The biggest event on this years cycling calendar, the Tour de France 2016 is less than two weeks away and it’s going to be an absolute cracker with all of the race favourites finishing the last of their lead up preparation races the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Suisse and Route du Sud over the last week. Two time winner and defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome will wear the number one dossard away from the Manche-Normandy Grand Départ with two time runner up Nairo Quintana, two time winner Alberto Contador, Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru and Australia’s Richie Porte all looking to be crowned the 2016 Tour de France champion on the Champs-Élysées three weeks later.

Here’s a preview of the 2016 Tour de France.

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Tour de France 2016 Route

The Manche department within Normandy has hosted the Tour de France 46 times with 24 stage starts and 22 stage finishes but 2016 will be the first time Manche has hosted the Grand Départ of a Tour de France. Sainte-Mère-Église hosts the team presentation on Thursday before the 2016 Tour de France’s first stage from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach on Saturday July 2.

In total the 103rd Tour de France covers 3,519 kilometres over 21 stages with two rest days. There are 9 mountain stages, 1 medium-mountain stage, two individual time trials and 9 flat stages before finishing on the Champs-Élysées on July 24th.

Click through any of the links to the individual stages below.

Tour de france 2016 route map
Tour de France 2016 route map

Stage 1 Mont-Saint-Michel / Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont

Stage 1 - Mont-Saint-Michel / Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont 188km
Stage 1 – Mont-Saint-Michel / Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont 188km

The opening stage of the 2016 Tour de France will be a sprinters delight with smooth flat roads between the start at Mont-Saint-Michel and the finish 188km later at Utah Beach one of the five landing beaches of the Allied D-Day invasion.

Stage 2 Saint-Lô / Cherbourg-en-Cotentin

Stage 2 - Saint-Lô / Cherbourg-en-Cotentin 183km
Stage 2 – Saint-Lô / Cherbourg-en-Cotentin 183km

Stage 2 starts at Saint-Lô and finishes 183km later at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the stage is mostly rolling but in the final 10km riders tackle the Côte d’Octeville before finishing on top of the category 3 Côte de La Glacerie climb which should favour riders like Peter Sagan and Michael Matthews.

Stage 3 Granville / Angers

Stage 3 - Granville / Angers 223.5km
Stage 3 – Granville / Angers 223.5km

The 2016 Tour de France leaves the Manche department and Normandy after starting in Granville then finishing in Angers after 223.5km. A flat smooth stage for the sprinters.

Stage 4 Saumur / Limoges

Stage 4 - Saumur / Limoges 237.5km
Stage 4 – Saumur / Limoges 237.5km

Stage 4 is the longest stage of the 2016 Tour de France and crosses the Bonnac-la-Côte at 452m, the climb is gradual enough for the sprinters to stay on or at least chase back on in the 27km gradually downhill kilometres to the stage finish at Limoges. Should be a bunch finish but possibly a break may stick.

Stage 5 Limoges / Le Lioran

Stage 5 - Limoges / Le Lioran 216km
Stage 5 – Limoges / Le Lioran 216km

Stage 5 is the first mountain stage of the 2016 Tour de France but with a mixture of mainly category 2 and category 3 climbs it’s unlikely we will see any time gaps open up among the favourites. Stage 5 starts in Limoges and finishes at Le Lioran after 216km.

Stage 6 Arpajon-sur-Cere / Montauban

Stage 6 - Arpajon-sur-Cere / Montauban 190.5km
Stage 6 – Arpajon-sur-Cere / Montauban 190.5km

Stage 3 is officially a flat stage but contains two category 3 climbs, the second is 40km from the stage finish at Montauban so a large bunch should contest the stage sprint.

Stage 7 L’Isle-Jourdain / Lake Payolle

Stage 7 - L'Isle-Jourdain / Lake Payolle 162.5km
Stage 7 – L’Isle-Jourdain / Lake Payolle 162.5km

Stage 7 is where things get serious for the overall contenders, the Tour de France heads to the Pyrenees for three stages and in this stage take on the Col d’Aspin before a 10km downhill then finishing at Lac De Payolle after 162.5km.

Stage 8 Pau / Bagnères-de-Luchon

Stage 8 - Pau / Bagnères-de-Luchon 184km
Stage 8 – Pau / Bagnères-de-Luchon 184km

Stage 8 features the Col du Tourmalet, the Hourquette d’Ancizan, the Col de Val-Louron-Azet and Peyresourde before finishing at Bagnères-de-Luchon after 184km. An epic stage that will shake up the GC.

