1 Düsseldorf-Düsseldorf, 13km
Most of the route will be along the banks of the Rhine, crossing the river several times. Tony Martin, once again wearing a rainbow skin suit, will be keen to shine in front of his home fans and Dusseldorf will be in party mood. It might not be in France, but you’ll have caught Tour Fever by the end of the day!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Your payments are for a Saturday arrival with the rider briefing at 2pm followed by the prologue ride at 3pm and back to the hotel for dinner. You can buy an extra night of accommodation in Dusseldorf if you’d like to arrive on the Friday rather than the Saturday.
2 Düsseldorf-Liège, 202km
Heading relatively soon out of Germany and into Belgium where cycling (all disciplines) is a national sport, the morning will be largely flat with a few bumps (read: short climbs) after lunch as we approach Liege. That said, the tour announced a sprint finish on the Boulevard de la Sauvenière (rather than the puncheur fest of previous finishes in the region) so it’ll be a nice cruise into town at the end of the day.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Dusseldorf hotel. Finish: Liege hotel.
3 Vervier-Longwy, 202km,
This will be a very pretty, Ardennes classics themed stage. The reason for the stage start in Verviers is that it’s Philippe Gilbert’s home town and this will be 9 days (2 for the pros) before his birthday: Ahhhh. Luxembourg has great roads and the views will be impressive today. Longwy (stop giggling at the back) has a stunning citadel, which the route climbs up to for the stage finish, no doubt delighting everyone at the end of 200km!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Transfer from Liege to Vervier. Finish: Longwy hotel.
4 Mondorf les Bains-Vittel, 203km
A relatively flat (it’s all relative) stage which heads south from Belgium and finally into France. Open countryside and lovely, sweeping vistas might mean some cross winds; but where that would split up the pro peloton, for us it means working together for the benefit of everyone. So a nice chance to chat to other cyclists and say hello to the motherland.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Transfer from Longwy to MLB. Finsih: Vittel hotel.
5 Vittel-Planche des belle filles, 160km
The Vosges at their finest! This stage is a (relatively short in kms) winner: with quiet roads, the biggest hills we’ve seen so far this tour and a well known finish climb. The morning is your warm up for a post-lunch climb to 750m, back down to 400m and then we finish the stage with the Planche des Belles Filles at 1035m. Every Tour fan will remember this stage finish. It’s only been used twice before (in fact, it was transformed for the 2012 edition of the race from a muddy field into a dead end climb), but it has already become famous among British fans for ‘that Sky train lead-out’ culminating in a Chris Froome stage win and a Bradley Wiggins maillot jaune which he then kept until Paris. But few know the tale of the three pretty girls and why they were on that plank in the first place…
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Vittel hotel. Finish: Transfer from PdBF to Vesoul hotel.
6 Vesoul-Troyes, 216km
A great stage to explore France and understand Le Tour. By no means flat to us, but a flat, sprinter stage for the pros, this is a stage which will take you north west, crossing the Haute Marne and the Aube. These regions are often overlooked as they sit north of Burgundy and east of the Loire but that’s exactly why it makes great cycling: you’ll cycle from charming French village to charming French village, past small rivers, open fields and into the lovely, canal-filled Troyes to finish. The profile is deceiving: accumulated climbing even in these ‘flat’/not flat tour stages can nudge 1500-2000m
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Vesoul hotel. Finish: Troyes hotel.
7 Troyes-Nuit Saint Georges, 214km
Stage 7 has a great profile: mostly up during the morning, mostly down during the afternoon. Add to that a full day of cycling through Burgundy (skirting Dijon in the afternoon) and a good mix of scenery and sights (there will be many a chateau to spy from the comfort of your saddle) and you’ve got a cracking stage 7. Nuits St Georges is a first time stage finish: the town is known in the wine world for producing some of the best wine on the planet, Côte de Nuits, and with Monty Python fans for it’s twin Australian town Nuits Saint WogaWoga.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Troyes hotel. Finish Nuits St Georges hotel.
8 Dole-Station des Rousses, 187km
A stage entirely hosted by the Jura mountains and, as such, will feature breath taking scenery in less-well-known-but-very-well-worth-getting-to-know cycling country. This is the first, real mountain-toughy of the tour and for the pros is a stage that will favour a breakaway (Sagan, Van Avermaet) after the usual chaos of the first week! This stage will feel like a lot of climbing. None of it is too tough until you get to the final climb which is not to be underestimated. Les Rousses is a small, local ski station on the Swiss border so this really is a day where you’ll feel you’ve arrived (by bike) in the mountains. Cool!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: transfer to Dole. Finish: Les Rousses hotel.
