Preview: An Unusual Tour de France Route


, by Max Leonard

It's going to be an unusual Tour de France. Photography by: A.S.O. / Charly Lopez

It’s been a funny old season so far, and on the horizon is a very unusual Tour de France – though there are a good few classic climbs in there too. Read on for a guide to the cols and the competitors of this roundabout race from Florence to Nice…

By starting in Italy and not finishing in Paris (because of the upcoming Olympics) the 2024 Tour de France is exceptional. Neither scenario has ever happened before. From Florence, the race spends three days in Italy and then travels around France, finishing beneath the palm trees of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. And a final-day time trial means that, for the first time in 35 years, the yellow jersey will be in play right up to the final meters of the race.

This article will take you through some of the climbing highlights, and stages where the race may be won or lost. For a detailed look at the route of this year’s Tour, check out our preview written when it was unveiled last year.

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Tour de France Summit Finishes

There are four (or really five) summit finishes in the 2024 Tour de France, with the first appearing on Stage 14. Before that, there are lots of opportunities for the General Classification (GC) contenders to make a difference in the first thirteen stages. A tricky, hilly opening couple of stages will put the cat among the pigeons. And the time trials on Stage 7 (25km / 16 mi) and Stage 21 (34 km / 21 mi), and the fourteen gravel sectors of Stage 9’s 199km / 124 mi loop from Troyes will offer different challenges.

Photography by: A.S.O. / Pauline Ballet

However, this back-weighting of summit finishes into the last week of the Tour suggests that the GC may be relatively tight for the (hilly) first and (flat) second weeks, ready for an explosive finale. The summit finishes are:

Stage 14: On a 151.9km / 94.4 mi stage that includes the Col du Tourmalet (18.9km / 11.7 mi gaining 1,393m / 4,570 ft of elevation, KOM Thibaut Pinot) the peloton will climb to its first summit finish of the Tour, at the Pla d’Adet ski station, finishing at an altitude of 1,669m / 2,195 ft.

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Stage 15: The Plateau de Beille (15.7 km / 9.7 mi @ 7.9%) has seen winning performances from greats including Marco Pantani, Alberto Contador and, in 2015, Team Sky’s Chris Froome (though the KOM was taken that day by… Thibaut Pinot). It’s the second summit finish in a row, and it’s a longer, harder day – this could be where the GC battle really takes off.

Stage 17: This stage on the edge of the Alps may well be one for the breakaway – it has three significant climbs in the last 30km (20 mi). If it’s not, the unheralded Côte de Superdevoluy may catch a few people out. It’s only 3.8km / 2.4 mi @ 5.9%, but it comes after the 8.4% average Col du Noyer, and with 10 bonus seconds on offer to the first over the line, it’ll be a tempting springboard for anyone with good legs.

Stage 19: Isola 2000 is just 80km / 50 mi from the Mediterranean, and the road climbs 15.7km / 9.8 mi to reach the ski resort. In a day that’s already been above 2,000m / 6,500 ft twice, including the Cime de la Bonette – at 2,802m / 9,193 ft the highest paved road in France – it will be a potential showdown for the GC contenders.

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Stage 20: The final road stage in a tough week, Stage 20 offers another chance to make a difference at the line with a finish atop the Col de la Couillole (15.7km / 9.8 mi at an average 7.3%). KOM here is held by local young pro Lenny Martinez, who rides for FDJ–Française des Jeux.

Other climbs to watch at the Tour de France 2024

Stage 2: The Côte de San Luca may be small, but it’s short and sharp (1.9km / 1.2 mi @ 10.3%) and, coming as it does only 13km / 8 mi from the finish line, it might see an attack – if not with consequences for the GC then for a breakaway stage win.

Stage 4: The 2,642m / 8,668 ft Col du Galibier rears its ugly head very early in the 2024 race. “We’ve never been so high so early in the Tour,” said race director Christian Prudhomme. Thibaut Pinot holds the KOM on this side of the classic climb, which rises 1,176m / 3,858 ft, from Briançon in the valley below.

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Stage 11: For sheer looks alone, the Pas de Peyrol (also known as the Puy Mary) in the Cantal region is a winner. Part of the Sancy, a small volcanic range of mountains in the Massif Central, it rises to a height of 1,589m / 5,213 ft out of lush meadows. Tadej Pogačar holds the KOM here, from the 2020 Tour, and he may want to think about improving that time: after a long rolling start, with the potential of echelons, there are four classified climbs at the back end of this stage, making it a potentially dangerous day for GC hopefuls.

The Col du Galibier makes an appearance on Stage 4. Photography by: A.S.O. / Charly Lopez

Tour de France: The Stages In Full

  • Total distance: 3,492 / 2,170 mi

  • Total Elevation gain: 52,000m / 170,600 ft of climbing.

  • Stage 1: 29 June - Florence > Rimini. Hilly / 206km (128 mi).

  • Stage 2: 30 June - Cesenatico > Bologna. Hilly / 200km (124 mi).

  • Stage 3: 1 July - Piacenza > Turin. Flat / 229km (142 mi) – the longest stage.

  • Stage 4: 2 July - Pinerolo > Valloire. Mountains / 138km (85 mi).

  • Stage 5: 3 July - St-Jean-de-Maurienne > St-Vulbas. Flat – but the potential for a breakaway / 177km (110 mi).

  • Stage 6: 4 July - Mâcon > Dijon. Flat – for the sprinters / 163 km (101 mi).

  • Stage 7: 5 July - Nuits-Saint-Georges > Gevrey-Chambertin. Individual time trial / 25km (16 mi).

  • Stage 8: 6 July - Semur-en-Auxois > Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. “Flat” but punchy / 176km (110 mi).

  • Stage 9: 7 July - Troyes > Troyes. Hilly, with 14 gravel sectors, a breakaway for sure / 199km (124 mi).

  • Stage 10: 9 July - Orléans > St-Amand-Montrond. Flat, could be disrupted by wind / 187km (116 mi).

  • Stage 11: 13 July - Évaux-les-Bains > Le Lioran. Mountains / 211km (131 mi).

  • Stage 12: 11 July - Aurillac > Villenueve-sur-Lot. “Flat” but punchy / 204km (126 mi).

  • Stage 13: 12 July - Agen > Pau. Flat, in recent years a sprint finish / 171km (106 mi).

  • Stage 14: 13 July - Pau > St-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet. Mountains / 152km (94 mi).

  • Stage 15: 15 July - Loudenvielle > Plateau de Beille. Mountains / 198km (123 mi).

  • Stage 16: 16 July - Gruissan > Nîmes. Flat, with a climb mid-way and possible winds / 187km (116 mi).

  • Stage 17: 17 July - St-Paul-Trois-Chateaux > Super-Devoluy. Mountains / 178km (111 mi).

  • Stage 18: 18 July - Gap > Barcelonette. Hilly – a day for a breakaway / 179km (111 mi).

  • Stage 19: 19 July - Embrun > Isola 2000. Mountains / 145km (90 mi).

  • Stage 20: 20 July - Nice > Col de la Couillole. Mountains / 133km (83 mi).

  • Stage 21: 21 July - Monaco > Nice. Individual time trial / 34km (21 mi).

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