In Flanders, cycling is sacred. For every road, there is a bike route running right alongside it. So, what better tribute to this region's culture of cycling than the Tour of Flanders?
The decisive week of the Tour de France 2020 features both new mountains and climbs already known but somewhat forgotten, for an edition seeking new elements to give the Grande Boucle a different dimension, taking the legend of cycling to places it has never yet been.
The 2020 itinerary is so unusual that La Planche des Belles Filles, the solitary hill in the Southern Vosges, is considered an established—almost monument—finish even though it was “discovered” by the Tour only in 2012.
This edition’s rediscoveries include the Montée de Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, untouched by the race since 1989, and which will serve as the springboard for the finish in Villard-de-Lans. It is being proposed this year to extend the possibilities of cycling excursions for those who decide to spend some time with their bicycle in the beautiful enclave near Grenoble.
The city of Grenoble will mark the start of the stage fundamental in establishing the final ranking. The riders will ignore the siren call of the signs just outside the city indicating “Alpe d’Huez”, instead following the Isère river to Col de la Madeleine with its seventeen kilometres climb from the most famous pass of this edition of the Tour, besides Col de Peyresourde.
After La Madeleine, the riders will face the great unknown, a destination that has everything it takes to become memorable: Col de la Loze.
When they leave Brides-Les-Bains, the riders will face a twenty-two-kilometre climb, that from Méribel (and from Couchevel on the other side) is reserved solely for cyclists and leads to Col de la Loze’s 2304 metre altitude, with the new and never-before-reached Henry Desgranges Memorial.
Anyone who has ridden there, from either Courchevel or Méribel, will tell you that the final ten kilometres reserved exclusively to bicycles has the potential to become an essential destination for people wanting to spend their holidays in the Tueda Nature Reserve, especially for cycling: offering bicycle access to Les Menuires and Val Thorens in addition to Col de la Loze.
However, the Tour de France will not end on Col de la Loze.
Before the time trial of Planche des Belles Filles, there will be yet another stage with a truly remarkable ascent, climbed only once by the Tour de France—La Montée du Plateau de Glières—this time forty kilometres from the finishing line at La Roche-sur-Foron.
Despite it being lower than 1400 metres of altitude, the Montée is included in the Grand Prix de la Montagne “hors catégorie”, because the rise in the six kilometres of ascent is almost always more than 10%, with a maximum slope of 15%.
That will be the best place to give a final blow, if one is needed.
Then, after the final week’s punishing grind it will finally be a smooth road to Paris.
At that point, though there will be no verdict to reach, the Tour will lose none of its charm.
Because Paris is always Paris.