Race Design Thread

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Sorry that i've did this during the Vuelta but i prefer to do this during it rather than during the WC's.

I've decided to not categorise those two hills in Sacré-Cœur to keep the profile a bit more cleaner hence the existance of a dummy cat. 4 just to give someone a point.

Last stage: link

Tour de France 2 – stage 21. Fontainebleau – Paris-Champs-Élysées, 137km, flat, cobbles.

Côte de Villoison – 0,5km, 7%, cat. 4, 83m
Place Jean-Baptiste Clément – 650m, ~7,7%, 113m
Place du Tertre – 300m, ~10,3%, 131m

Rue de Milly – 1,3km, ***
Rue des Montils – 0,9km, ***
Place Jean-Baptiste-Clément x4 – 300m, *
Place du Tertre x4 – 400m, *

Today i will only focus on the Paris laps. Of course their amount is random, so you can add more or less of them if you want. I will mention though that i decided to use two of three Champcueil cobbled sectors – Rue de Milly and Rue des Montils.

Map of the lap around Sacré-Cœur.

Château de Fontainebleau.

The lap starts with Rue de Rivoli, in front of the Louvre and the town hall after passing throguh Île de la Cité (Notre-Dame). From Rue de Rivoli the lap continues on Boulevard de Sébastopol, Boulevard de Magenta (near Gare du Nord) and Boulevard de Rochechouart. All of them are nice straightaways. The road changes drastically when entering the cobbled Rue Dancourt, where the climb to Place Jean-Baptiste Clément starts. The climb is entirely on cobbles. They're mainly the nice mainstream cobbles but there seems to be some slightly rougher moments in the last 250m on Rue Drevet, Rue Gabrielle and Place Jean-Baptiste Clément.

Cobbles of Rue Gabrielle.

This 650m at roughly 7,7% climb is two-stepped. The first 450m on Rue Dancourt, Rue Chappe and Rue Drevet are at roughly 10%. It's followed by a 140m false-flat on Rue Gabrielle before the final 55m push on Place Jean-Baptiste Clément. This uphill is followed by a short (roughly 530m), but complicated and cobbled descent on a quite steep and narrow Rue Lepic. This downhill is followed by a tiny uphill on Rue Girardon and then once again descends down on this time milder and wider Avenue Junot.

Rue Lepic.

The descent ends when reaching Place Constantin Pecqueur. After like 20m on Rue Caulaincourt i'm entering the cobbled Rue Saint-Vincent, where the next climb starts. This uphill is 300m at roughly 10%. It goes via Rue Saint-Vincent and Rue des Saules, both cobbled. The cobbles of Rue des Saules are slightly less refined as those of Rue Saint-Vincent. I guess some parts of Rue des Saules can reach 14-15%.

Rue des Saules.

At the top there are flat 120m on Rue Norvins. The descent starts on Rue du Cardinal Dubois in front of the Sacré-Cœur basilica. It's a very picturesque and rather straight descent with good views over Paris. However, the first 240m are cobbled. The descent is 850m at roughly 5%. It consists of Rue du Cardinal Dubois and straight (only 2 turns), but quite narrow Rue Lamarck. The descent ends when reaching Rue Caulaincourt.

Rue du Cardinal Dubois.


I've decided to take a slightly longer route to not entangle with a previous section of the lap on Place Constantin Pecqueur. To do that i'm taking Rue Lamarck and Rue Damrémont before joining back the Rue Caulaincourt. None of these roads are particulary wide. When reaching Rue Caulaincourt it finally gets straightfoward. From here the race goes to Place de Clichy and Arc de Triomphe via Boulevard des Batignolles to then finish the race on Champs-Élysées.

Arc de Triomphe.


The laps are roughly 15km long. The top of the last uphill is 7km from the finish line of which the last 6 are flat. The majority of roads around Sacré-Cœur (3-4km) are cobbled and narrow while the rest is mostly wide and straight. I hope this lap around Sacré-Cœur is interesting enough for you to be entertained. Of course what can be expected is a lot of traffic jams, crashes if it's wet and potential GC fight if there's still something to be decided.

Link to the entire race: https://www.la-flamme-rouge.eu/maps/tours/view/9861

So, that was my try on the 3-peak TdF "challenge", which was born in pain and convulsions. It was a 1-2 year voyage for me where at first i was going for the realism, then optimalisation and finally i've ended on a bunch of stages that visit some places that i would like to see in real life. I still tried to have the design basics ticked off like bunching mountain stages, longer time trial and following MTFs with descent finishes but it was mainly about going for the 3-peak race and just pleasing my own eyes. I hope it also pleased yours.

