110th edition of the Tour de France!
Bilbao has now hosted the start of the 110th edition of the Tour de France, marking the second time that Spain’s Basque Region has staged the Grand Départ of the race after it began in San Sebastian in 1992. From the word go there will be some tough racing in prospect as Jonas Vingegaard – who was in imperious form at the Dauphiné – seeks to retain his title. Here’s our stage-by-stage guide to what promises to be three weeks of gripping racing.
Taking in all of France’s mountain ranges, the race kicks off with what is widely seen as the toughest opening week in its history in terms of climbing, with the Grand Départ followed by a pair of flat stages after the race heads into France, then two stages in the High Pyrenees and a summit finish at the Puy de Dôme in the Massif Central ahead of what will be a very welcome first rest day.
The second week sees a pair of hilly stages flank the third one of the race tagged as flat before three days in the mountains from Friday to Sunday, two of those stages ending in a summit finish, the first on the Grand Colombier.
There are three days in the Alps at the start of the final week, the first of those the only individual time trial of the race, and a short one at that, ahead of two transitional stages taking us via the Jura mountains to the penultimate day` and a first-time stage finish at Le Markstein in the Vosges, followed by the traditional final day in Paris.
Along the way, there will be crashes, injuries and illnesses as well as dramatic moments that may shape the eventual destination of the yellow jersey, and which will live long in the memory.
Here are links to a synopsis of each stage, it's profile and a route map as well as a list of starters by team and a overall map of the 2023 Tour de France.
|Stage 1||Sat, July 1||Bilbao to Bilbao||182 km||Hilly|
|Stage 2||Sun, July 2
||Vitoria-Gasteiz to Saint-Sébasien
|Stage 3||Mon, July 3||Amorebieta-Etxano to Bayonne||193.5 km||Flat|
|Stage 4||Tues, July 4
||Dax to Nogaro
|Stage 5||Wed, July 5
||Pau to Laruns
|Stage 6||Thurs, July 6
||Tarbes to Cauterets-Camgascque
||145 km||Mountain (Summit Finish)
|Stage 7||Fri, July 7||Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux||170 km||Flat|
|Stage 8||Sat, July 8
||Libourne to Limoges
|Stage 9||Sun, July 9
||Saint-Léonard de Noblat to Puy de Dôme
||182.5 km||Mountain (Summit Finish)
|Mon, July 10
||Rest Day Clermont Ferrand
|Stage 10||Tue, July 11||Vulcania to Issoire||167.5 km||Hilly|
|Stage 11||Wed, July 12
||Clermont Ferrand to Moulins
|Stage 12||Thurs, July 13
||Roanne to Belleville en Beaujolais
|Stage 13||Fri, July 14
||Châtillon Sur Charlonne to Grand Colombier
||138 km||Mountain (Summit Finish)
|Stage 14||Sat, July 15||Annemasse to Morzine le Portes du Soleil||152 km||Mountain|
|Stage 15||Sun, July 6
||Les Gets Le Portes Du Soleil to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
||179 km||Mountain (Summit Finish)
|Mon, July 17
||Rest Day Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc
|Stage 16||Tue, July 18
||Passy to Combloux (Individual Time Trial)
|Stage 17||Wed, July 19||Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc to Courchevel||166 km||Mountain|
|Stage 18||Thurs, July 20
||Moûtiers to Bour en Bresse
|Stage 19||Fri, July 21
||Moirans en Montagne to Poligny
|Stage 20||Sat, July 22
||Belfort to Le Markstein Fellering
|Stage 21||Sun, July 23||Saint Quentin en Yvelines to Paris Champs Êlysêes||115.5 km||Flat|
The Tour starts in Spain’s foremost cycling heartland, with a stage through the Basque Country hills which will give many the jitters. Four stiff ascents in the final 80km with the Côte de Pike less than 10km from the line means an initial sort-out of the field; at least one favourite could lose the race here. The finish is made for Julian Alaphilippe, so France will expect a win and yellow jersey.
More straightforward but still hillier than most early Tour stages, with the Alto de Jaizkibel 16km from the finish; this 8km drag is well known to cycling fans as the key point in the San Sebastián Classic. It will shred the field, so a select group should contest the finish, suiting all rounders such as Wout van Aert or Magnus Cort. For the favourites, it’s about limiting any time loss.
Finally, something resembling a normal stage for the Tour’s opening week. There are several nasty little Basque Country climbs but they come early in the stage and the run-out is downhill. So it’s bunch sprint time, which means British eyes will be on Mark Cavendish, although the chances are it will be last year’s sprint star, Fabio Jakobsen, in the spotlight.
Even flatter than Monday, so another bunch sprint day; for the overall contenders it’s again about staying upright. A north wind may liven things up, but it’s more likely to be a slog through the heat before Cavendish, Jakobsen, Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen and company fight it out. Big question: will Jumbo-Visma let Van Aert join in, or will he save his strength to support Jonas Vingegaard when the race enters the Pyrenees?
Two super-steep and gratingly long climbs in the Pyrenees will give a real idea of who is in for the win. It’s 44 years since the Tour has had ascents this severe this early in the race, and there could be as few as a dozen riders in the hunt at the finish. A fast-finishing climber who can descend fast will win this stage, someone of the calibre of Matej Mohoric.
