Stage 1, Friday 1 July: individual time trial, Copenhagen, 13.2km
A tour of the Danish capital’s beauty spots – the Little Mermaid, the Kastellet fortress, the Tivoli Gardens – in a time trial opener that is long enough to create real time gaps between the main contenders, and has a wealth of corners to cause mayhem if it rains. The distance will suit Primoz Roglic but the big favourite will be a specialist such as Filippo Ganna of Ineos or Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma.
Stage 2, Saturday 2 July: Roskilde-Nyborg, 202.5km
Much of this stage is barely above sea level with only a couple of tiny climbs but if the wind blows it could create significant time gaps, particularly in the final 18km over the dramatic – and completely exposed – Great Belt bridges. Jumbo-Visma and Ineos are masters at exploiting crosswinds, but the real experts are Quickstep-Alpha Vinyl; their sprinter Fabio Jakobsen is the favourite, along with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen.
Stage 3: Sunday 3 July: Vejle-Sønderbørg, 182km
The run south down the Jutland peninsula is on less exposed roads than the day before so, assuming the wind is favourable, it should produce the first “routine” sprinters’ stage of the race, with Jakobsen – who has ousted Mark Cavendish as Quickstep’s preferred Tour sprinter – taking on the likes of Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett and Jasper Philipsen. The following day the caravan transfers south to France.
Stage 4: Tuesday 5 July: Dunkirk-Calais, 171.5km
Relatively short, and with a series of short, sharp climbs inland from the Channel coast, this stage will be “nervous”, as the riders put it, although the pattern should be familiar, with an early break of riders from the smaller teams looking to scoop up points on the five ascents. However, the final 25km along exposed roads around Cap Gris Nez could split the field if the wind blows from the north-west.
Stage 5, Wednesday 6 July: Lille-Arenberg Porte du Hainault, 157km
Assuming the Great Belt has been kind to the field, this is the first decisive day, with 11 stretches of treacherous cobbles in the final 80km. There will be a huge battle to be at the front for the first section at Villers-au-Tertre and that is bound to lead to crashes. In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali effectively won the Tour in a similar stage; this year, the big favourites will be Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.
Stage 6, Thursday 7 July: Binche-Longwy, 220km
The longest stage of the race has a twist in the tail: the Côte de Pulventeux comes 6km from the finish, and is 800m at 12%, so steep enough to split the field before the finish up the longer, draggier, Côte des Religieuses. It is a finish made for any of the overall contenders, but all eyes will be on Van der Poel and France’s world champion, Julian Alaphilippe, if he has recovered from his crash in April.
Stage 7, Friday 8 July: Tomblaine-La Planche des Belles Filles, 176.5km
The first mountain-top finish; the super-steep “Plank” is relatively short at 8km, and with no major climbs beforehand, time gaps at the top should be relatively tight. The early break should contest the stage win – if Thibaut Pinot has lost time early on this is an obvious target – but for the big names the equation is pretty simple: if Tadej Pogacar gains time, he’s set fair for a third win. If not, all bets are off.
Stage 8, Saturday 9 July: Dôle-Lausanne, 186.5km
The sprinters have every right to feel short-changed in this Tour; for example today, what could have been a routine flat finish in the home of the International Olympic Committee is spiced up with a demanding climb with pitches at 12%. So it’s another day for the “puncheurs” – Van Aert, Van der Poel, Alaphilippe – and one where the overall contenders will need their wits about them to avoid losing time in the finale.
Stage 9, Sunday 10 July: Aigle-Châtel, 193km
Into the mountains with two first category climbs on this mainly Swiss stage. The main climb, Pas de Morgins, won’t be hard enough to separate the serious contenders for overall victory, and the stage win should go to a rider from the early break, where the riders will also have an eye on the mountains prize. A day for specialist stage hunters – the likes of the Frenchman Benoît Cosnefroy, Britain’s Simon Yates or the Dutchman Bauke Mollema.
Stage 10, Tuesday 12 July: Morzine-Megève, 148.5km
After a second rest day, a stage in the Alps that skirts the biggest climbs; with much more to come, the favourites are likely to mark each other, with a big battle for the stage win from an early break. The 19km drag to the finish is where it will all happen; it will favour the likes of France’s Warren Barguil, Van der Poel or a tactically astute specialist such as Denmark’s Søren Kragh Andersen.
