Tour de France

2016 Tour may offer sharp contrast to Giro

The Tour de France may not rely on the traditional formula of tough TTs and brutal days in the mountains to challenge the peloton.

MILAN (VN) — With the 2016 Tour de France route yet to be presented Tuesday, the Giro d’Italia appears to throw the bigger punches. Next year’s course counts three time trial stages and several passes over 2,200 meters (7,200 feet), compared to a relatively slim Tour with one time trial stage and friendlier-looking mountain profiles.

The Tour de France often features more time trial kilometers. In 2012, nearly 100 kilometers of time trialling — 41.5km and 53.5km — helped Brit Bradley Wiggins (Sky) win the overall.

Times have changed. The 2015 Tour featured only a short time trial of 13.8km in stage 1, which Rohan Dennis won. His BMC Racing team also claimed the stage 9 team test.

If rumors are correct, the 2016 Tour will travel into the Ardèche department for its sole time trial. According to France’s Le Dauphiné newspaper, the stage will travel from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in the second week. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the stage north of Avignon should cover about 35 to 40 kilometers.

Tour organizer ASO reportedly toyed with the idea of including a time trial in the first week before the race reaches the Pyrénées or in the final week while it is in the Alps, but did neither. Instead, according to the current information available, cyclists will pull out their aero bikes only once in the three-week race.

The 2016 Giro d’Italia, which organizer RCS Sport presented October 5, includes a healthy 61 kilometers of time trials spread over three stages. The Italian tour starts with a 9.8km time trial in the Netherlands, cuts through Chianti with a 40.4km stage, and climbs 10.8 kilometers up Alpe di Siusi.

RCS Sport is also returning to the high passes in 2016 after easing off in 2015 due to the bad weather that zapped its 2014 and 2013 editions. Stage 14 to Corvara counts five passes at or above 2,200 meters (7,200 feet). Stage 19 climbs the Colle dell’Agnello at 2,744 meters (9,000 feet) before finishing up the Risoul pass in France. And stage 20, the last mountain day, rises above 2,000 meters five times.

The Tour, presented Tuesday at 11 a.m. local time in the Palais des Congrès, may go lighter on the mountains too. It is expected to include a trip into Andorra, a stage to Mont Ventoux, and one to the Saint-Gervais ski station below the snowy peak of Mont Blanc.

ASO will likely make up for the high-altitude passes and sparse time trials with sinister mid-mountain stages. It will leave the rest of the course open like a blank canvas for the 198 cyclists to create a masterpiece.

It should not be short on stars. Out of the four “bigs,” only Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has the Giro d’Italia prioritized on his schedule. Colombian Nairo Quintana, Spaniard Alberto Contador, and this year’s Tour winner, Chris Froome should sail a direct course to Le Tour.

The Giro — as the Vuelta a España did this year with Caleb Ewan, Esteban Chaves, and Tom Dumoulin — could rely on new stars to make headlines. Besides Nibali at the start, the organizer should see Mikel Landa leading Sky after placing third with team Astana this year, Thibaut Pinot for FDJ, and former winner Ryder Hesjedal in his new Trek colors.

Fans will have to wait until early next year to know what the Vuelta will look like. For now, all eyes have turned to Paris.