9 Nantua-Chambery, 181km
Hello mountains! In the route presentation, Christian Prudhomme, head of the Tour, described this stage as having an ‘entrée, plat et dessert’. These three courses add up to a huge amount of climbing: over 4600 in total, all in the Jura (read: cows, cheese, stunning). Gradients approach 10% for the full length of the three main climbs… The col de la Biche just got new tarmac though so it’ll be a lovely climb and descent (plus there are cows at the top to say hi to), the Grand Colombier has one of two steepest points on tour, and then the Mont du Chat has its first tour appearance since ’74, making it a particularly cool climb to bag.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: transfer to Nantua. Finish: Chambery hotel.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Coach transfer (approx. 6hrs) from Chambery to Perigueux. We’ll give you baguette sandwiches for lunch half way, you get a chance to snooze and you’ll be in Perigueux chilling out well before tea time!
10 Périgueux-Bergerac, 178km
Stage 10 is a Dordogne dream. The area is known for walnuts, truffles, foie gras, gorges and caves – and there’ll be plenty to look at as you cycle south and pass by some stunning (seriously, stunning!) villages and rock formations. The cycling will feel lumpy rather than flat but that’s what gets you the views and joy. Towards the end of the day, heading towards Bergerac, you’ll see more vinyards than fields and in the summer sun you won’t even mind how much your legs ache!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start Perigueux hotel. Finish: (very nice and just out of town) Bergerac hotel.
11 Eymet-Pau, 202km
It’s a slightly flatter stage than the day before and your ‘flat’ approach to the Hautes-Pyrénées. We cycle through the Lande & Gers regions to get to Pau: it’ll have a real south west France feel about it, full of villages with tree line town squares, big café terraces and sunshine all the way! Well before we reach Pau, you’ll be able to see the outline of the Pyrenees mountains far in the distance and by the time you’ve made it to beer/dinner, you’ll be reflecting on a day of some serious sporting joy.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Transfer to Eymet. Finish: Pau hotel.
12 Pau-Peryragudes, 214km (or Plan B: 160km stage with 1400m less climbing: see below)
This is a very tough day and the climbs get progressively harder with the Col des Ares, Col de Menté and the Port de Balès coming before the Col de Peyresourde, followed by (a quick stop at the crêperie at the top before) a short plunge downhill and the final climb up to Peyragudes with pitches as steep as 16%. The reward is a night in a mountain hotel and a starlit sky! The wild, rocky Pyrenean mountains are broken up by the very pretty valee de la Barousse and some wooded, sun-sheltered lower sections of climbing. The opening scene of Tomorrow Never Dies was filmed in Peryragudes: if it’s good enough for James Bond…
NOTE: PLAN B: You don’t have to do it all: the route is such that during the morning you can take a short cut to miss out the first two climbs and concentrate on the brutal-but-stunning task of climbing the Port de Bales, Peyresourde and Peyragudes. It’s still a mighty day but for many, plan B will remove sufficient fear and pain to make this day a treat.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Pau hotel. Finish: Peyragudes hotel.
13 Saint Girons-Foix, 100k
Such a short day will be a lot of fun for Tour de Forcers. You can really afford to take your time over this one and enjoy being in the mountains with time for photos, coffee and banter. The first climb of three is Col de Latrape: not too testing, very pretty and great views at the top. Then comes the Agnes: a 10km steady climb to today’s highest point, 1570m. And lastly, the Mur de Péguère which certainly earns the name “wall”! Its final 4km is all 9% or more with short pitches at 16 and 18%! This is one to tick off and one to be proud of. You’re rewarded with a downhill all the way to Foix: this will be exciting on telly when you watch it next week!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: transfer to St Girons. Finsh: icecream feast and transfer to Blagnac
14 Blagnac-Rodez, 181km
This stage is littered with attractive little villages and valleys of the Tarn and Aveyron and those same valleys will sap the legs, as there is just over 500m of net height gain during the day and probably an accumulated climbing total of close to 2000m. What you get in terms of scenery is stunning. You’ll cross the plain east of Toulouse, heading north and up through gorges onto a plateau which feel like the France of times gone by. It’s quite an untouched, unspoiled part of France and absolutely full of charm and old men drinking pastis at 11am! The Côte Saint-Pierre, situated toward the end of the stage, will provide an excellent launch pad during the race itself and will feel like a real achievement for Tour de Forcers at the end of a beautifully tiring day.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Blagnac hotel. Finish: Rodez hotel.
15 Laissac Sévérac L’Église-Le Puy en Velay, 189km
Stage 15 is another corker in terms of scenery and variety, starting in Laissac, known for its strong mountain biking routes. The toughest bit comes straight out of the door with a 500m climb before you know what’s happening. The same steady, 500m-climb joy comes at you again much later in the afternoon but until then, it’s all volcanoes and lovliness. The landscape is soft and grassy: this is the Massif Central region which we saw in 2016 when it proved a Massif Highlight.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: transfer to Laissac. Finish: Puy en Velay hotel.
