Balanced 2016 Tour route still set to favour climbers

Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:48am EDT
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - The Tour de France looks set to be dominated by the climbers once more in 2016 but cycling's most prestigious stage race should get off to a calmer start than this year after organisers revealed a balanced course on Tuesday.

After rattling through cobbled sections and battling perilous crosswinds in an extremely nervous opening block of racing this year, the overall contenders will be relieved that the first week will be much less treacherous.

"It looks that way but we can never be sure. The Tour de France is a stressful race," warned defending champion Chris Froome of Britain.

"It will, however, be a week for the strong," said competition director Thierry Gouvenou, who designs the course along with Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

The sprinters will have more chances to shine with about seven stage finishes designed for the speed merchants, between the first stage ending at Utah Beach, the site of one of the D-Day landing operations in 1944, to the traditional final dash up the Champs-Elysees.

It means that a sprinter is highly likely to wear the yellow jersey after the first stage.

"That makes me super excited obviously, hopefully this time it's going to work out," said Briton Mark Cavendish, who missed out on that opportunity in 2014.

There will be plenty of mountains too, with 28 climbs, three more than this year, scattered over four chains -- the Massif Central, Pyrenees, Alps and Jura. Four mountain stages will conclude with uphill finishes.   Continued...

A pack of riders cycles past Carcassonne' castle during the 15th stage of the Tour de France 2011 cycling race from Limoux to Montpellier July 17, 2011. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini