Tour de France 2020

Tour de France 2020: Five stages of intrigue, tension and special significance

While not all stages will shape the GC battle, every day of racing promises some intrigue. James Startt selects five special days at this year's Tour.

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The 2020 Tour de France is set to see dramatic racing among a power-packed field on a route packed with GC twists and turns.

However, while not every single stage is set to see key battles in the general classification, each day of racing will offer intrigue as we watch a post-lockdown peloton take on a Tour de France like no other.

From a victorious Grand Départ to the 20-percent slopes of the high Alps, James Startt picks out five special stages.

Stage 1, August 29: Nice Moyen Pays to Nice (156km)

Just seeing the race get underway successfully will seem a victory in itself. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Just seeing the race get underway successfully will seem a victory in itself. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Why? Racing in the face of COVID

Just seeing the Tour start officially will be pretty amazing. I don’t think anyone has taken the start of this year’s Tour for granted. And until the riders roll out and cross the line later in the day, it won’t be official.

Stage 2, August 30: Nice Haut Pays to Nice (186km)

Tour de France stage 2 could make for a nervous final. Image: ASO
Tour de France stage 2 could make for a nervous final. Image: ASO

Why? A nervous peloton takes on a twisting, technical final

I think a lot of riders are scared about this day. And anybody hoping to win this year’s Tour is going to be plenty nervous. It is not really the Col de la Colmiane and the Col de Turini—the two category 1 climbs mid-way through the race—that intrigue me most, but rather the run-in to Nice with the Col d’Eze and the Col de Quatre Chemins in the final kilometers that will be the most dangerous. The roads are technical as they wind through the outskirts of Nice. And with the tension of the start of the Tour, crashes and splits promise to be a constant threat.

Stage 4, September 1: Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette (161km)

Why? A return to the roads that undid Merckx

From a historical and sporting perspective, I am really excited about this stage. It was here where Luis Ocaña blew the doors off the 1971 Tour with a long solo break that destroyed Eddy Merckx — who many thought was simply unbeatable — to take over the yellow jersey. He wouldn’t win the Tour that year — he had to wait another two years — but that is another story. His ride to Orcières-Merlette, however, is inked in Tour history. And while it is not the high mountains, we are in the Alps after only three days of racing this year. I think there will be plenty of surprises.

Stage 10, September 8: Île d’Oléron Le Château-d’Oléron to Île de Ré Saint-Martin-de-Ré (168.5km)

Why? Island to island with oysters for afters

Perhaps the flattest stage in this year’s Tour, the stage from île d’Oléron to Île de Ré, promises to be one of the most unique. It joins two remote islands off the Atlantic Coast of France with a stage looping around the flatlands north of Bordeaux. I have always dreamed of visiting these islands and as soon as the Tour de France announced its 2020 race route, I booked my room on Île de Ré. And while the stage itself may be pancake flat, everyone is hoping for a day of high winds that will splinter the field. Little matter, you can be sure to find the VeloNews staff enjoying oysters on the half shell long after the stage has finished.

Stage 15, September 13: Lyon to Grand Colombier (174.5km)

Tour de France stage 15: Three leg-breaking climbs will mean the peloton is well due its rest day. Image: ASO
Tour de France stage 15: Three leg-breaking climbs will mean the peloton will have earned its rest day. Image: ASO

Why? Steep climbs to grind tired legs

The stage to the Grand Colombier falls just before the Tour’s second rest day and immediately after some super-tough days through the Massif Central. Legs will be tired, and the climbs found on this day are some of the steepest in the whole Tour. The Montée de la Selle de Fromentel has pitches of over 20 percent while the Col de la Biche includes several kilometers over 10 percent. And that all comes before the final climb to the Grand Colombier — ouch.