REST DAY Le Puy en Velay
Tour de Force Practicalities: Two nights in the same hotel. Yay! Puy en Velay is known for lace, lentils and a local spirit made with lemon verbena. It’s a really lovely little town with plenty of launderettes and cafes!
16 Le Puy en Velay-Romans sur Isère, 165km
This stage will be be a spectacular change in scenery from the last days. A 500m climb kicks you off and then it’s majority down hill as you descend (rolling rather than whizzing) from the Massif Central plateau down to the Rhone Valley where, after lunch, you’ll suddenly realize that you’re in holiday mode. The climate here is much drier and the roads, views, village architecture and cycling will have a totally different feel. Stop by the side of the road to buy cherries (or just enjoy the amazing fresh fruit at our feedstops) and you’ll realize that you’ve got it way better than the pros! Romans sur Isère is a first time Tour de France stage city but has been used in Paris-Nice before, most recently, in 2015 when Nacer Bouhanni sprinted to victory.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Puy en Velay hotel. Finish: Transfer to La Mure hotel.
17 La Mure-Serre Chevalier, 183km
BAM! Alps. This stage is going to feel pretty epic. Not only is it one of the longer high mountain stages this year (topped in distance only by stage 12 in the Pyrénées) but it also contains over 4700m of height gain and has the longest climbs on the 2017 Tour. The Col de la Croix de Fer is 24km (along with a sneaky downhill section that cheats the average gradient figure down to 5.2%) and the Galibier is almost 18km in length. Both climbs are spectacular though with the Galibier sporting long sweeping views up to the summit from nearly 10 kms away. La Mure is a first time Tour Town and is on the Route de Napoleon: an historic stage in more ways than one. As for the pros, these next two stages are going to be the final decider of the Tour in the mountains. With only a short TT in Marseille, Nairo Quintana is going to have to make sure he as a buffer of at least a minute over Chris Froome and he might only have today and tomorrow to do it…
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: La Mure hotel. Finish: 6km cycling descent to Briancon hotel.
18 Briançon-Izoard, 178km
This is the étape du tour so you’ll see and hear plenty of information about it. It should be a very fast stage for the pros as the first half is not too tough. What you’re building up to though is the double-fun of the Col de Vars and the Col d’Izoard: The Vars isn’t long but it’s quite tough as it has stretches at 10%. It also has a cracking descent. We’re going up the Izoard from the harder side (obvs!), climbing through gorges, trying to not mind the fact that the second 7km is markedly steeper than the first 7km (with a couple of 11% pitches) and focusing instead on the fact that this is surely one of the prettiest places in the Alps. As an aside, the tour is organizing a women’s pro race with the same start and finish locations as the men’s tour but only 67km instead of 178. Seriously!
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Briancon hotel. Finish: 18km cycling descent or a lift (your choice) back to Briancon hotel. 2 nights in the same place. Woo!
19 Embrun-Salon de Provence, 220km
This is the longest stage of tour at 220km and that is only partly mitigated by the fact that it’s a significant net descent. This might not be the high Alps but it won’t feel like an easy stage! Embrun is above the stunning lake Serre Poncon and you’re heading for the equally stunning villages and small towns of Provence (think lavender, vinyards and market squares). This will be a super interesting stage to ride both from the perspective of an amateur cyclist enjoying perfect tarmac and sunny, hilly, French roads, and also from the perspective of a Tour de France fan, getting an insight into the intricacies of tour design and race tactics.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Transfer from Briancon hotel. Finish: Salon de Provence hotel.
20 Marseille-Marseille, 23km
A short morning at a leisurely pace (Marseille city is not a place for racing) around the corniche road with a cheeky climb up to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde just so that you have to change gears! We’ll give you lunch after you’ve cycled and then we’ll be heading to the outskirts of Paris, ready for tomorrow’s grand finale.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: transfer to Marseille. Finish: transfer from Marseille to Montgeron by TGV train.
21 Montgeron-Paris Champs Élysées, 105km
The last time there was a stage start in Montgeron was 1903 and there was a tiny crowd of 150-200 people to watch it: how things have changed! We’ll take a slightly different route from Montgeron to Paris, making up the distance with a detour to Versailles. Then we’ll rejoin the pro route at the Eiffel tower (for group photos) and up the Champs Elysees for one lap (not 10!) of the Paris circuit.
Tour de Force Practicalities: Start: Montgeron hotel. Finish: Paris hotel.