The biggest spectacle in the world of bike racing begins once again on Saturday with the Grand Depart in Dusseldorf, Germany. 2017 will be the first time the race has visited modern day Germany, but it has visited West Germany three times. In 1965 it became the third country outside France to host the start of the race when le Tour left Cologne, returning in 1980 in Frankfurt. The final last time the tour went to Allemand was in 1987 when it left from West Berlin.
The race begins with a 14km individual time trial around Dusseldorf and ends on the Champs-Elysees, although the penultimate stage is a 22.5km individual trial which could prove decisive in the GC, much like it did in the Giro d’Italia when Tom Dumoulin won it on the final day.
Here’s our guide to every stage of the race, to help you get to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Stage 1: Dusseldorf>Dusseldorf 14km (ITT)
Stage 1 is a tantalising prospect for a rider to take the yellow jersey. In such a short time trial it will be unlikely that the TT specialists really have an edge over the other riders, so expect everyone to be giving it their all to take the race lead.
The route profile is flat with two small bumps that would hardly register to the pros, meaning this will be a no-holds-barred sprint for yellow. As Grand Depart’s go it isn’t the most exciting, but it will be a good chance for Germany to show off their support for the race.
Stage 2: Dusseldorf>Liege 203.5km
Stage 2 sees the race wind across South West Germany before entering Belgium after 155km, with the terrain almost immediately becoming one more suited to the spring classics. Rouleurs will be looking forward to this finale with the bumpy terrain giving them plenty of opportunities to attack late in the stage.
Any attack in the final 50km will have to contend with the short, sharp climbs associated with the region, but the last 15km is downhill into Liege so any attacks will need to stick before then. Expect the yellow jersey to change hands today along with the first tussle for the points jersey and polka-dot jersey.
Stage 3: Verviers>Longwy 212.5km
Stage 3 begins in Belgium, finishes in France and bisects Luxembourg along the way. The parcours of the stage will favour the puncheurs once again with the rolling terrain providing plenty of chances for KOM points to be gained. Expect the KOM from Stage 2 to be a part of a breakaway as they try to keep their jersey because if they don’t they will almost certainly lose it.
The terrain is ideal for a breakaway to get away early on the first climb and stay away for the day, but it would need to be a sizeable group and they would need to have a big enough lead to last the distance. With the timings so close already though it’s unlikely any team will allow a breakaway to get too far ahead and put the maillot jaune at risk.
Stage 4: Mondorf-les-Bains>Vittel 207.5km
A brief trip back into Luxembourg for Stage 4 sees the race begin near the three way border between Luxembourg, Germany and France as the race winds South into France proper on a flat stage that will see little action until the intermediate sprint and the category 4 climb, both occurring after 150km of racing.
This stage is likely to be another chance for the sprinters to contest a stage with the green jersey competition in full swing. Look out for the big name sprinters in what will likely be a very fast stage.
Stage 5: Vittel>La Plance de Belles Fille 160.5km
Stage 5 sees the race head South East towards the Swiss border and the looming Alps in the distance, finishing with the race’s first summit finish on the La Planche des Belles Filles, the category one alpine mountain. The stage is only short and the only other feature is a category 3 climb and the intermediate sprint about 2/3 through the day, making it all about the finale.
Today might see the first flurry of activity from the GC riders, especially given the short nature of the stage. If a breakaway which has good enough climbers can get away and stay away until the final climb it could be an opportunity to take the stage and with 10 points on offer for the KOM classification it could also see some action from the polka-dot jersey.
Stage 6: Visoul>Troyes 216km
After a brief flirtation with the mountains Stage 6 brings the race back East into the central region of France – that means it’s flat. The stage is likely to be buffeted by winds which means riders will need to keep their wits about them to avoid getting caught ion a split.
Expect to see the GC teams and sprint teams fighting for position at the front of the race, especially in the last few km, which is likely to make for a very past pace to the day. There won’t be much chance of a breakaway succeeding on such a stage, with a sprint finish almost a certainty.
Stage 7: Troyes>Nuits-Saint-Georges 213.5km
Stage 7 is another drive across central France on the plain flatlands, finishing up near Dijon on a stage that should again end in a bunch sprint, but could see crosswinds playing an important part in the day.
The GC teams and sprint teams will once again have to keep focused to protect their leaders and avoid missing out on any splits that occurr so easily in windy conditions. A breakaway should be reeled in as a formality by the sprinters as more green jersey points are contested over on the line.
Stage 8: Dole>Station des Rousses 187.5km
Stage 8 sees more mountain action on what is the hardest stage of the race so far. The race heads towards the Swiss border, entering the Jura region of the Alps where mountains are commonplace. Plenty of climbing features in the stage with a category 3 and category 2 climb which will likely be contested by a breakaway before they are reeled in as the riders approach the final category 1 climb up to the ski station.
