BEIHAI, China (VN) — German John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) is wrapping up his season at the Tour of Guangxi with one eye back on Europe, where Tour de France organizer ASO released its 2020 route Tuesday.
Next year, he will race in Team Lotto-Soudal with Caleb Ewan. He wonders just how much of a chance they will have for flat or sprint stages among what has been called the hardest Tour de France in years by Chris Froome (Ineos).
“Really flat stages, there are only one or two of them, what I could see of the overview,” Degenkolb told VeloNews.
“Of course there will be some sprints with some hilly terrain, so we’ll see. It looks like a very hard parcours.”
Four-time winner Froome said, “The course for next year is brutal, probably the hardest since the last five-six years. There are many climbs, elevation. There are plenty of opportunities for the overall standings, which is good for the riders, for my team and for the fans.”
Christian Prudhomme promised there would be some stages for sprinters. Already on day one in Nice, after some hard climbs, he said that fans will see “the first great battle between the sprinters. A bunched sprint is indeed expected at the end of the long final straight on the Promenade des Anglais.”
“No!” jumped in Degenkolb’s teammate Kiel Reijnen. “The Vuelta a España organizer said the same, but how many were there!?”
Organizers seem to be adding more and more climbs in their grand tours for more and more show at the expense of the sprinters. Years ago, big springers like Alessandro Petacchi, Mario Cipollini, and Mark Cavendish would return home with a handful of wins.
“It looks that way,” Degenkolb said of the trend. “Maybe we should try not to make it too hard because the Vuelta this year was the hardest grand tour I’ve ever done.”
The Tour climbs though the Alps, the Pyrénées and after the Alps again, through the Jura and Vosges Mountains. It hardly has space left in its three weeks for sprinters.
“Obviously, if you are really in shape and are really strong, you can also survive some of these days, there will be sprints, but it’s not like in the past where you had six sprint days in a row until the first rest day,” he continued.
“It will be a very different Tour de France with that hard start right from the beginning in Nice. It looks like they just wanted to do something very different.”
Froome and his defending champion teammate, Egan Bernal will be happy, and a number of French GC hopes recently spoke their praise of the unconventional route. But others like Degenkolb’s new team-mate Ewan, less so.
“There are definitely not so many opportunities for Caleb, we haven’t spoken about the line ups for next year, but it’s going to be interesting,” he said. “It’s definitely something that not a lot of guys expected.”