Will this Be the Most Exciting Tour de France Yet? 

Will this Be the Most Exciting Tour de France Yet? 

With all eyes on two rival favourites, Mark Cavendish’s record-breaking goal and a dramatically dizzying race itinerary through France’s mountain chains, the 110th edition of the Tour de France could be the most exhilarating one to watch in years 

There will be 198 riders from 22 teams in the 110th edition of the Tour de France, which begins July 1. But all eyes will be on two riders: Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar and Danemark’s Jonas Vingegaard. They are set to wage what could be the most exciting battles for the yellow jersey in years during the 21-stage, 3,404-kilometre course. 

Pogačar and Vingegaard during the 2022 Tour de France © filip bossuyt / Wikimedia cc by s.a 2.0

Pogačar won the TDF in 2020 and again in 2021, with Vingegaard finishing second in the later race. Pogačar was the heavy favourite to win his third yellow jersey in 2022 and led after Stage 10. But then, in Stage 11, which included several tortuous climbs up the cols of the Pyrenees, Vingegaard was able to do something that seemed impossible. He dropped Pogačar, pulled away and ended the day in the yellow jersey given to the overall leader of the race. Vingegaard held on for the overall win. A new star and a rivalry were born. 

Vingegaard won the recent Criterium du Dauphiné and looked to be in great form. He’s ready. 

Pogačar started off the 2023 season with dominant victories in several races, including Paris-Nice (Vingegaard was 3rd). But then, on April 23, in the one-day Liège-Bastogne-Liège race, Pogačar crashed and broke his wrist. He hasn’t raced since but has worked hard on his indoor trainer and was recently cleared to race again.  

Will he be fit and race ready? Nobody knows, but never underestimate the talent and mindset of the young Slovenian.

Read More: Then and Now: Cycling the Tour de France Route in 1957

The Grand Colombier pass in the French Alps © Radu Razvan / shutterstock

Sprinting toward history 

One of the more interesting subplots will be Mark Cavendish’s attempt to break the record of 34 stage wins he co-holds with the legendary Eddie Merckx. While Merckx won in every possible way (time trials, mountain finishes, breakaways, and sprints) on his way to five overall TDF wins, Cavendish is a pure sprinter. Earlier this year, the 38-year-old British rider announced he would retire at the end of the current racing season. A couple days later he won the final sprint of the Giro d’Italia, showing he just might still have the legs to win a stage or two at the Tour de France. 

Mark Cavendish climbing the Col d’Aspin last year © Radu Razvan / shutterstock

The course 

The 2023 course was designed for climbers, which will play into the strengths of Pogačar and Vingegaard. The course includes all five of France’s mountain massifs (in order): the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, the Jura, the Alps and the Vosges. While the riders will struggle up these mighty mountains, those of us watching on television (or in person) can sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery. And wonder if we could make it up these mountains. Perhaps, but a lot more slowly. 

The TDF begins in Spain with a 185-kilometre loop that starts and finishes in Bilbao. The riders pedal into France on Day 3, ending the day in Bayonne 

Stages 5 and 6 are in the Pyrenees and will include the Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet. This will be our first chance to see who is stronger: Pogačar or Vingegaard.

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The Tour de France 2023 itinerary

Stage 9 ends atop the dramatic and volcanic peak of the Puy de Dôme, in the Auvergne. This is the first time the Puy de Dôme has been in the Tour since 1988 and it should be a spectacular and scenic day of racing. The bad news for cyclists is they can no longer ride up this volcanic dome due to the construction of the Panoramique des Dômes tourist train. 

Stages 13 to 15 are through the heart of the Alps and include climbs up several legendary cols: Grand Colombier, Col de la Ramaz, Col de Joux Plane, Col de la Croix Fry and the Col des Aravis. This will be where Pogačar and Vingegaard will try to assert their dominance and take or extend their lead.  

After a rest day, Stage 16 is the race’s only individual time trial. It’s a short, but hilly 22.4 kilometres. This could be another moment of truth for the two favourites. 

Stage 20 is the penultimate stage and final mountain stage, the last chance for riders to move up the standings and the final uphill duel between Pogačar and Vingegaard. It ends in Le Markstein Fellering in the Vosges. 

The final Stage 21 ends on July 30 with the traditional laps around the Champs-Elysées. This will be Cavendish’s final TDF stage, and nothing could be more dramatic and exciting than if he were to win the stage and break Merckx’s record (or extend the record). It would be a storybook ending to an incredible career. 

It’s the first time since 1988 that the Puy de Dôme has featured in the race © sylv1rob1 / shutterstock

Tour de France Femmes 

The women’s Tour de France returned in 2022 in spectacular fashion, as Annemiek van Vleuten won the final two stages and the yellow jersey. This year’s race will be held July 23 to 30, starting in Clermont-Ferrand and ending in Pau. The eight stages will gobble up 956 kilometres. Van Vleuten is the favourite but keep your eye on the exciting Mariana Vos. Considered the greatest all-time female rider, Vos, 36, might not have the legs any more for the overall win, but she could win a stage or two. She won two last year and loves to attack. 

Lead photo credit : The Col d'Aspin climb © Radu Razvan / shutterstock

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  • Kim Nielsen
    2023-06-28 06:32:21
    Kim Nielsen
    Jonas Vingegaard is from DENMARK


    • Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      2023-06-29 08:31:41
      Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      Indeed, many thanks for pointing this out! The error has been corrected.


    • Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      2023-06-29 08:31:24
      Sophie Gardner-Roberts
      Indeed, many thanks for pointing this out! The error has been corrected