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Assessing the Tour Route

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Thanks to Clydesdale for posting the news this morning. Rather than just doing this in comments, though, I thought it was worthy of a separate post to break down the route.

First off, the Tour folks offer a quick quote or two analyzing each stage, plus crude profiles on the mountain stages.

Full report, on the flip.

Overall, this appears to be a nicely balanced route likely to assure a full three weeks of competition. Not the hardest route ever, but given the doping issue that's probably something we as fans need to let go of. My biggest complaint in 2006 was that the Tour didn't start for the GC guys until pretty late in the game, as compared to the Vuelta. In 2007, the Alpes will draw out the top guys as soon as stages 7-8, the first big time trial the next weekend, and the Pyrenees and last ITT in the final week.

Missing are virtually all the marquee stages. No Alpe d'Huez, no Ventoux (despite Prof. Wilcockson's assurances), no team time trial. There are of course some familiar names, like the Galibier, Telegraphe, Marie-Blanque, Aubisque and probably the most difficult finish on the Peyresourde (10km at 7.8%). But this is hardly a Tour's-greatest-hits route.

The two time trials are about what you'd expect, both over 50km and not especially hilly, though the second one is uniquely a point-to-point rather than an out-and-back (to the chiagrin of the support vehicles, I'm sure). The transition stages are a mix of flats and a few rollers leading up to both sets of mountains. There are interesting finishing towns in Marseille and Compiegne, although the latter, while resembling a reverse Paris-Roubaix, apparently (from the quote) doesn't include too many five-star cobble sections. The sprint stages are spread around all three weeks of the route, not especially front-loaded. Oh, and Bastille Day is a mountain stage, albeit more of an Alpes hors d'oeuvre than hors categoire.

So, there are no headline-grabbers in this route. Instead, it's a traditional mix of new and old, spread evenly across three weeks to allow for the riders to make the race, as they say.