Set in the Palais des Congrès in Paris’s tony 17th arrondissement, cycling’s who’s who shows up each October for the unveiling of the official routes for the coming year.
Like last year, courses will be revealed for both the men’s Tour de France and the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift during the glittering spectacle.
The event will also be broadcast live on the Tour’s media channels at 11h30 CET.
Cycling’s Oscars draws the stars
No matter what the route, the fall presentation still remains one of the top events of the calendar.
Many of the top Tour’s top stars and team managers show up for the event.
Photographers snap shots of the headline racers arriving as if it were the Cannes film festival, and then journalists mob the riders in the post-presentation mixed zone for their initial reactions to the course.
Though some of the behind-the-scenes intrigue has lost some of its luster in the age of instant messaging and Zoom calls, the Tour presentation remains a top media event.
Located near the Arc de Triomphe, the Palais sees more than 1.2 million visitors each year and hosts 235 events. Yet for the cycling community, it’s the annual rite of autumn that really matters.
What’s known so far?
The 110th edition of the men’s Tour will run July 1-23, with the grand départ featuring three stages in and around Bilbao, Spain, marking the 25th time the Tour starts outside of France.
Like every year since 1975, the finish will be on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The second edition of the Tour de France Femmes will run July 23-30, with the same amount of race days as the wildly successful inaugural edition this summer that went from Paris into the Vosges.
Unlike last year, which started in Paris to coincide with the arrival of the men’s race, it’s likely that the race will begin elsewhere, with Clermont-Ferrand near the Massif Central a possible starting point.
From there, it remains to be seen which direction the eight-day race might turn. It could push north toward a finish in Paris, but since much of that terrain is mostly flat, wide-open farm country, it’s more likely it will steer east toward the Alps, or perhaps south into the Pyrénées, with the latter two options providing more opportunities for climbing stages.
Though the men’s Tour frequently dips across the border into its southern neighbor, Bilbao marks the first time since San Sebastián in 1992 that the Tour’s started in nearby Spain.
So far, three stages are confirmed for the men’s Tour. Following recent tradition, the Tour is scrapping any sort of time trial or prologue to start the race, and instead will feature some challenging climbs across the Basque Country in the opening two days of racing.
Stage 3 brings the Tour back onto French roads.
From there, it’s a blank map, but there are plenty of rumors being bandied about.
One report gaining traction is a return to the Puy de Dôme, the iconic climb in the Massif Central that hasn’t seen the Tour since 1988 after being featured in 14 editions of earlier races, including the famous showdown Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor in 1964.
There are other reports of a return of the Col de Loze high in the French Alps, featured for the first time in the 2020 Tour. Grand Colombier and a return to Grand Ballon are also rumored, though it’s not expected that the Tour will return to the cobblestones of northern France this year.
The big question mark will be how the Tour organizers will handle the orientation of the Pyrénées and Alps, the two key geographic markers of any “grand boucle.”
Will the route push north from the Basque Country along France’s west coast, and then steer east toward the Alps? Or will the route dive straight into Pyrénées?
Opening stages in the 2023 Tour de France
July 1: Bilbao-Bilbao, 185 km
July 2: Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastián, 210 km
July 3: Amorebieta-Etxano to … TBD