“There’s something for everyone,” race director Christian Prudhomme said after unveiling the route of the 2024 Tour de France, and it was hard to disagree. The fast men would undoubtedly prefer some more obvious sprint opportunities, but when the lights went up in the Palais des Congrès, each of the four overall favourites could point to elements in his favour.
Remco Evenepoel’s imminent Tour debut was always likely to inspire route designer Thierry Gouvenou to ladle a generous dollop of time trial kilometres onto the route after a few years of parsimony, and so it proved.
It was already established that the race would finish with a 34km time trial in Nice, and on Wednesday, it was revealed that the Tour would also include a 25km test to Gevrey-Chambertin on stage 7. It makes for a total of 59km against the watch, almost three times last year’s historic low.
In Evenepoel’s brief Grand Tour career, he has developed the useful habit of making a big impact in time trials a week or so into the race. One imagines that ASO’s dream scenario would be for Evenepoel to lay down a marker and snatch yellow here, forcing Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič onto the offensive to take it off him.
“The time trials are in Remco’s favour, but I think our friend who won this year [Vingegaard – ed.] will also enjoy that,” was Soudal-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere’s snap assessment of the parcours.
Evenepoel might be helped, too, by the way the mountain stages are distributed across the race. Although this Tour features some 52,000m of total climbing, the peloton will never face more than two consecutive days in the high mountains. A similar configuration tallied neatly with Evenepoel’s strengths in the 2022 Vuelta a España.
Newly installed at Bora-Hansgrohe, Primož Roglič will, like Evenepoel, appreciate the increased dose of time-trialling kilometres and, based on his own penchant for fast starts in Grand Tours, he will relish the idea of tackling the Col du Galibier so early, on stage 4. There perhaps aren’t quite as many punchy finales as the Roglič would like, but the terrain at Le Lioran on stage 11 and Superdévoluy ought to be to his liking.
The final time trial in Nice, meanwhile, will inevitably conjure up comparisons with LeMond and Fignon’s duel on the Champs-Élysées in 1989, and it will also evoke the heartache Roglič endured at La Planche des Belles Filles in 2020.
But that memory will surely serve to inspire…