AKIPRESS.COM - Tour de France organizers unveiled a 2017 course light on mountain climbs that should boost reigning champion Chris Froome's bid for a fourth title, reports The Local.
The visually spectacular 104th race over 3,516 kilometers starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with the traditional time trial. There are only five real mountain stages, fewer than 2016.
"This Tour de France route has been designed to be won by a true champion," Tour director Christian Prudhomme insisted, without naming Froome, winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016 or any favorite.
If the playing field has been leveled by cutting down on mountains the alternative challenges opens the door to he who dares, Prudhomme promised.
The opening 13-km time trial offers world champion time-triallist Tony Martin the chance to clinch the yellow jersey on stage one as the Tour embarks from his native Germany for the first time in 30 years.
As the tour starts in the north, Prudhomme, president of tour organizers ASO explained the route has to be 'J' shaped, and this year misses the north and west of France entirely as it enters France via Belgium.
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 23-km-long, it will be run in searing heat and feature a 1-km 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 214-km 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.