The mountains not only provide a playground for skiers, but for riders competing at the Tour de France, they take the epic terrain to a new level for the world’s annual sporting event.
Celebrating 100 years of the maillot jaune (yellow jersey), this year’s Tour de France from the 6th to the 28th July, marks the ‘highest in history’ according to its director Christian Prudhomme. The route embarks dynamic final stages through the Alps, going back to the norm of long epic stretches seen in the 1980s and 1990s. But this year pulls away from the norm, with its multiple finishes at altitudes of over 2,000 metres it stands out from previous routes, making for a decisive Grande Finale.
Medium mountain stages go through the Massif Central and then the Pyrenees but the final stages will see familiar spots and an intense test to claim the traditional yellow jersey at the end.
Of 21 stages, the first alpine stage is 18, finishing in the rustic town of Valloire before ascending up sloping terrain to Tignes in the Espace Killy ski area for stage 19. It’s here that riders’ climb over the Alps highest paved road, the Col de l’Iseran. It is ultimately during stage 20 where the Tour could be won or lost. This high altitude finish has only been seen once back in 1994 but 2019 marks a new record for summit altitude. Moutiers, one of the destinations for the Eurostar ski train, is where the road starts to arise. On the penultimate day, the route features 3 ascents: the Comet de Roseland, the Côte de Longefoy and the final 33 kilometre climb at an average gradient of 5.5% to Val Thorens in the vast Three Valleys. Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe at an elevation of 2,365m, making it an ambitious and challenging final push nearing the end of the route.
The standard final stage and the finish will follow on the 28th July at the Champs Élysées for the traditional sprint race down cobbled streets.
This race will be one to watch not only for the scenic backdrops of familiar ski holiday destinations, but to witness a true test of determination and endurance for a spot on the podium.