Day two in the Pyrenees with the Col du Tourmalet on the menu before a long, draggy uphill finish. The chances are the contenders who made the grade yesterday will watch each other and probe for any signs of weakness, while a break settles the stage, with pure climbers targeting the win and the King of the Mountains jersey: Giulio Ciccone perhaps, or Neilson Powless.
A complete contrast: pancake flat and probably grimly hot. Bordeaux used to be a classic sprinter’s finish when the race made regular visits, and this will be a throwback to those days. So it’s the same cast as in Nogaro, minus anyone who’s fallen foul of the mountains. This could be Cavendish’s third chance to eclipse Eddy Merckx’s stage win record and by now it will be clear just how tough an ask this will be.
A second bunch sprint on paper, but there’s a twist: this is a long stage, and the final 70km offer little respite, being constantly up and down. It will be a tough one to control, so teams without sprinters will fancy their chances in a break. The tough finale favours a strongman such as Mathieu van der Poel or his Alpecin–Deceuninck teammate Søren Kragh Andersen.
A stage devoted to the memory of France’s favourite racer, the late Raymond Poulidor, starting in his home town and finishing on the extinct volcano that was the site of his greatest exploit. The finish climb is back after 35 years’ absence and its insanely steep final 4km will force Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar to show precisely how strong they are. Expect a major reshuffle in the standings.
After a rest day in Clermont-Ferrand, this is a day for the break to contest a stage through sumptuous scenery. The battle on the climb at the start will be intense and a downhill finish means the final four-mile ascent could see drama aplenty, while there is barely a flat stretch of road in between. This stage will be a target for Alaphilippe, Cort or other stage hunters such as Richard Carapaz or Daniel Martínez.
A bunch sprint for sure, simply because with so few opportunities the sprinters won’t want to let this one get away. A break will go with riders looking for television time, but they won’t stand a chance. The question here is: which sprinters have survived the Massif Central, and which teams have any firepower left? One thing is certain: we won’t see another mass finish for at least eight days.
This is the sort of stage the Tour organiser, Christian Prudhomme, loves, peppered with medium-difficulty climbs where anything can happen. Stage hunters such as Alaphilippe, Cort and company will love it, and overall contenders who have flopped thus far will see a chance for redemption. But for a team trying to control the race, it will be a nightmare in the Beaujolais vineyards. For fans, it could be grand cru.
A very simple stage, with a big (non-classified) climb mid-stage to whittle the field down, and a brutal climb to the finish for Pogacar, Vingegaard and any remaining rivals such as – perhaps – Tom Pidcock to do battle. The finish is a 17km ascent.
The stage 14 battleground, the Col de Joux Plane, is long, and steep, with the final 6km all about 10%; it’s followed by one of the Tour’s trickiest descents to the finish. With climbing right from the start, the break will go early and may well contest the finish. A good chance for riders such as Mikel Landa, but the final descent has Pidcock written all over it.
Again there is climbing all day; four classified climbs and several unclassified ones, before an uphill finish where France’s Romain Bardet won in 2016, and where most of the damage will be done on the initial kilometres to Les Amerands, where the gradient reaches 18%. David Gaudu is the rider French fans will expect to emulate Bardet, but if the overall contenders get involved that will be a big ask.
After the second rest day, a time trial! Once a Tour staple, now a relative rarity. This one is short enough that it won’t upset the applecart, but there’s a twist in its flattish route: a short, sharp pull up the Côte de Domancy, or Route Bernard Hinault, where “the Badger” won the 1980 world title. Another reminder that Hinault remains the last French Tour winner, back in 1985. That’s unlikely to change this year.
The final Alpine stage ends over the longest climb of the week, the 28km Col de la Loze, with an unremitting final 6km topping out at 24%, and after the descent into Courchevel there’s a short, stiff pull to the finish line. If an early break gains ground watch out for pure climbers such as Pello Bilbao, otherwise it’s all about Vingegaard and Pogacar, who between them won four mountain stages last year.
A long flat run out of the Alps offers respite after the mountains. On paper this is a bunch sprint, but that depends on which sprinters have survived and what state their teammates are in. Last year the Belgian Jasper Philipsen was the pick of the sprinters in the second half of the Tour; if he and his teammate Van der Poel are in form, look no further.
Another flat stage, this time out of the Jura and into the Doubs. This should be another bunch sprint, but there’s a stiff little climb 26km out, which could well put the riders who are left in the sprinters’ teams seriously off their stride. So perhaps a reduced bunch sprint for a seasoned warhorse such as Mads Pedersen.
A final mountain stage where the organisers will hope for a conclusive showdown between, ideally, Pogacar and Vingegaard. Given this isn’t a million miles from the home of the French chouchou Thibaut Pinot, the home fans and media will be dreaming up a perfect exit for the three-time stage winner in his final Tour over six of the best passes the Vosges can offer.
A hint of the Paris 2024 Games with a start at the national velodrome before the run-in to the finish on the Champs Élysées, where the sprinters can strut their stuff. This is the last time we will see the Tour here for a couple of years, as next year’s Olympics mean the finish moves to Nice and a final time trial, the first time the Tour has finished outside the capital since 1905.