LA ROSIERE Stage 11: Albertville > La Rosière Height: 1,855m; Length: 17.6km; Average gradient: 5.8% A new finish for the Tour but not for its organisers. The 2015 edition of the Tour de l’avenir featured a similar stage crossing the Pré and Roselend passes before concluding on the long climb up to the La Rosière, although it finished at a lower point. Coming at the end what is sure to be an explosive stage of just 108km with three big climbs beforehand, the Rosière could produce the first significant gaps among the favourites. A power climb at the start and finish, the toughest ramps are in La Rosière’s mid-part, and it’s here the selection is likely to be made.
L’ALPE D’HUEZ Stage 12: Bourg Saint Maurice > L’alpe d’huez Height: 1,838m; Length: 13.8km; Average gradient: 8.1% Rumours of a double ascent of the Alpe proved unfounded, but this stage is no less intimidating because of that. The riders will ascend to 2,000 metres on the Madeleine and Croix de Fer passes, before tackling the Tour’s most celebrated ascent. With more than 5,000 metres of vertical gain, defending Tour champion Chris Froome has picked this out as the key mountain stage. In theory, its frequent changes of gradient should suit the British rider, as should its appearance in the second week, when his climbing has tended to be better than in the final few days.
COL DE PORTET Stage 17: Bagnères de Luchon > Saint Lary Soulan (Col de Portet) Height: 2,215m; Length: 16km; Average gradient: 8.7% After the steady, but long ascent to Peyragudes, then a much more abrupt climb to Val Louron, this super-short stage concludes with the Tour’s highest-ever finish in the French Pyrenees. In total, there’s 40km of ascent in just 65km. Although not fully surfaced yet, the Portet will receive a makeover before the Tour arrives. Prudhomme has dubbed it “Galibier mark II” — its gradient rarely drops below eight per cent per cent and is often above 10. This stage could change the look of Grand Tour racing.