'Dazzling' finish to new-look Tour de France route
High altitude, an Italian debut in Florence and a finale on the French Riviera are on the 3 492km route for the 2024 Tour de France unveiled on Wednesday.
The Tour starts from Florence on June 29. The race features four high altitude finishes as it crosses the Alps twice and squeezes in two time-trials, including a potentially dramatic final day run from Monaco to Nice on July 21.
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard said he liked the route.
"I'm really excited about it. It looks super hard, at least the third week looks super hard. The climbs, certainly the high-altitude ones, look harder," said the 26-year-old, the peloton's most accomplished climber.
Asked who his rivals might be, the Jumbo leader said he hoped for a four-way struggle this year.
"There's Tadej (Pogacar) and myself and now Primoz (Roglic) has joined Bora so if all of us and Remco Evenepoel are here it will be challenging, with four of us," he said.
British rider Mark Cavendish will have as many as eight sprint stages but was downbeat on his chances of winning a record 35th stage.
"Honestly, I'm shocked at how hard this Tour de France is," said the Astana rider.
It will be the first time the race does not finish in Paris which is off limits as it prepares to host the Olympic Games.
The route, as spectacular as it is atypical, was revealed by Christian Prudhomme, president of the organisers ASO in front of almost 4 000 guests and many of the expected competitors, mayors from along the route and a large press pack at a conference centre in Paris.
The Florence start and Nice finish were already known. That had prompted excitement over not only the first ever Grand Depart in Italy, but the first ever finale outside Paris.
"It's difficult to replace Paris, so what better scenery could we give than a dazzling Monaco to Nice time-trial," said Prudhomme.
Nice mayor Christian Estrozi spoke of his Florentine ancestors and how historic the race route was.
"To be the town chosen to host what is likely to be the only final day that isn't in Paris, is a true honour and for me the fact it also begins in Florence is like a wink from destiny," said Estrozi.
Instead of the traditional last-day parade along the Champs Elysees, fans can instead anticipate a potentially decisive individual time trial along the Riviera coastline and over the hills between Monaco and Nice. It ends along the Promenade des Anglais in front of Nice's pebble beach.
The last stage evokes memories of the 1989 Tour, when American Greg LeMond started a rare final-day time trial 50 seconds behind French leader Laurent Fignon and ended up winning the race by eight seconds.
FIRST TIME IN ITALY
After the Florence start, the race takes in Rimini on the Adriatic coast before cutting across Italy via Bologna and Turin and into France over the Alps on stage four.
"The Tour has never climbed so high, so early," said Prudhomme. "The panoramas in the high Alps are just splendid."
Stage six will catch the eye of wine lovers as it takes in the "Route des Grands Crus" between Macon and Dijon while stage seven goes through the vineyards of Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy.
There are a series of stages for the one-day specialists and for the sprinters, but the southern Alps will likely mark the start of the final battle for the yellow jersey.
A bigger than usual 60km total over the two time-trials will please the fast men such as Evenepoel or Roglic.
The seven mountain stages, which include four high-altitude finales, with the highest at 2 802m on stage 19, will be to the liking of defending champion Vingegaard.
After Troyes in the Champagne region the race swoops south-east toward Pau and the Pyrenees, then heads west through Nimes back to the Alps and then the mouthwatering finale on the Riviera.