PARIS — Next year’s Tour de France will feature two ascents of the famed Mont Ventoux on the same stage halfway through the race.
The 1.91-kilometre (1.18-mile) Ventoux is a daunting trek known for its barren and lunar-looking landscape when exhausted riders eventually reach the top. On Stage 11 of 21, the riders will tackle Ventoux from two different entry points for the first time before a long downhill to the finish line.
Race director Christian Prudhomme announced the course on national television on Sunday. The June 26-July 18 edition starts one week earlier than usual so as not to clash with next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo and soccer’s European Championship, which were both postponed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2021 Tour was initially set to start from the city of Copenhagen, with Denmark hosting its first-ever start. But Copenhagen has been pushed back to 2022 because of the pandemic.
Instead, the race begins in the Brittany city of Brest and it features two individual time trials — one on Stage 5 and the other on the penultimate day.
The route is less mountainous than this year’s route and is considered more friendly toward sprinters and especially time-trial specialists, with 58 kilometres (36 miles) of clock-racing the highest amount for several years.
Nevertheless, there is some heavy climbing to do in the Pyrenees.
Stage 17 is arguably the toughest, featuring the Col de Peyresourde and another tough climb on Val Louron-Azet before ending up Col du Portet — an agonizing 16-kilometre slog with a gradient of 8.7%.
Stage 18 has two more iconic mountain passes with the Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden, both well-known and respected in Tour history.
The race also has its longest stage for 21 years — a hilly 248-kilometre (154-mile) route from Vierzon to Le Creusot in eastern France.