Procycling

STAGES

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1 SATURDAY AUGUST 29 | 156KM Nice Moyen Pays › Nice

The 2020 Tour kicks off, with a stage that loops thrice into the countryside north of Nice before a likely sprint on the Promenade des Anglais

For the hordes of British tourists, sunseekers and expats who have made Nice a convenient base over the years, the locals have to thank Tobias Smollett, a Scottish doctor-cum-poet whose 1766 work Travels Through France and Italy was one of the earliest ever pieces of travel literature. Smollett, who stayed several years in Nice, had a healthy contempt for the locals, but nonetheless described the city in glowing enough terms that more of his countrymen and women followed in his path and Nice became a second home for many of the aristocracy, to the extent that the seafront road in Nice is called the ‘Promenade des Anglais’. The path that he beat to the Riviera is still a well worn one, even for British cyclists - Team Ineos have a base there, and many of their riders live in the area, albeit most over the border in Monaco, just out of reach of the taxman

Stage 1 of the 2020 Tour is not a Team Ineos kind of day. But neither is it a complete gift to the sprinters. In keeping with the theme of pitfalls and traps with which ASO have largely designed this year’s route, there are two ascents of the 5.1 per cent Côte de Rimiez on the loops-based parcours, three if you count the fact that the climb also doubles as the neutralised zone for the first time out of Nice. It’s only a cat-3, but the route carries on climbing after the top. However, given the dearth of flat stages through the race, it would be surprising if the sprinters let this rare opportunity slip through their fingers, even if they have to work hard for

WHO DOES IT SUIT?

35 Tour stages to finish in Nice

TOUR HISTORY

The Tour de France also had its grand depart in Nice in 1981. That year, the opening two days saw a prologue on the Thursday, then a short hilly stage and a TTT on the Friday. Bernard Hinault won the prologue, the first of a clean sweep of four individual TT wins that year. He ended up winning the Tour by 14:34 over Lucien Van Impe.

2 SUNDAY AUGUST 30 | 187KM Nice Haut PaysNice

The Tour is only on its second day, and already the riders will tackle two mountains, and two more punchy climbs before the finish in Nice

The Tour has always looked backwards, as well as forwards. While it moves with the times, it also consciously wears its history on its sleeve. ASO’s races often feature references to themselves, and stage 2 is nothing less than a hymn to ASO’s other great stage race, Paris-Nice.

The Col de la Colmiane and Col de Turini are recent features of the Race to the Sun. Look further back, however, and each has also featured in the Tour itself. Both were tackled in 1973, while the Colmiane was on the route of the stage to Pra-Loup in 1975 where Eddy Merckx wore his last ever yellow jersey.

The Col d’Èze is another Paris-Nice institution - it’s a punchy haul out of the eastern end of the city and the peloton will climb it in the last quarter of the stage, then loop back and ride up the first half of the climb before turning off at the bonus sprint at Quatre Chemins with 9km to go.

Critics of cycling’s business model often claim that the sport’s main flaw is that it lacks a coherent narrative. But ASO are masters at creating new stories layered over the old classics, and this stage is not just pure nostalgia. This is a bold route on racing terms alone - putting two category-1 mountains on the route as early as this is part of ASO’s biggest innovation in 2020. The itinerary is also a love letter to Julian Alaphilippe: a punchy finale with a bonus sprint might make race followers think they already know the end to this story.

WHO DOES IT SUIT?

The two big climbs will split the field, but the real action will come towards the end

TOUR HISTORY

There hasn’t been a tougher start to the Tour since the legendary Pyrenean opening of the 1979 event. That year, stage 1 took the riders over the Col de Mente and the Portillon, stage 2 was a time trial up to the Superbagneres ski station and stage 3 crossed three more mountains. Things quietened down

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