of the 7.8 km-long climb to the finish. Although the yellow jersey contenders should gain a first glimpse of their rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, the specialist climbers with no overall victory ambitions could steal the show.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The climb towards the Pailhères pass, one of the most formidable in the Pyrenees, will signal the start of the big moves by the star riders. The descent into Ax-les-Thermes, followed by the climb to the Ax 3 Domaines ski resort, will present an opportunity to shake up the hierarchy. Inspired climbers will have the chance to excel.

Stage 9

Date: Sunday July 7
Route: Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre
Distance: 165km


Although missing the most difficult “unclassified” (hors categorie) climbs, stage nine has five categorised climbs and is the most difficult of the two Pyrenean stages.

With a downhill finish, it should have little attraction for the yellow jersey contenders — at least in theory. That should pave the way for a breakaway which, if they collaborate sufficiently, could go all or most of the way before battling for the win in Bagneres.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

This is where those attacking riders who are at home at high altitude will get the chance to combine showmanship with efficiency. Five climbs figure in the day’s programme. Following two consecutive passes (Portet-d’Aspet and Menté) at the start of the race, riders will have to climb those of Peyresourde and Val Louron-Azet before facing the final challenge of La Hourquette d’Ancizan.


Stage 10

Date: Tuesday July 9
Route: Saint-Gildas-des-Bois to Saint-Malo
Distance: 193km


After the first rest day and a long transfer to southern Brittany, the race resumes with a virtually pancake-flat 10th stage to Saint Malo which is all but guaranteed to end in a bunch or small group sprint.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

Saint-Malo will host the only stage finish in Brittany. The ramparts behind the finishing line will make for an exceptional backdrop. Everything points to a good chance for a bunched sprint in the final. The escapees will be counting on the wind to trouble the pursuit, rather than the difficulties of the terrain.

Stage 11

Date: Wednesday July 10
Route: Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel (ITT)
Distance: 33km


The race’s first individual time trial — known as the “race of truth” — should indicate which yellow jersey contenders are truly on form. At 33 km long, stage 11 is fairly short and so the time gaps at the finish should not be extreme.

Apart from a tight bend in Ducy (9.5 km), there are few technical difficulties but the peloton, which starts at intervals of two minutes then three minutes for the final riders, could have to deal with crosswinds as they ride towards the world famous Mont Saint Michel.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

It will be hard to steal the limelight from the Mont-Saint-Michel – a sumptuous visual feast for the riders. The 30km route of this time trial will perfectly suit the specialists in the field and seasoned cyclists. The magical site and the majestic decor will provide a stunning setting for the winner’s photos.

Stage 12

Date: Thursday July 11
Route: Fougeres to Tours
Distance: 218km


On paper, the 218 km ride from Fougeres to Tours is a virtual straight line which cuts diagonally across France towards the Alps. The stage features few climbs, little technical difficulty and looks to have sprint finish written all over it.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

After taking off and heading to Laval and the Mayenne area, the peloton will witness, in the heart of the Val de Loire, the castles of Langeais and Villandry. The day’s course without any major climbs will look a lot like Paris- Tours. But the finish line will be set in front of the Parc des Expositions and no longer on the Avenue de Grammont.

Stage 13

Date: Friday July 12
Route: Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond
Distance: 173km


With the Alps imminent, organisers have given the sprinters and their teams a final chance to shine. There is only one climb — the category four Cote de Crotz climb (1.2 km) — but this stage is virtually guaranteed to finish in a bunch or group sprint for the line.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

A journey to the centre of France. The route which will take the riders from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond will go through the Touraine and then the Berry countryside. The pace should be fast, but the riders will have to keep their wits about them as, on the flat, the wind may add a little spice to the day’s proceedings.

Stage 14

Date: Saturday July 13
Route: Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule
Distance: 191km


After the straightforward stages of previous days, armchair fans should be glued to their televisions for a stage which should be hotly contested.

Seven “punchy” climbs, ranging from 1.6 to 6.3 km in length, should entice attacks especially with the final ascent, the 1.8 km Croix-Rousse, coming only 10 km from the finish.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The conquest of Lyon will be no mean feat. After a hilly first part to the stage, two major difficulties will show up: the Côte de Bourg-Thizy followed by the Col du Pilon. In the city of Lyon itself will be included the steep climbs up the Croix-Rousse and La Duchère. The punchers could well trouble the hopes of the sprinters.

Stage 15

Date: Sunday July 14
Route: Givors to Mont Ventoux
Distance: 242km


At 242.5 km long, stage 15 is long and so should entice a breakaway. But with the prestige of a stage victory atop the legendary Mont Ventoux — the theatre of both tragedy and dreams on the race — they are unlikely to be afforded too much ground before the peloton containing the yellow jersey favourites reaches the foot of the final, 20.8 km ascent. The final two kilometres of the climb, where the gradient reaches 10 percent, should be decisive for the stage win.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

This will be a day of contrasts. The initial stretch of this stage will be contested on the flat, where riders will need to pace themselves. This will be a determining factor in the final to be fought out on the formidable slopes of Mont Ventoux. The 14th of July – an auspicious date on which the climb up Mont Chauve could provoke yet another revolution – this time, in the general classification of the Tour.