With the intermediate sprint out of the way early in the stage there will be little impetus for sprint teams to ride which will make the finale all about the climbers. There could be a GC skirmish depending on the time gaps and who’s wearing yellow, but whatever happens there will be fireworks for the stage win.
Stage 9: Nantua>Chambery 181.5km
The last stage before the first rest day, the race organisers have made sure that the riders will be in serious need of one with this stage. It features almost non-stop climbing, with the only respite being the descent to another climb and a brief flat part where an intermediate sprint has been added – not that there will be any sprinters left to contest it.
There are three HC climbs throughout the stage – the Col de la Biche, Grand Colombier and Mont du Chat – and if that’s not enough the day starts with a category 2 climb, swiftly followed by two category three climbs and a category 4 climb before the final HC climb just to top it off. This is a stage where the GC will need to be spurred into action, as they may be the only ones left by the time the race gets to the Mont du Chat – the final climb. A good descender will make the most of their skills if they are present at the end, with Chambery not far from the foot of the descent.
Stage 10: Perigueux>Bergerac 178km
After the certain drama that the Jura region brought before the rest day, the race resumes on Stage 10 with a flat stage around the Dordogne region of France. The flat stage only features a category 4 climb and an intermediate sprint so there should be a bunch sprint at the end unless the peloton mistimes the catch.
The flat route will be a second rest day for the GC, but they should still take care as crosswinds could come into play and cause splits in the peloton which could affect the GC riders if they switch off.
Stage 11: Eymet>Pau 203.5km
Stage 11 sees the stage end in the traditional Tour de France town of Pau – the gateway to the Pyrenees – as the race prepares for the first venture into the next mountain range. All that is for later stages though, as this stage is another flat one that should end in a bunch sprint both for the intermediate and stage points.
At this point in the race the contenders for the points jersey should be clear which will lead to the sprint teams catching any breakaway in plenty of time in order to contest the sprint for the points at the end, especially with two more mountain stages looming which could see more crucial teammate withdrawals.
Stage 12: Pau>Peyragudes 214.5km
Stage 12 sees the Pyrenees come into play – but not until the last half of the stage. There’s a cat 4 climb and then the intermediate sprint before the climbing really begins, with the category 1 Col de Mente kicking things off in the mountains. The HC Port de Bales follows before the descent rolls straight into the cat 1 Col de Peyresourde.
After the Peyresourde there’s a category 2 climb of Peyragudes which is a summit finish. This is a stage that the GC riders will have marked due to the quick fire descent-climb combination which will allow an opportunistic rider to get some time gaps – we could see more strange descending from Froome on a stage such as this. If the yellow jersey doesn’t change hands then expect some time gaps to be created or close, and the poka-dot jersey could still be up for grabs.
Stage 13: Saint-Girons>Foix 101km
At 101km this is the shortest stage in the history of the Tour de France – at least since the decision to only ride one stage per day. The shortness shouldn’t fool anyone though as this stage still contains three category 1 climbs.
The intermediate sprint is early in the stage at just 13km, which is followed by the three climbs that are consecutive in nature. The final climb sees a descent which rolls all the way to the finish, making it an ideal opportunity for a rider who is good at descending to get away and take a stage victory; although after Stage 12’s GC antics there may not be much for the yellow jersey contenders to compete with today.
Stage 14: Blagnac>Rodez 181.5km
After the exertions in the Pyrenees the riders will be glad to get back onto the plains as the race heads back North towards the Massif Central region of France. The stage isn’t exactly flat but after the last couple of stages it will feel like it for the riders. The rolling terrain will be an opportunity for the breakaway to stay away for a stage win, especially as the terrain gets hillier towards the end of the stage.
The survival of the breakaway depends on its makeup – if there are puncheurs in the break then if they work together they will have a chance, if not then there may be a sprint finish on the cards or a late attack that goes the distance.
Stage 15: Laissac-Severac l’Eglise>Le Puy-en-Velay 189.5km
Stage 15 is a strange stage as it sees a category one climb after just 17km of racing – hardly enough time for a breakaway to form. After the climb there’s a category 3 climb then it’s mostly undulating until another category 1 climb 158km in, which is followed by a category 4 climb before a long descent to the finish.
This stage is one for the breakaway, providing some good climbers get into the mix. The early climb will bring the GC riders into action early which could cause some fatigue for the later climbs and result in some surprise time gaps.
Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay>Romans-sur-Isere 165km
Stage 16 features anther climb right at the start, albeit just a category 3 climb which is followed by a category 4. After the climbing there’s a descent and then the final 50km are flat and include an intermediate sprint, making this one for the sprinters to contest.
The sprinters will be looking to keep the pace high in the second half of the stage both for the intermediate sprint and the finale as this will be the last chances for the green jersey contenders to compete for points in the competition until the Champs-Elysees.
Stage 17: La Mure>Serre Chevalier 183km
The Alps appear again in the endgame of the Tour, with plenty of climbing to get things started. A category 2 cimb 25km into the stage will make the breakaway attempts limited, although a string climbing group could still get away and stay away for a while, but the likeliness of them staying away for the duration is unlikely.
The HC climbs of the Col de la Croix Fer and Col du Galibier will be key for the stage, especially with the category 1 Col du Telegraphe sandwiched between them. The Galibier is the last climb of the day after which there is a 28km descent to the finish which could see a GC rider with good descending skills get away and put more time into their rivals.
Stage 18: Briancon>Izoard 179.5km
This stage features the highest point in the race with the summit finish on the HC Col d’Izoard at 2,360m above sea level. The climb will be a battleground for the GC riders who will have been softened up by the category 1 Col de Vars which they went up immediately before the Izoard.
The iconic Izoard is where the Tour will be won and lost, with the GC riders duking it out on the upper slopes in the thin air to gain crucial seconds on their yellow jersey rivals. Expect the main protaganists to feature in this with the stage going to a GC rider – maybe even the yellow jersey.
Stage 19: Embru>Salon-de-Provence 222.5km
The longest stage of the 2017 Tour de France’s last competitive road stage is one that should be quite mundane, with the serious climbing dispatched and the GC all but decided. There isn’t likely to be any GC action on this stage unless the time gaps are so slim that a late attack could make the difference.
The stage is very much a bookend for several competitions, with the potential for a bunch sprint at the end enticing the sprinters and those still competing for green jersey points along with the last few mountain classification points which could decide the KOM competition.
Stage 20: Marseille>Marseille 22.5km (ITT)
This ITT will either be a spectacle with the GC on the line, or it will be a preliminary procession for the leader of the race. Late ITTs in grand tours aren’t traditionally very competitive, many riders just thinking of getting to the end of the race and the time gaps often so vast that TT performances don’t make a dent.
The course is mostly flat with one climb which could be the difference in the timings. If the GC is still in the balance with time trial specialists still in competition then it will be a thrilling finale to the race – much like the Giro d’Italia.
Stage 21: Montgeron>Paris 103km
Stage 21 is a traditional procession for the first half, with the yellow jersey team often celebrating victory by drinking champagne and taking press photos whilst riding.
The second part of the race with the laps of the Champs-Elysees is where the action begins, with a breakaway likely to go out in front of the peloton in a last ditch attempt to take a stage win – something that very rarely happens. This will be a bunch sprint which could decide the green jersey or be the last chance for sprinters to take a stage.
Tour de France 2017 Stages Overview
Stage 1: Dusseldorf>Dusseldorf 14km (ITT) Sat 1 July
Stage 2: Dusseldorf>Liege 203.5km Sun 2 July
Stage 3: Verviers>Longwy 212.5km Mon 3 July
Stage 4: Mondorf-les-Bains>Vittel 207.5km Tue 4 July
Stage 5: Vittel>La Plance de Belles Fille 160.5km Wed 5 July
Stage 6: Visoul>Troyes 216km Thu 6 July
Stage 7: Troyes>Nuits-Saint-Georges 213.5km Fri 7 July
Stage 8: Dole>Station des Rousses 187.5km Sat 8 July
Stage 9: Nantua>Chambery 181.5km Sun 9 July
MON 10 JULY – REST DAY
Stage 10: Perigueux>Bergerac 178km Tue 11 July
Stage 11: Eymet>Pau 203.5km Wed 12 July
Stage 12: Pau>Peyragudes 214.5km Thu 13 July
Stage 13: Saint-Girons>Foix 101km Wed 14 July
Stage 14: Blagnac>Rodez 181.5km Thu 15 July
Stage 15: Laissac-Severac l’Eglise>Le Puy-en-Velay 189.5km Fri 16 July
SATURDAY 17 JULY – REST DAY
Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay>Romans-sur-Isere 165km Sun 18 July
Stage 17: La Mure>Serre Chevalier 183km Mon 19 July
Stage 18: Briancon>Izoard 179.5km Tue 20 July
Stage 19: Embru>Salon-de-Provence 222.5km Wed 21 July
Stage 20: Marseille>Marseille 22.5km (ITT) Thu 22 July
Stage 21: Montgeron>Paris 103km Fri 23 July