This tour was mainly focused on novelties, so this time i was way more leanient with the realism. The novelties were a finish on Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, Vulcania Park, Pailhères, Pause, Tournaboup, Millefonts, (probably) cobbled finish in Avalon and (probably) murito finish in Coutances. Because the 2nd and 3rd mountain blocks are much closer to each other i've tried to do the 1st one a bit more selective, hence there are very tough climbs some distance away from the finishes. These mountain blocks are separted by at least one stage for ruleurs – in this race the stages to Gent and Blaye.

9 HC climbs is a lot but (almost) all of them are genuine HC. I could exclude Pause and Turini, which are a bit on the borderline side. At least there's no ridiculous HC's like Pré and Aubisque east. There were a number of over 2000m cols, but only two higher than 2100m – Tourmalet at 2115m and Bonette at 2802m (by far the highest point of the race). The other over 2000m cols are Madeleine (2000m), Pailhères (2001m), Millefonts (2035m) and Croix de Fer (2067m). The highest finish is at Millefonts. The longest stage is the mini RVV to Gent (230km). Other over 200km stages are to Moûtiers (219km) and Coutances (213km). It's not too many, but the majority of stages are at 180-190km. There's a big amount of stages featuring cobbles or dirt in meaningful locations. Those are stages 5 to Avallon, 7 to Gent (highest amount of cobbles), 9 to Trouville-sur-Mer, 12 to Col de Pause (dirt MTF) and the last stage in Paris.

I hope you liked what you've seen. Below are the stats and the library.

Race stats:
Overall length: 3587km
Flat stages: 4/5
Hilly stages: 4/5
Medium mountain stages: 3
Mountain stages: 7
Time trials: 2 (overall: 62km)
Stages with cobbles/dirt roads: 5
MTFs: 4
HTFs: 2

Stage list (stage type roughly determined by the last 100km):
1. Évian-les-Bains prologue, 5,4km
2. Évian-les-Bains – Argentière-Le Tour, 180km
3. Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – Moûtiers, 219km
4. Aix-les-Bains – Mâcon, 170km,
5. Cluny – Avallon, 189km
6. Auxerre – Épernay, 189km
7. Saint-Quentin – Gent, 230km
8. Kortrijk – Abbeville, 195km
9. Eu-Le Tréport – Deauville-Trouville-sur-Mer, 189km
10. Lisieux – Coutances, 213km

11. Salses-le-Château – Ascou-Pailhères, 181km
12. Ax-les-Thermes - Col de Pause, 186km
13. Saint-Lizier – Barèges-Tournaboup 1450, 183km
14. Tarbes – Marmande, 181km
15. Saint-Émilion – Blaye, 56,7km

16. Guéret – Vulcania Park, 196km
17. Brioude – Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, 152km
18. Montélimar – Digne-les-Bains, 177km
19. Digne-les-Bains – Parking des Millefonts, 195km
20. Nice – Menton, 183km
21. Fontainebleau – Paris-Champs-Élysées, 137km

List of cat. 1 and HC (bolded) climbs per stage:
2. Col du Corbier, Col des Planches, Col de la Forclaz
3. Col de la Croix-de-Fer, Col de la Madeleine
11. Col de Creu, Port de Pailhères
12. Col de Chioula, Port de Lers, Col de Pause
13. Port de Balès, Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, Col du Tourmalet
17. Col de Peyra Taillade, Col du Gerbier-de-Jonc
19. Col de la Bonette, Parking des Millefonts
20. Col de Vence, Col de Turini, Col de Braus
Nordic Series 15: Lenzerheide

Lenzerheide is a famous multi-sport area in Switzerland, more so than almost any of the venues I've looked at in the Nordic Series thus far, bar possibly La Clusaz. The area, in the Vaz/Obervaz area of the Graubünden Canton, a historically predominantly Romansch area in the southeast of the corner. It's a popular ski resort for the other type of skiing (you know, the one where crazy people do ridiculous things like strap their heels in. Madness) and has hosted the final round of the Alpine World Cup on a number of occasions, thanks to world class facilities and runs for all of the Alpine disciplines, as opposed to some of the venues like Levi or Åre where limited size means that it's impossible to get a proper run for the speed disciplines. It also regularly hosts Switzerland's round on the Mountain Bike World Cup, even hosting the World Championships this year, with the Elite Cross-Country (the most important discipline, let's face it, for road cycling fans, owing to its greater transferability compared to the Downhill) won by local hero Nino Schurter. The Alpine resorts have now been, since 2013, extended through the construction of a new lift system, such that Arosa and Lenzerheide now make for one enormous, uninterrupted ski resort, one of the biggest in the area in fact.

