Nice finish to tough Tour de France 2024 route as race misses Paris for first time

The margins of success in the men’s Tour de France grow slimmer every year and the defending champion, Jonas Vingegaard, knows he will have to be at his very best to take a third win in 2024, given that Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel – all Grand Tour winners in their own right – will also be targeting final victory on the French Riviera on 21 July.

The 2024 men’s Tour starts earlier than usual, on 29 June, to allow a week between the end of the race in Nice, for the first time in history outside the capital, and the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Paris. The Grand Départ in Florence heralds three stages in Italy, before the convoy heads across the Alps into France, racing from Piedmont to the climbs of the Haute Savoie.

With two long time trials, a handful of flatter stages, 32 kilometres of gravel roads and summit finishes in the French Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees, there is something for everyone, including Mark Cavendish, who has postponed his retirement for one more year, in pursuit of a record-breaking 35th Tour stage win.

But to beat Eddy Merckx’s longstanding record, Cavendish will have to be quick out of the blocks. The 38-year-old admitted he was alarmed by the severity of the 2024 route, and particularly by the early scheduling of the French Alps.

“There’s a few [sprint stages] but you’ve got to get to them – that’s the problem,” Cavendish said after the Tour presentation, referring to the unusually early Alpine challenge, of stage four from Pinerolo to Valloire.

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“It’s so hard,” Cavendish said of the Tour route, before admitting that he saw only a limited number of genuine sprint opportunities. “I’m in a bit of shock, actually.”

Mark Cavendish delayed his retirement to take part in next year’s Tour but sees limited chances for sprinters in its route. Photograph: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com/Shutterstock

The grand designs of the 2024 men’s route suggest an epic race. After leaving the Haute Savoie, the race exits the Alps with stages to Dijon, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises and then, over 14 sections of gravel tracks, to Troyes, preceding the first rest day.

From Orleans, the peloton heads south into the Massif Central, with a brutal stage in the Cantal to Le Lioran, followed by three stages leading to the Pyrenees and two high altitude finishes at Pla d’Adet and Plateau de Beille.

After another rest day, the peloton races into the southern French Alps for a grand finale that includes three summit finishes and a closing individual time trial, from Monaco to Nice, along the corniche roads of the Côte d’Azur.

The defending champion Vingegaard, of the Jumbo-Visma team, remained as focused as ever, despite a turbulent autumn in which his mentor, Primoz Roglic, has jumped ship to the Bora-Hansgrohe team.

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With Roglic now turned rival, Vingegaard will also have to contend with the world time trial champion, Evenepoel, of Soudal-Quickstep, and longstanding sparring partner and former Tour winner Pogacar, racing for UAE Emirates.

But like others, the Dane gave a lukewarm reception to the inclusion of so many gravel sections in the stage to Troyes. “I think it’s a nice element, but it’s also one day in which you can lose the Tour,” Vingegaard said. “If one of the favourites loses five minutes there, that would be a shame. You just have to be focused and be ready for everything.”

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The Tour de France Femmes starts in Rotterdam on 12 August, the morning after the Olympics close. After three stages centred on the Dutch city, the women’s peloton heads into the Belgian Ardennes for a classic-style fourth stage from Valkenburg to Liège.

But the Alps loom large once more on the final weekend, with a penultimate stage to Le Grand Bornand and a show-stopping finale on the steep hairpins of Alpe d’Huez on the final stage. On a climb that has always been kind to Dutch riders, the defending champion, Demi Vollering, winner last July on the Col du Tourmalet, will be the rider to beat.