Stage 16

Date: Tuesday July 16
Route: Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap
Distance: 168km


Although not a “classic” Alpine stage, the 168 km ride to Gap, held after the second rest day, is not without danger. Only three categorised climbs feature but the approach into Gap, as now retired Spaniard Joseba Beloki would testify, can be tricky.

While trying to distance US rival Lance Armstrong in 2003, former ONCE rider Beloki crashed on the tricky Rochette descent and suffered a hip injury which severely compromised the rest of his career. Those with strong downhill skills, like Cadel Evans, can theoretically put the pressure on those who do not.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The approach to the Alps, that will be the scene of a final week of intense action, can provide an opportunity for all-rounders to deploy their talents. The day’s climbs will probably see the best climbers clinging together. However, one will need a fast pace to triumph in Gap after a long final straight.

Stage 17

Date: Wednesday July 17
Route: Embrun to Chorges (ITT)
Distance: 32km


What the stage 17 time trial lacks in distance will be made up for by the difficulty of its two climbs — the 6.4km Cote de Puy Sanieres and the 6.9 km Cote de Reallon — on a scenic route above the spectacular Lake of Serre-Poncon.

Both are inside the first 20 km of the 32 km race against the clock and will have a small say in deciding this year’s yellow jersey. The contenders who have managed to recover from the efforts of previous days will have to conjure their best combination of power and climbing skills if they are to remain in the game.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

With the blue waters of Serre-Ponçon Lake in the background, this second individual exercise will once again take place in picture postcard surroundings. The distance to be covered will be almost the same as in the previous exercise, but things could open up for other challengers, as the terrain will be much more mountainous.

Stage 18

Date: Thursday July 18
Route: Gap to Alpe-d’Huez
Distance: 168km


The first of three consecutive days in the Alps, stage 18 features six categorised climbs including two “unclassified” ascents of the legendary Alpe d’Huez. After the third climb (Col d’Ornon), where the first attacks could be launched, the peloton will begin the first ascent of the Alpe and its famous 21 hairpin bends.

The short (3.8 km) but exposed Col de la Sarenne follows before a long descent leads to the foot of the Alpe for a second ascension which should be led by the remnants of an elite group of protagonists.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

This will, without doubt, be a long awaited and memorable day in the 100th edition of the Tour. For the first time, there will be a double helping of nerves for the riders who will be dreading the double climb of the Alpe d’Huez, and rightly so. With its notorious 21 hairpin bends, it is also one of the most telegenic climbs in France.

Stage 19

Date: Friday July 19
Route: Bourg -d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand
Distance: 204km


Arguably the worst possible stage for the non-climbers, stage 19 begins with two whopping ascensions: the Col du Glandon (21.6 km) and the Col de la Madeleine (19.2 km), before finishing with a series of smaller climbs on the way to the downhill finish at Le Grand Bornand. This is possibly a stage for breakaway riders who can climb but that prospect could change depending on how the remaining yellow jersey contenders are placed.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

This second alpine stage will present plenty of opportunities for those who want to shake up the order of the pack – in particular during the climbs on the Glandon and Madeleine passes. The descent into Le Grand- Bornand (around a dozen kilometres in length) on the other side of the Croix Fry pass, promises to deliver a moment laden with suspense.

Stage 20

Date: Saturday July 20
Route: Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz
Distance: 125km


On paper, a 125 km-long stage is easy for any professional rider but the peloton is likely to make up for the short distance by increasing the intensity on what could be the last opportunity for any remaining yellow jersey candidates.

There are six climbs in total, including the category one Mont Revard (15.9 km) and the unclassified ascent to Annecy-Semnoz, a 10.8km ascension with a punishing gradient of 8.5 percent, and some passages at 10.5.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

Anything could still happen during this penultimate stage, where only the first part of the race, around Lake Annecy, will be on the flat. After this, a group of climbs, to include Mont Revard, should see a number of attacks. The unprecedented finish in Semnoz involves climbs which are sharp enough to cause a last minute upset …

Stage 21

Date: Sunday July 21
Route: Versailles to Paris Champs-Elysees
Distance: 118km


A rare nocturnal start for the final stage into Paris will add some innovation to this year’s finale. Although it will be a long day for the riders, they are unlikely to sway from celebrating their three-week campaign on the way from Versailles to Paris before cranking up the pace once inside the capital.

The race really begins on the first of the 10 laps around the city’s most famous landmarks and a likely sprint finish on the Champs Elysees.

Here’s what Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has to say about the stage:

The final stage of this 100th edition of the Tour represents a rare privilege for the peloton. The first few yards of the race will be inside the grounds of the château de Versailles before the pack heads towards Paris, where the riders will fight it out on the final circuit. This is where the candidates for a last exploit will launch their last-ditch attack on the sprinters.

If you haven’t already, check out our preview of the Tour de France in a special episode of The Bike Lane:

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