Stage 9 Aran Vielha / Andorra Arcalis

Stage 9 - Aran Vielha / Andorra Arcalis 184km
Stage 9 – Aran Vielha / Andorra Arcalis 184km

Five climbs between the Spanish and Andorran Pyrenees including Port de la Bonaigua, Port del Canto, Cold de Beixalis before a summit finish at the hors catégorie, Andorre Arcalis. Stage 9 is 184km long and is the last stage before the first rest day.

Stage 10 Andorra la Vella / Revel

Stage 10 - Andorra la Vella / Revel 197km
Stage 10 – Andorra la Vella / Revel 197km

Stage 10 is a tough stage to follow the rest day, from the start at Andorra la Vella there is a 24km of the category 1 Port d’Envalira then mostly downhill to the finish at Revel after 197km.

Stage 11 Carcassonne / Montpellier

Stage 11 - Carcassonne / Montpellier 162.5km
Stage 11 – Carcassonne / Montpellier 162.5km

A mostly flat short 162.5km stage to Montpellier on the Mediterranean Sea. Should be a bunch finish.

Stage 12 Montpellier / Mont Ventoux

Stage 12 - Montpellier / Mont Ventoux 185km
Stage 12 – Montpellier / Mont Ventoux 185km

Stage 12 is all about the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. The stage starts at Montpellier before taking on the Col des Trois Termes at 135km before the summit finish of Mont Ventoux after 184km.

Stage 13 Bourg-Saint-Andéol / The Cave of the Pont-d’Arc

Stage 13 - Bourg-Saint-Andéol / The Cave of the Pont-d'Arc 37.5km ITT
Stage 13 – Bourg-Saint-Andéol / The Cave of the Pont-d’Arc 37.5km ITT

Stage 13 is the first individual time trial of the 2016 Tour de France and should see some movement in the overall classification. At 37.5km it’s not that long but starts with a 7km uphill section then also finishes on a 5km uphill section.

Stage 14 Montelimar / Villars-les-Dombes Bird Park

Stage 14 - Montelimar / Villars-les-Dombes Bird Park 208.5km
Stage 14 – Montelimar / Villars-les-Dombes 208.5km

Stage 14 starts at Montelimar and finishes after 208.5km at Villars-les-Dombes. It’s a lumpy rolling stage that will end in a bunch sprint or a breakaway group.

Stage 15 Bourg-en-Bresse / Culoz

Stage 15 - Bourg-en-Bresse / Culoz 159km
Stage 15 – Bourg-en-Bresse / Culoz 159km

Stage 15 is another mountain stage and takes on the Grand Colombier from two sides in the final 50km before finishing on a tricky descent into Culoz.

Stage 16 Moirans-en-Montagne / Berne

Stage 16 - Moirans-en-Montagne / Berne 209km
Stage 16 – Moirans-en-Montagne / Berne 209km

Another flattish stage as the 2016 Tour de France crosses into Switzerland for the last stage before rest day number 2.

Stage 17 Berne / Finhaut-Emosson

Stage 17 - Berne / Finhaut-Emosson 184km
Stage 17 – Berne / Finhaut-Emosson 184km

Stage 17 kicks off a sequence of four decisive Alps stages with stage 17 starting in Berne and finishing at the Emosson Dam at 1,960 metres.

Stage 18 Sallanches / Megève

Stage 18 - Sallanches / Megève 17km ITT
Stage 18 – Sallanches / Megève 17km ITT

Stage 18 is a 17km mostly uphill individual time trial with an ascent of the Côte des Chozeaux to 1,219 metres before a short descent to the stage finish at Megève.

Stage 19 Albertville / Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc

Stage 19 - Albertville / Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146km
Stage 19 – Albertville / Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc 146km

Stage 19 is the penultimate mountain stage and takes on the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, the Montee de Bisanne before finishing at Saint-Gervais-Mont Blanc after 146km.

Stage 20 Megève / Morzine

Stage 20 - Megève / Morzine 146.5km
Stage 20 – Megève / Morzine 146.5km

Stage 20 is the final mountain stage of the Tour de France and what a stage if the GC battle is still close. Starting at Megève it climbs the Col des Aravis then the Col de la Colombrire, the Col de la Ramaz and the fearsome Col de Joux Plane before a 12km technical descent into Morzine.

