Mountains decisive for 2017, says Froome

Chris Froome (AP)
Chris Froome (AP)

Paris - Tour de France organisers on Tuesday unveiled a 2017 course light on mountain climbs but reigning champion Chris Froome insisted they would still be key to his bid for a fourth title.

The visually spectacular 104th race over 3 516km starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with the traditional time trial. There are five real mountain stages, fewer than in 2016.

"This Tour will be won in the mountains, the time trials are too small to have any real effect," said Froome, winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said the route "has been designed to be won by a true champion", without naming Froome or identifying any other favourites.

Puncher Dan Martin said he felt the route brought him into the picture.

"There's plenty of scope for damage every single day. You have to survive," the Irishman told AFP.

"This route is better suited to my style than previous years."

The opening 13km time trial offers world champion time-triallist Tony Martin the chance to clinch the yellow jersey on stage one as the Tour starts from his native Germany for the first time in 30 years.

The northern start means the route has to be 'J' shaped, and this year misses the north and west of France entirely, said Prudhomme.

With nine varied flat stages, five hilly ones designed to open up the challenge, the five real mountain stages are designed to have a visual backdrop which will amplify the exploits of the athletes who excel there.

And if the crucial penultimate day's time trial starting at the Marseille Velodrome football stadium is only 23km long, it will be run in searing heat and feature a 1km stretch at 18 percent gradient.

Contrary to nearly all the preceding Tours there will never be more than two consecutive days of climbing either.

The Tour's toughest stage on paper is the 214km Pyrenean run from Pau to Peyragudes which feature the mountain where the James Bond movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies' was partly filmed, and has a summit finish as the fifth climb of the day.

In total contrast, the following day's stage 13 is a short but spectacular 100km mountain run from Saint Girons culminating in a 27km hair-raising descent to Foix, featuring extreme climbs and descents along the way.

This is followed with a day for punchers and will evoke powerful memories for both the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and world road champion Peter Sagan. The 181km 14th stage culminates in Rodez where the Belgian out-paced Sagan for a stage win in 2015.

But even in the first week there will be stages for rollers, sprinters, testing cross-wind infested plains, and on day five the Planches Des Belles Filles where Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey in 2012 on a day Froome won the stage.

"I was delighted to see it on the race again," said Froome. There's not enough to make a great deal of time there, but it makes me happy to see it there."

There was further good news for Froome when it was announced that around 10km of mountain terrain, at crucial tactical climb points, would be stripped of roadside fans. An accident caused by packed crowds on Mont Ventoux in 2016 saw him run part way to the summit having abandoned a broken bike.

The two Alpine stages on day 17 and 18 finish at the summit of the Izoard, whose lunar summit finish is at 2 360m where oxygen will be rarefied.

"It looks pretty impressive," said Froome. "I've never raced there, we'll need to climb it in practice."

The most watched of all the stages by television audiences is the final day jaunt to Paris and the 10 laps of the Champs Elysees generally won by a top sprinters such as Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel or Marcel Kittel.

The 2017 Tour de France will cover 3 516km starting from Dusseldorf on July 1 and finishing in Paris three weeks later:

Stage 1: July 1, Dusseldorf (GER)- Dusseldorf 13km Individual time trial

Stage 2: July 2, Dusseldorf - Liege (BEL) 202km 

Stage 3: July 3, Verviers (BEL) - Longwy (FRA) 202km 

Stage 4: July 4, Mondorf Led Bains - Vittel 203km

Stage 5: July 5, Vittel - La Planche Des Belles Filles 160km

Stage 6: July 6, Vesoul - Troyes 216km 

Stage 7: July 7, Troyes - Nuits-Saint-Georges 214km

Stage 8: July 8, Dole Station Des Rousses 187km 

Stage 9: July 9, Natua - Chambery 181km

Rest day: July 10

Stage 10: July 11, Periguex - Bergerac 178km 

Stage 11: July 12, Eymet - Pau 202km

Stage 12: July 13, Pau - Peyragoudes 214km

Stage 13: July 14, Saint Girons - Foix 100km 

Stage 14: July 15, Blagnac - Rodez 181km

Stage 15: July 16, Laissac-Severac L'Eglise Le Puy en Velay 189km

Second rest day: July 17

Stage 16: Le Puy en Velay -  Romans Sur Isere 165km

Stage 17: July 19, La Mure - Serre Chevalier 183km

Stage 18: July 20, Briancon - Izoard 178

Stage 19: July 21, Embrun - Salon de Provence 220km

Stage 20: July 22, Marseille - Marseille 23km Individual time trial  

Stage 21: July 23, Montgeron - Paris Champs-Elyees, 105km

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