Two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) wasn’t at the route presentation for the 2024 race in Paris, but it was no surprise to see he followed it from his well-deserved holiday and liked what he saw.
Pogačar’s was pencilled in as a rider who could potentially challenge the likes of Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx on the Tour de France titles leaderboard when he claimed his second yellow jersey at just 22 years old. However, the last two French Grand Tours have gone amiss for the Slovenian at the hands of Danish GC star, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma).
The 2024 route was revealed on Wednesday with a different route in nature to the past two editions, not only due to the Nice individual time trial finish but also the brutally difficult final week. It is an edition that is not likely to be decided until that final race against the clock in the French Riviera on stage 21.
“The route is pleasant. I really like the first week, it’s a little harder than in past years. You will have to arrive in good shape from the start of the Tour,” said Pogačar to L’Equipe.
“There is a difference in altitude, finishes for the sprinters, two time trials, which is super exciting. The mountain stages are pretty normal, nothing out of the ordinary, but it looks really good to me. Especially the last three days, the ones where I think the race will be decided.”
The final three stages could give rise to a complete overhaul in the general classification after 18 already challenging days of racing. Back-to-back summit finishes on stages 19 and 20 will see the Tour return to the Isola 2000 ski station in the southern Alps for the first time since 1993.
Preluding the mountain-top finish will be two equally difficult ascents on the short 145km stage – the Col de Vars to 2109 metres and the highest road in France at 2,802 metres up to Cime de la Bonette.
Vingegaard will likely be favoured over his fierce competitor Pogačar given his exploits above 2000m in the past two tours, but don’t count the Slovenian out as these are technically home roads that he will have spent hours training on as a Monaco resident.
“It’s not a classic end to the Tour where we perhaps have a difficult finish on the last three stages; here, the last three days are super hard, without the Champs-Elysées usually reserved for sprinters,” said Pogačar.
“The time trial between Monaco and Nice is super interesting, I’m really looking forward to it but you will have to arrive at this final stage with good legs to win.
“Spending the Tour on roads where I train most of the year will be special. Just seeing the profiles at the end of the Tour makes me smile. It really is full of promise”
Pogačar will have fond memories of the summit finish on stage 20, the Col de la Couillole (15.7km at 7.1%), having bettered Vingegaard atop it at this year’s Paris-Nice, but the stage that precedes it is a much more gruelling task. The three categorised climbs include other stalwarts from the Race to the Sun, the Col de Braus (10km at 6.6%), Col de Turini (20.7km at 5.7%) and Col de La Colmiane (7.5km at 7.1%).
Vingegaard was at the presentation and showed clear excitement about the difficulty level of the 2024 Tour de France. He and Pogačar are already lined up to be the big favourites for next year’s race alongside the Dane’s former teammate Primož Roglič, who recently moved to Bora-Hansgrohe, and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Pogačar’s program for 2024 is undecided as of yet with rumours of a Giro d’Italia debut circulating for the incredibly versatile Slovenian, alongside a desire to take Olympic gold in Paris. Still the two-time winner is also bound to want to return to his place on top of the Tour de France podium.