The 2022 Tour de France is almost upon us with a well-rounded route that will test the general classification hopefuls to the max.
Kicking off in Copenhagen on July 1, the race will wind its way down the eastern coast of France before traversing the south of the country and then finishing in Paris.
A long list of big star names will be lining up next week in the hope of earning the title of 2022 Tour de France champion. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) comes into the race as the overwhelming favorite after dominating his way to the top in the last two years, while Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard will be hoping to topple him for Jumbo-Visma.
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Enric Mas (Movistar) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) are also in the hunt for GC success this July.
Anyone who hopes to come away with the yellow jersey on their back for the final stage will have to master cobbles, mountains, and massive times trials. With weather, crashes, and plain bad luck to be taken into account, anything can happen on any given day, but some stages will pack more punch for the overall contenders.
These are the five key stages to watch out for.
Stage 5: Lille Métropole to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
Putting cobbles into a grand tour is always going to be a divisive choice and this year is no different. Whatever the thoughts of the riders and fans about the pavé’s place in a grand tour, stage 5 is here to stay and there’s little doubt that it will have a big impact on the overall classification.
It is the first time since 2018 that the Tour de France will ride over the cobbles, with Richie Porte seeing his race ended by them. The last time Several of the major GC riders have made a brief foray onto the cobbles at some point this season with Pogačar riding the Tour of Flanders and Roglič going to the GP Denain in the spring.
Stage 5 has been dubbed a mini-Paris-Roubaix and while it has been pared down it’s still a tough parcours with 11 trips over the pavé totaling 19.4k. A small change has been made to the start of the route to avoid some recently installed traffic-calming measures but the pavé remains the same.
As the old adage goes, you can’t win the Tour de France on this stage, but you certainly can lose it. For some, like Geraint Thomas, this stage might be an opportunity to take some time, but for most, it will be a case of damage limitation.
Stage 11: Albertville to Col du Granon Serre Chevalier
Parcours: High mountains
The opening ended with a couple of tough mountain stages that should force some more gaps between the GC contenders, but this day — coupled with the following stage — could blow the race apart. There are four classified climbs, three of which are either first category or hors categorie and the race’s highest point in what is arguably the 2022 Tour de France’s queen stage.
After tackling the second category Lecets de Montvernier, a 3.4km climb with an average gradient of 8.2 percent, the riders will take on the doubleheader of the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier. From there, the riders will head to the Col du Granon for only the second time in the Tour de France’s history.
The Granon first featured during the 1986 Tour de France, and at the time, it was the highest-ever summit finish. That title was taken from it only in 2011 when the Galibier hosted a stage finish. It is by far the highest summit finish of this year’s race and that visit above the 2,000-meter mark twice in this stage could do some serious damage.
It is one of the shorter climbs of the day at just 11.3 kilometers but it averages a challenging 9.2 percent gradient.
Stage 12: Briançon to Alpe d’Heuz
Parcours: High mountains
There will be some seriously tired legs in the bunch after stage 11’s bruising parcours but there will be no rest for them as the high mountains continue with a vengeance. Not only will the riders have to tackle three hors categorie ascents, one of those is the Galibier, again.
In fact, the riders will begin ascending to the foot of the Galibier as soon as the flag drops with the official climb beginning just over 10 kilometers in. Pray for the sprinters at this point, who will have a long and hard day ahead of them trying to make the time cut.
The riders will be tackling the Galibier from the opposite side, which is longer at 23 kilometers but it has a slightly shallower gradient at 5.1 percent. The descent will take in the Télégraphe but that is not classified as the rise is only small when coming from the Galibier.
Another trip over 2,000 meters follows with the 2,067 Col de la Croix de Fer coming before the final rise up Alpe d’Huez, a climb that doesn’t need any introduction. It is the first time since 2018 that the Tour will tackle the iconic ascent, so it’ll be the first time many of the young guns have raced it.
This stage is another nod to the 1986 Tour de France as this is almost an exact replica of stage 18 of that year’s race. On that occasion, La Vie Claire teammates Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond rode to the finish line together hand in hand with the stage win being awarded to the Frenchman.
Stage 18: Lourdes to Hautacam
Parcours: High mountains
This stage is the second of a high mountain double-header with a summit finish on the Peyragudes coming the day before. With a flat stage for the sprinters the following day before the time trial on stage 20, this is a chance to go all in to gain time on those close by in the overall classification.
The stage to Peyragudes is a tough cookie and this one is only harder. Collectively, they are the shortest of the high mountain stages and should be speedy days despite the fatigue reaching fever pitch by this point. It is the final big mountain stage of the race and the last chance for some to gain time.
It is just over 143 kilometers but the climbing is packed into the final 80 kilometers with a flat run to the bottom of the first ascent. The HC Col d’Aubisque gets things going with the 16.4km climb averaging 7.1 percent.
There’s a long run down into the valley before the road kicks up again for the first category Col de Spandelles, a first-time entry into the Tour de France this year. The climb is 10.3 kilometers long and averages 8.3 percent with peaks of around 10 percent in sections. The Hautacam, which last featured back in 2014, finishes the day off and could finish off some GC hopes.
Stage 20: Lacapelle-Marival to Rocamadour
Parcours: Time trial
There will be absolutely nowhere to hide in this penultimate day time trial. Some will revel in this lengthy race against the clock while others will be counting down the minutes until it’s over. It Is the longest individual time trial at the Tour de France since the 54km TT in 2014, which saw Tony Martin take stage honors and Vincenzo Nibali add to his overall lead.
While the 40.7km route is largely flat, it’s far from simple with a tough climb marking the final kilometers of the course. The 1.5km Côte de l’Hospitalet is short but it averages some 7.8 percent. The Côte de Mages a few kilometers earlier should pose less of a threat but it is still dangerous at 1.6km at an average of 4.7 percent.
Any riders that have gone too hard too early could pay for it on these two climbs, but they are not long enough to make up much of a gap if a rider plays it too conservatively. Even after three weeks of racing, this stage could see some big changes in the overall battle.