Cobblestones, 21 switchbacks, and a title-deciding time trial are all on the menu for the 2022 Tour de France.
The routes of both next year’s Tour and the inaugural Tour de France Femmes are set to be revealed by ASO on Thursday, which means it’s time to tread the rumor mill and see what’s in the pipeline.
Here’s a look at what the men’s peloton is very likely to see in summer 2022 courtesy of some extensive source stockpiling by VeloWire.com, and some thoughts on what it may all mean:
Copenhagen ‘Grand Départ’ and prologue time trial
OK, so this isn’t a rumor but a fact – the 2022 Tour de France will kick start with a 13-kilometer time trial in Copenhagen, the Tour’s first curtain-raising TT since 2017. The short test will open up the three-day Danish Grand Départ, which will continue with two sprinter stages.
Here’s what those in the know have to say about the Tour’s opener:
“The flat route through the Danish capital and world’s best cycling city has no sharp turns, letting the riders gain full speed,” states the Copenhagen Grand Départ organizing committee. “For TT specialists dreaming of a stage win and a yellow jersey, aerodynamics is key through the entire stage. The GC favorites will work hard to reduce the time loss.”
How will the opening time trial affect the first week of racing?
Although the time differences should be relatively small over 13km, they will be enough to put an initial structure to the GC and will allocate the first yellow jersey, so easing some of the stress and pressure out of the first road stage from Roskilde.
Well, that’s the theory at least …
Cobblestone stage with hints at Arenberg
GC riders and sport directors will be seething, but us armchair fans should be stocking the popcorn already.
The opening week of the Tour is expected to hit the cobblestones with a stage through the Roubaix region, most likely starting in Lille before closing out near the Wallers / Arenberg sectors used in the “Hell of the North.” Several local news sources have confirmed as recently as this week to expect an “inverted Paris-Roubaix” next July.
Although the details of how many and which cobblestone sectors will be featured is uncertain, it’s looking very likely that the fearsome five-star Trouee d’Arenberg will be on the menu.
A midsummer trip to the stones means the mud-drenched scenes seen at Paris-Roubaix earlier this month are unlikely.
However, just the mention of pavé tends to have GC riders riddled with nerves at the prospect of a stage that inevitably crushes at least one classification contender.
The Tour’s most recent visit to the stones in 2018 made for a dry and dusty ride, but it proved enough to see Richie Porte abandon after a crash, while Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Urán both lose time due to crashes or punctures. The time before that in 2014, Chris Froome’s race ended on a slippery, sketchy day after he fell before the cobblestones had even begun.
Return to the Planches
Christian Prudhomme just can’t get enough of the Planches des Belles Filles these days.
Stage 7 of the 2020 Tour is expected to feature the Planches des Belles Filles for the sixth time in 10 years. And as if one visit isn’t enough next year, the Tour’s new favorite climb is also expected to host the Tour de France Femmes, according to L’Est Republican.
It’s currently looking like the Vosges mountain will form a part of a road stage rather than a TT, unlike its dramatic last appearance in 2020.
Why is the Planches so popular? It serves to plug a hole in France’s mountain profile. Set deep in the east of the country, the short but exceptionally steep kick serves as a perfect preview for the Alps and Pyrénées after the Tour’s typically northern-focussed opening week.
The Planches has played theater to some incredible scenes in the past, from Tadej Pogačar’s historic time trial last year to Chris Froome’s breakout win in its first appearance in 2012.
With both the women’s and men’s peloton expected to take on its 25 percent slopes next summer, this small ski station is set to appear in the history books again in 2022.
Alpe d’Huez headlines Alps, Pyrénées play kingmakers
There will be both rare ascents and iconic climbs on tap this summer.
Like last year, the Alps will come first as the Tour’s circus tracks clockwise around France.
After a swift detour through Switzerland, the race is expected to spend three days in the French Alps in the middle of the second week. The Alpine trilogy will be headlined by a trip through the 21 hairpins of the Alpe d’Huez, with a summit finish atop the gruesome Col du Granon following the next day.
Information remains vague about whether the Alpe will be used as a mountaintop finish.
However, it has been confirmed that the following day will see a summit showdown on the Granon, widely described in local media as “one of the most difficult climbs in the country.”
The 12-kilometer, 10 percent climb out of Serre Chevalier has not been used since 1986 when Greg LeMond famously took the yellow jersey from teammate Bernard Hinault. [After racing up the Granon a handful of times myself, I can attest that it’s like a goat track on steroids. Never again – ed.]
The Alpe d’Huez stage will also lend its parcours to the annual Etape du Tour gran fondo.
A few transition stages and a rest day later, the peloton will be in the Pyrénées for three days, and it’s here that the decisive moves in the race for yellow are likely to be made.
Reports this week indicate that the Peyragudes altiport and its 25 percent finishing wall will host a summit finish before another mountain finale on the Hautacam arrives the next day.
The dead-end road to the Hautacam ski resort has only been used five times to date, including in 2000 when a certain Texan finished second on the stage to move into the yellow jersey … the rest is history.
Penultimate stage time trial
A time trial is set to crown the 2022 yellow jersey next summer.
In a loathe-or-love decision, ASO has penciled in an ITT in the Lot department for stage 20 of the 2022 Tour. Various sources indicate that a test of around 30km in the lumpy Southwestern region is on the cards, though the nature of the profile is unknown.
Having a time trial as the final day of “proper” racing before the Champs-Élysées procession can sometimes serve to confirm what we already know, but as Tadej Pogačar proved last year, an upset can always be on the cards, no matter how unlikely it may seem.
Here’s hoping the standings are still squeezed enough to make there something to race for when the peloton winds up in Lot next July.