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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Tour de France route steers clear of Olympics, and Paris

The peloton on the second to last circuit of the Champs-Élysees during the 106th Tour de France, in Paris on July 28, 2019. Because the 2024 Summer Games will be taking over Paris starting on July 26, the men’s Tour de France — the world’s most famous cycling race — will relocate its traditional finish this year, ending not in Paris but in Nice on July 21. (Pete Kiehart/The New York Times)

By Victor Mather

Everything makes way for the Olympics. Even an event as important to the host nation as the Tour de France.

Because the 2024 Summer Games will be taking over Paris starting July 26, the men’s Tour de France — the world’s most famous cycling race — will relocate its traditional finish this year, ending not in Paris but in Nice on July 21. The women’s race, an eight-stage event that typically starts just after the end of the three-week men’s race, will be pushed back to Aug. 12, after the Olympics conclude Aug. 11.

Race organizers announced the routes Wednesday at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.

Ending the race somewhere other than Paris is a major departure. After decades of finishing at the Parc des Princes Stadium near the Bois de Boulogne as well as the Bois de Vincennes, the Tour in 1975 began a tradition of concluding with several laps on the Champs-Élysées. The day often provides some of the race’s most iconic images: riders racing loops in a tight pack, crowds of spectators jamming the streets, the famous Arc de Triomphe as a backdrop.

When the Olympics comes to town, though, they fill a city’s hotels, restaurants, roads, stadiums and arenas, and dominate the attention of most sports fans and the security services. For those reasons, major sporting events, even in non-Olympic sports, are mostly kept away from host cities in the weeks surrounding the Games. In 1996, for example, the Atlanta Braves baseball team embarked on a 17-game, 20-day road trip while the Summer Olympics went on in their home city.

The Tour plans a different route every year, and it had previously announced some of this year’s featured changes, including the finish in Nice and a start in Italy. In between, the route this year will include the usual collection of flat roads, high mountain climbs and stages that blend both of those challenges — and a few new ones.

It is not uncommon for the Tour to begin in another country; it has done so six times in the last 10 years. Next year, the men’s Tour will start in Italy for the first time since its inception in 1903. The opening stage will travel east from Florence to Rimini on June 29, with Stages 2 and 3 in Italy as well before the race enters France.

There, riders will begin climbing in the Alps almost immediately with Stage 4, which features the grueling ascent of the Col du Galibier.

In Stage 9, near Troyes, riders who normally race on paved roads will face an unusual challenge: 14 sections — totaling just under 20 miles — of racing over white gravel roads in the countryside.

The Tour will reach the Pyrenees in the southwest of France on Stage 14, a day that includes a climb of the Col du Tourmalet, and eventually return to several extremely difficult days in the Alps.

Notable is Stage 19 in which riders, back near the Italian border, will climb three tough mountains, including the Col de la Bonette-Restefond, which at 9,193 feet is the highest point of the 2024 Tour and the highest paved through road in Europe. The peloton then will finish with a trip up to the ski resort Isola 2000.

The 21st and final stage will be the hilly time trial from Monaco to Nice. It will be the first time since 1989 that the Tour will close with a time trial. That year, on a dramatic final day, the American Greg LeMond overcame a 50-second deficit to Laurent Fignon and won the race’s overall title by 8 seconds, the closest margin in history.

The women’s race will begin in the Netherlands, home of the defending champion, Demi Vollering, and then travel to Belgium before entering France.

From there, the race’s final three stages will travel south down the eastern side of France before finishing on the eighth and final stage with a potentially spectacular, and decisive, climb up the 21 switchbacks of L’Alpe d’Huez.

Some of the top women will face the Tour, among the biggest events on the women’s cycling calendar, only after competing for their countries in the Paris Games. Many of the men’s riders, meanwhile, will go straight from the Tour to the Olympics, though in both cases success in one of the events does not preclude success in the other: At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia followed a Tour de France win with a bronze medal in the Olympic road race.

Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark has won the men’s Tour de France the past two years.

The 2024 Tour will be broadcast on NBC channels and streamed on Peacock for viewers in the United States.

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