Le Tour has announced today that the 2016 Tour de France will begin in the Manche (lower) section of Normandy on France's northern Atlantic coast. The area is best known for Mont Saint-Michel, pictured above, which may or may not be featured prominently in the race itself. Here's what we got so far:
The Tour staged a time trial here two years ago, utilizing both the beautiful backdrop and the causeway across the sea to give a dramatic flair to the stage. My hunch is that space is limited, and weather is a potential issue. They were able to host a stage finish for an ITT, and perhaps they could host a bunch finish as well. But wind and/or rain could make for slick roads, which you certainly don't want in a sprint stage.
The Tour has visited the Normandy region 21 times before, and while Brittany gets more attention as a cycling hotbed, this region makes for a great place to stage a day of racing. There are enough undulations to make for an interesting finale, though it's more likely to host flat sprint stages. It is a fine jumping off point for Brittany and its legendary punchy climbs and classics-style terrain, but just as fine a departure point for the Department du Nord and its cobbled hell. Really, starting in Normandy gives us about as little to go on as possible regarding what the shape of the race will be from there. Stay tuned!