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Penultimate-stage time trial set to decide climb-heavy 2020 Tour de France
Four-time champion Chris Froome said: “It’s the hardest route I’ve seen in the last few years.”
The battle for the yellow jersey at next year’s Tour de France will conclude with a time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles before the traditional sprint stage in Paris.
Organisers ASO on Tuesday unveiled a route which visits all five mountain ranges in France, short on sprint opportunities and designed to favour attacking riders.
Though the 36 kilometre battle against the clock on stage 20 may come to define the race, it is the only time trial in the entire three weeks with the focus instead on medium and high mountain stages.
There will be no return to either Alpe d’Huez or Mont Ventoux next summer and only two stages in the traditional battleground of the Pyrenees, but the Massif Central and the Alps will play a key role before a final phase in the Jura and Vosges.
Chris Froome was in Paris to hear the details, and was quick to note the lack of time trialling and a route which may well be more suited to his Ineos team-mate and the defending champion Egan Bernal.
“It’s the hardest route I’ve seen in the last few years,” Froome said after the announcement.
Four-time champion Froome, who missed this year’s Tour after suffering huge injuries in a high-speed crash at the Criterium du Dauphine in June, is ahead of schedule in his recovery and targeting a return to the race.
The uphill time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles promises to be one of the most hotly anticipated in recent years.
Stage six of this year’s Tour finished on the mountain with Dylan Teuns taking the stage victory as Julian Alaphilippe lost the yellow jersey, albeit temporarily, to Giulio Ciccone while Geraint Thomas put in an impressive late attack.
But that time trial will feel a long way off for riders as they tackle one of the toughest opening weeks of the Tour in several years.
The 2020 edition will begin on June 27 with two stages starting and finishing in Nice, including a tough second day which includes almost 3,700 metres of climbing.
Summit finishes on the Orcieres-Merlette and Mont Aigoual follow on stages five and six before two days in the Pyrenees.
After a rest day in La Rochelle there are some flatter stages but it is a brief intermission before the race heads towards the Alps via the Massif Central once more.
Stage 15 takes the riders out of Lyon and over the Selle de Fromental and Col de la Biche to the summit of the Grand Colombier.
The queen stage follows the second rest day, 168 kilometres between Grenoble and the newly-built cycling route to the summit of the Col de la Loze, via the Col de la Madeleine.
Following the adverse weather which severely affected the final days of this year’s Tour, when Bernal took yellow as stage 19 was curtailed by landslides, the Tour will not head to Paris direct from the high mountains but instead travel north via the Jura and Vosges regions.
Those are home roads for French hopeful Thibaut Pinot, who said: “It’s a wonderful course, I’m already looking forward to it. We’re going to pass my village, that will be special.”
La Course, the women’s race which takes place during the Tour, will return to Paris for the first time since 2016.
The peloton will cover 13 laps of the city circuit for a distance of 90 kilometres.