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For as long as I have lived in France, the Tour de France presentation has been an integral part of the off-season as there is always a lot of anticipation building up to the October event. And this year, with the return of a women’s Tour de France, there was even more.
Tour de France organizer A.S.O. did not disappoint as the women’s Tour starts on the storied Champs-Elysées, the same day that the men’s Tour finishes, offering no fewer than a full month of racing with the best cyclists around the world.
The Tour de France also has a penchant for history. Climbs, stages and start and finish towns must either be steeped in Tour history or making Tour history. And the 2022 Tour offers numerous nods to its own history.
The historic start in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the furthest Grand Depart ever from France. On the return to France, riders will be greeted with an epic cobblestone stage to Wallers-Arenberg, with no fewer than 11 cobblestone secteurs — at least half which have never been covered in the Tour, or Paris-Roubaix.
Stage seven will see a return to Les Planches des Belles Filles, one of the race’s modern monuments. And as the peloton did in 2019, it will climb up the dirt road to the very top of this climb boasting grades surpassing 20 percent.
The Alps, too, will have their fair share of history with a summit finish on the Col du Granon on stage 11. Towering at over 2,400 meters elevation, it is remembered as Bernard Hinault’s last day in the yellow jersey. And the following day will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Tour’s first ascension up the famed Alpe d’Huez, won back in 1952 by a certain Fausto Coppi.
The Tour will then make its way across the Massif Central, with a finish on the Laurent Jalabert climb in Mende — yes, a historic nod to the epic solo victory by the popular Frenchman back in 1995 — before skirting through the Pyrenees and attacking a 40-kilometer time trial on the penultimate stage before the race returns to Paris. Between the windswept stages and the cobbles of the north, the mountain-top finishes in the Vosges and the Alps, not to mention more than 50 total kilometers of time trialing, the 2022 Tour de France will be one of the most complete in recent history and will require riders aspiring for the yellow jersey to bring a well-rounded squad.
Starting just before the men’s race finishes, the women will not just be making history, but referencing it often. Already on their opening stage on the Champs-Elysées, they will have a Queen of the Mountains prime at the top of the Champs, on the ninth lap, just like the men had when they raced down France’s main street for the first time back in 1975. And a week later they will finish with a final historic stage, one that starts by tackling the Ballon d’Alsace — the first climb ever in the Tour back in 1905 — before finishing themselves on the La Planche des Belles Filles.