Stage 11, Wednesday 13 July: Albertville-Col du Granon, 152km
A brutal day in the Alps, with two massive climbs in the final 80km. The lengthy Col du Galibier is the high point of the race, while the Granon is the highest stage finish this century. The length of the main climbs means the break is unlikely to succeed, so the overall favourites may well fight out the stage win: if a contender such as Pogacar or Jonas Vingegaard wins here, they will be in pole position for the final title.
Stage 12, Thursday 14 July: Briançon-Alpe d’Huez, 165.5km
Cruelly, the organisers make the riders go back up the Galibier the way they came over less than 24 hours earlier, before crossing the Croix de Fer to tackle l’Alpe d’Huez for the first time since 2018. That year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, looks to be back to his best form; today, the chances are the victor will come from an early break, and given it’s Bastille Day all France will be rooting for Pinot or Romain Bardet.
Stage 13, Friday 15 July, Bourg d’Oisans-Saint Étienne, 193km
The transitional road from the Alps to the Massif Central is well trodden, and this stage has enough climbing to make it hard to control the race; the early break is odds-on to succeed. The battle to get into the winning move will be intense, and the flat finish favours a specialist stage hunter with a sprint, such as Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen or Van der Poel if he’s still in the race.
Stage 14, Saturday 16 July: Saint Étienne-Mende, 192.5km
Another day for the breakaway specialists, with a monstrously steep uphill finish on the airfield at Mende, where the Briton Steve Cummings won in 2015. The same large group of riders as the day before will try to make the winning move; the winner will be a climber such as Barguil or Yates.
Stage 15, Sunday 17 July: Rodez-Carcassonne, 202.5km
On paper, today – finally – favours the sprint teams, but they will face a fierce battle to control things, with a lengthy third category climb 50km from the finish. They haven’t had a clearcut sprint day since stage four, so won’t want to miss this one: let’s hope enough teammates have survived the Alps to keep it together for Bennett, Jakobsen and company.
Stage 16, Tuesday 19 July: Carcassonne-Foix, 178.5km
The first stage in the Pyrenees with two first category mountains; hard enough for the early break to target the stage, but not hard enough to induce the overall contenders to do more than keep a watching brief. With 27km downhill to the line, the finish is for a good climber who can descend well: perhaps Bardet, or the Dane Jakob Fuglsang, or that old lag Mollema.
Stage 17, Wednesday 20 July: Saint Gaudens-Peyragudes, 130km
Very short, with a saw-tooth profile over three first category climbs; the break won’t stay away today, but anyone targeting the mountains jersey will try to get in to a move that will at least survive until the final 20km. For the overall favourites, another day to keep things under control, while trying to glean a few seconds on the final ascent. The winner will come from the select group contesting the yellow jersey: why not Roglic?
Stage 18, Thursday 21 July: Lourdes-Hautacam, 143.2km
Another stage that is too short for a break to gain much time before the big names get moving. It’s a brutal course covering the legendary Col d’Aubisque and the unknown Col de Spandelles before the final haul to a bleak plateau. The winner will probably be in the top six overall, and he will be odds on to take the final victory. Think Pogacar, Roglic, Vingegaard or, from the left field, the Australian Ben O’Connor.
Stage 19, Friday 22 July: Castelnau-Magnoac-Cahors, 188.5km
A classic – and rare – “transition” stage designed to get the race towards the final time trial and Paris, and one surely with a sprinter’s name on it, depending on who has survived the Pyrenees with a few teammates around them. By now, however, it’s not just a matter of the fastest, but those who can get over the mountains with some reserves: think the Aussie Michael Matthews or the Dane Mads Pedersen.
Stage 20, Saturday 23 July: Lacapelle Marival-Rocamadour individual time trial, 40.7km
The longest solo time trial the Tour has seen since 2014 could go either way: the organisers’ dream is a cliffhanger with the overall outcome in the balance, while the usual reality is that the winner is already well clear and the contre la montre goes to a specialist. In the latter case, if Ganna has got through the mountains he will win, otherwise all eyes will be on Van Aert.
Stage 21, Sunday 24 July: Paris La Défense-Champs Elysées, 116km
Rumour has it the men’s Tour finish may – unprecedentedly – move away from Paris in 2024, and given that the formula now looks tired that would be no bad thing. Before the sprinters get to do their worst – Van Aert will be widely tipped to repeat his win of last year – the fans will see stage one of the relaunched Tour de France Femmes, which uses the legendary circuit to kick off a keenly anticipated week’s racing.