Stage 21 Chantilly / Paris Champs-Elysees

Stage 21 - Chantilly / Paris Champs-Elysees 113km
Stage 21 – Chantilly / Paris Champs-Elysees 113km

The final stage of the 2016 Tour de France with the traditional sprint finish on the Champs-Élysées before the presentations.

2016 Tour de France Contenders

The favourites for the Tour de France have spent the European winter and the season up to now training and preparing for this race, it’s time to evaluate their chances.

Chris Froome starts as defending champion and a two time Tour de France winner, Froome started his season by winning the Herald Sun Tour before racing Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Liège – Bastogne – Liège, Tour de Romandie where he won a stage and then winning his final preparation race, the Criterium du Dauphiné. Froome’s raced only 27 days this year and starts as the bookies favourite to win this years race.

Nairo Quintana started his season at the Tour de San Luis in January before racing the Colombian road race championships then won the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in March and the Tour de Romandie in April then didn’t race again until last week when he won the Route du Sud. Quintana won the 2014 Giro d’Italia and started the Tour de France twice for two second places. This years course suits Nairo Quintana and he will have absolute support from Movistar, he’s my pick to win.

Alberto Contador starts this years Tour de France having won more grand tours than any other rider here and he’s still a contender to win this year. Last year Contador took on too much trying to win the Giro d’Italia – Tour de France double but this year will arrive perfectly prepared after starting his race season later in February at the Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta, then racing Paris-Nice and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in March then winning the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco before winning the mountain prologue and finishing fifth overall at the Criterium du Dauphiné.

Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan during the 2015 Tour de France
Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan during the 2015 Tour de France | © ASO/B.Bade

Fabio Aru starts his first Tour de France and leads a strong Astana team with Vincenzo Nibali in support. Aru won the Vuelta a España last year after finishing second in the Giro d’Italia to Alberto Contador earlier in the season. Aru has only raced 31 days this year most recently finishing 45th at the Criterium du Dauphiné but I wouldn’t take that as an indication of his potential to podium at the Tour de France.

Thibaut Pinot finished third in the 2014 Tour de France and is a strong contender for another podium place this year. Pinot’s best results this year are first overall in the Critérium International and second overall at the Tour de Romandie and winning stage 6 of last weeks Criterium du Dauphiné. Pinot should be the highest placed of the French riders.

Tejay van Garderen has twice finished fifth in the Tour de France and will be hoping that sort of form is on his side this year after withdrawing out of last years Tour de France and Vuelta a España. Tejay van Garderen will jointly lead the BMC Racing Team with Australian Richie Porte and his best results this year were 2nd in the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol and 6th overall and a stage win at last weeks Tour de Suisse.

Richie Porte leads Australia’s hopes of another Tour de France win following Cadel Evans historic 2011 win. With joint leadership of the BMC Racing Team with Tejay van Garderen it will be interesting which of the two riders is the highest placed at the end of the race. Porte started the 2016 season with second place in the Autralian ITT championship to team-mate Rohan Dennis before finishing third at Paris-Nice and fourth overall at the Criterium du Dauphiné. Richie Porte has a best Grand Tour result of 7th out of 9 starts.

As well as …

Vincenzo Nibali won an exciting Giro d’Italia but will support Fabio Aru at the Tour de France before trying to win the Olympic road race.

Alejandro Valverde would normally be chasing a podium at the Tour de France and claiming joint leader status but this year he’s pledged his full support to helping Nairo Quintana win. Finished third at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.

Tom Dumoulin withdrew before the half way point of the Giro d’Italia and hasn’t raced since. Dumoulin had an incredible ride in the 2015 Vuelta a España leading until the penultimate stage.

Geraint Thomas will be Chris Froome’s super domestique but could still finish inside the top 10. Like Froome, Wiggins and Porte he’s lost a lot of weight since stepping into one of the two lead roles at Team Sky. Best Grand Tour result is 15th.

Julian Alaphilippe at only 24 years old is one of the most exciting riders lining up in the Tour de France. Alaphilippe in the last year has finished second overall in 2015 Tour of California then won this year, and had two second places in La Flèche Wallonne, a second place at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and several other top ten in the classics. The Tour de France will be Julian Alaphilippe’s first Grand Tour.

The Green Jersey competition should be a battle between Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel, Alexander Kristoff and Nacer Bouhanni with world champion Peter Sagan the favourite to win again for the fifth time in a row.

You can watch all stages of the Tour de France 2016 on SBS and follow all the latest news on twitter using #TDF2016

All images via ASO / Tour de France

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