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Two hellish stages, the first on the Col du Granon and the second on the way to the Alpe d’Huez, two ports that return to the Tour de France route and that mark the 2022 edition, presented almost nine months before the departure set for the July 1 in Copenhagen.
There will also be a sequence of pavements at the entrance to France from the north, the Alps will precede the Pyrenees, and a long 40-kilometer time trial on the eve of the arrival at the Champs-Elysees scheduled for July 24.
Several points are considered key in this 109th edition of the Tour, which is not alien to the news (three days in Denmark, the Pyrenean port of Spandelles) and which will also feature classic ports that have forged its legend.
There will be passages even for nostalgia. Tour director Christian Prudhomme announced a ‘vintage’ diptych recalling the 1986 edition when Bernard Hinault lost the yellow ‘jersey’ at the Granon, on a stage won by the Spanish Eduardo Chozas, in the Tour’s only visit to this enclave at 2,413 meters of altitude.
A day later, the last Frenchman to appear on the Tour’s record (1985) won in Alpe d’Huez, ahead of American Greg LeMond in one of the most memorable arrivals of the Tour.
The Alps to Pogacar
For a few moments, Hinault, present at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, rejuvenated almost 36 years when he saw on the big screen the exact replica of the Alpe d’Huez stage (by the Galibier and the Croix-de-Fer).
A few seats away, his distant successor, the Slovenian Tadej pogacar, he discovered the menu that awaits him on July 13 and 14: five special category ports, including the Galibier climbed on its two slopes, and two final climbs that could give a blow to the general classification of the first ten days of career.
For Pogacar, who has not yet experienced these two legendary ascents first-hand – the Alpe d’Huez has not been present on the Tour since 2018 – the profile of the Alps is fully adapted to its characteristics, as long as it shows the same superiority as last July.
The champion of the world Julian Alaphilippe, who discovered the track at the same time as the defending champion, also has reason to rub his hands. How can the Belgian do it Wout van Aert and the dutch Mathieu van der Poel, those who “set fire” the first part of the 2021 Tour.
The flat stages of the first week will take place in the northeast quadrant of France, with a subsequent foray into Switzerland, arriving in Lausanne, the city of the International Olympic Committee.
James Bond and the Marian Shrine
Then there are constant nods to the history of the Tour, such as the stage that leads from Saint-Etienne to Mende where Laurent Jalabert ignited the 1995 Tour, and to the more recent past, with the passage through the medieval city of Carcassonne before entering fully into the Pyrenees through the green Ariège and the unknown port of Lers.
The race returns to Peyragudes, five years after Romain Bardet’s victory at the small airport that served as the setting for the filming of James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies), and to Hautacam, for the sixth time since 1994.
When leaving the mountain there will still be a time trial ahead, the second of this 109th edition of the Tour, to establish the final hierarchy near the Marian Shrine of Rocamadour.
The second time, over a distance of 40 kilometers -the longest since 2014-, is presented one day before the arrival in Paris.
Once in the capital, the peloton will parade down the Champs-Elysées, a few hours after their female counterparts start the first Tour de France Women.
But as Christian Prudhomme, the Tour director, stated: “Whatever sense we give to the making of the route, you don’t write the Tour de France scene by designing on a map.”