The wait is over – we know where the Tour de France 2023 is going to take us. After a riveting duel between Vingegaard and Pogačar in 2022, we were all excited to learn about the details of the new course, and speculate about which riders it will favour. What’s particularly interesting about this year’s route is its historically low number of time trial kilometers, meaning we can almost certainly expect to see new riders participating in the fight for GC.
Who is going to take the yellow in the Basque country?
First things first. We already knew before the 2023 route was revealed that the Grand Départ will be taking place in the Basque Country. In contrast to the 2022 Grand Départ in Copenhagen, there won’t be any crosswinds here. Nevertheless, the GC riders will need to be on their toes from Stage 1, as there will be a two-km 10% climb, 10 km before the finishing line. Is this another attempt by the organisers to get Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey from day one? We’re almost certain he’ll try, potentially going head to head with the likes of Matthieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, and (we hope!) Pogačar or Roglic. Let’s face it – recent tours have shown us that GC riders aren’t scared of being in yellow from day one.
The winner of Stage 1 may be wearing the revered jersey all the way until Stage 5, as Stages 2, 3 and 4 are pretty hilly, but certainly not too mountainous. It’ll be interesting to see whether we’ll get to witness a bunch sprint, as the organisors have opted to place some short climbs (probably 3rd or 4th category) relatively close to the finishing line. Will we see the same tactic as last year, where teams went all in on those climbs, wanting to drop pure sprinters such as Jakobsen or Gronewegen? Certainly, it will be one to watch, as riders will do all it takes to snap up a surprising victory.
A big name in the Pyrenes
Stage 5 could then see the GC action unfold once we reach the Pyrenes. Our riders’ legs shall be put to the test with an elevation gain of 3400 m. However, with the finish 18 km away from the final climb of the stage (Col de Marie-Blanque), it’s unlikely we’ll see much movement in the GC, especially with Stage 6 looming around the corner. Passing the Col du Tourmalet on the way to a mountain-top finish in Cauterts-Cambasque might force some early attacks on the 10%+ section of the Col du Tourmalet. This should favour the lighter riders such as Vingegaard and Mas, with the finishing climb (16 km at 5.4%) potentially not being hard enough to really make an impression.
As the tour organisers have not yet revealed the profiles of Stages 7 and 8 (only saying they are somewhat hilly), we cannot really predict what’s going to happen at this point of the Tour. What we can say is that lighter riders will be favoured during Stage 9, finishing up the Puy de Dome. Even though this stage is relatively easy with no major climbing tests, the final four km of the Puy de Dome has an average gradient of ~12% and therefore will be a real challenge! Here, time gaps between the favourites may get bigger, with some bonus seconds coming up for grabs.
Stages 10, 11 and 12 seem to be breakaway stages. Filled with steady ups and downs, these stages include short climbs way before the finishing line, making GC action look less likely. Riders and teams will be concerned to not get tangled up in crashes, and will try to save as much energy as possible for the decisive days in the Alpes.
The Alpes – where the Tour de France 2023 is going to be decided
Stage 13 sees the riders enter the Alpes. It’s here that we start to some super hard stages, which will greatly influence the GC battle. After a rather flat first part of the stage, a mountain-top finish up the Grand Colombier (17.8 km at 7.0%) will really open up the fight. Even though 7.0% is shallow enough for the riders to be able draft each other, the sprinkling of 10+% ramps will spice things up. And given the lack of mountain-top finishes in this tour, it will be a chance for some riders to make up a bit of time. Have a closer at the stage here. Stage 14 looks to be simply brutal, with 4200 m of elevation gain. The last climb of the Col de Joux Plane (11.7 km at 8.5%) will be reached 12 km before the end. A fast descent into Morzine les Portes du Soleil will bring to light who is willing to take risks to master the descent and create some time gaps. Find more details here. Coming in thick and fast is Stage 15, with 4300 m of elevation gain and a mountain-top finish up Saint Gervais (Le Bettex). A 7.2 km climb at 7.7% gives us the last mountain-top finish of the Tour.
A second rest day will allow riders to prepare for the only time trial in the Tour. At 22 km, this time trial includes five km with an elevation gain of 650 m. Otherwise, it seems to contain a few steady ups and downs. This should elate GC riders who aren’t so proficient in classic time trialling, such Enric Mas and Egan Bernal. What equipment riders will go for here, a classic time-trialling bike or a lighter road bike, will be interesting to see.
Stage 17 is the Queen’s Stage, with 5400 m of elevation within just 166 km. However, there will be a slight downhill after the 27.9-km climb (6.0%) up the Col de la Loze, which gets super steep towards the top. We’re talking a 24% ramp (ouch!) and an average of 10% for the final five km. This will be the opportunity for lighter riders to make their move, but let’s see whether the five-km descent after the top will make them lose time and get reeled back into the group.
The riders will then leave the Alpes with two transition stages (Stages 18 and 19). Only one of the two profiles has been made available, but it looks like Stage 18 will be a breakaway stage, favouring sprinters who can climb well. They will need the help of their teammates, who will need the energy to bring back the breakaway. In 2022, this proved to be difficult for certain teams after the intense mountain stages. A final test awaits the riders in Stage 20, when they visit the Vosges mountains. We can expect to see some GC action here during the two climbs – the Petit Ballon (9.3 km, 8.1%) and Col du Platzerwasel (7.1 km, 8.4%) – the latter ending six km before the finishing line. Again no mountain-top finish, but this may be the last chance for some of the GC contenders, who might launch some desperate attacks.
Overall, the 2023 Tour de France route looks to be an interesting parcour. However, it lacks those iconic mountain-top finishes, such as Alp d’Huez or Hautacam. On the other hand, there is the potential for lots of early attacks and plenty of aggressive descending. Picking a favourite will be difficult, but the lack of time trialling brings riders like Mas, Lopez and Bernal into contention. However, with the recent transfers that teams such as UAE and Jumbo have made, Vingegaard and Pogacar are looking to be the top favourites. Their teams will almost certainly place strong satellite riders around them during the descents, so we’re hopeful for another epic battle between these two modern cycling legends.
If you are interested in riding the Tour de France 2023 yourself then check out our offer here. You can find the 2023 Tour de France route by visiting the official Tour de France website: https://www.letour.fr/en