In 2006, the project began to set up a similarly extensive Nordic mecca; with Dario Cologna one of the biggest names in wintersport and Switzerland beginning to miss the XC and biathlon World Cups turning up, since the Gurnigel facility fell into disuse. The ski jumpers - led by Simon Ammann - would rock up into the country annually, and of course Davos is a well established cross-country venue, but now that Pontresina was outmoded, a new venue was needed to blood a new generation of biathletes and cross-country skiers. With all of the facilities for accommodating elite sports and the strong transport links already established, Lenzerheide was a perfect fit - there are a few roads up from Tiefencastel to the town of Lenzerheide, and one of these included a fair amount of semi-plateau on rolling, undulating terrain on a mountain called Alp Bual, which was perfectly suited for Loipe. The venue was inaugurated in November 2013, before the stands and buildings were completed, and the Tour de Ski gave the venue its first international competition a month later. The Tour de Ski has been back every other year, but owing to the differing spectator requirements, it took until 2016 for the venue to achieve the international licence required for top level biathlon; in 2015-16 and 2016-17 it hosted a round of the IBU Junior World Cup, and in 2017-18 was upgraded to the second tier IBU Cup. It is now eligible for the World Cup and World Championships however, so is perfectly suited for promotion through cycling seeing as there's already a cycling link with the city anyway.

It's not just mountain biking though; road cycling is familiar with Lenzerheide. It has been a stage host in the Tour de Suisse on 9 occasions, starting in 1968 and most recently in 1998, and on three occasions (1971, 1976 and 1998) it has held two stages in the vicinity. These have unsurprisingly given the town's location close by to a significant pass in the Graubünden canton mostly been mountain stages, but there have been two cronoescaladas, from Obervaz to the town in 1971, and from the town to the Tgantieni lift station in 1974. It has also been used as a pass, first being introduced to the race in 1953, and has been won by the likes of Michel Pollentier, but once more has been out of vogue, last being climbed in 1998, when it hosted two stages; firstly a stage from Varese in Italy finishing with a mountaintop finish in Lenzerheide, and then a stage which started and finished in the town in the style of the current Tour de Suisse's "finish hub" methodology. Stefano Garzelli won both stages en route to the overall GC. The most famous winners in Lenzerheide are Roger de Vlaeminck (1971, first semitappe), Franco Bitossi (both semitappes, road stage and cronoescalada, in 1974) and Michel Pollentier (in 1976).

The Giro has also been to town, once, in 1995. The stage as originally presented was a 230km brute, featuring the Umbrailpass (carefully disguised by using an alternate name), the Foscagno/Eira double-climb, Forcola di Livigno and Julierpass before climbing up past the future site of the biathlon stadium into the town.

In the end, however, poor weather put paid to this and a scrambled alternative saw the much-anticipated Umbrailpass removed from the race, and so instead the riders continued up the Val Müstair and over the Passo dei Fuorn. Rather than just rejoin the original race route via Livigno, cutting off both Umbrailpass and Foscagno, the organizers knew they would need to toughen up the stage as the final climb in and of itself was not the most brutal, so instead of Julierpass, they sent them over the far tougher Flüelapass; a longer descent into Tiefencastel, sure, but a much stronger penultimate climb. Mariano Piccoli won the stage.

Coming from the south, from Tiefencastel as they did in the 1995 Giro, the climb of Lenzerheidepass is 14km at 5%, but the first half of that climb is far steeper as the second half is just false flat. It's kind of like, say, Valdezcaray or an easier Hochfügen. But the biathlon arena is at around the 7,5km mark on this profile, making the climb to it 6,6km @ 8,3% - much more like it for selectivity but because of the short length and lack of any monster gradients only really a cat.2.

The northern side of Lenzerheidepass is much more challenging, but of course we wouldn't be finishing at the descent, instead we'd have that 7,5km of downhill false flat, giving a slightly extended version of that slightly odd Vuelta habit finish, à la Arrate, Angliru or Xorret del Catì. There are a variety of options presented by the region in addition to this, due to the proximity to classic ascents like Julierpass, Albulapass and Flüelapass - as well as a few less well-known climbs, including one interesting climb that hasn't been seen or even really thought about in 20 years (certainly not that I recall ever being mentioned here) and a couple that could spice up some of the races that use the area, but that are little-known or at least little-heralded considering how traditional this part of the world is for a high level national Tour.

Stage proposal #1: Morbegno - Lenzerheide Biathlon Arena, 127km

While Lenzerheide is only really known from the Tour de Suisse, it is easily reachable from Italy, and this has accounted for two of the three most recent stages to use the resort, as mentioned above - once in the Giro and once in its home race. You could readily use a stage like this with a longer flat section to come up through Italian territory from a stage to Mendrisio, Lugano or similar if you wanted to incorporate this into the Tour de Suisse, or it could be a Giro stage. For the most part though, I wanted a chance to use the monolithic Splügenpass, a 30km @ 6% colossus which has only been used once in the Giro - from its easier side, back in 1965 (in this stage from Saas-Fee to Madesimo won by Vittorio Adorni). Splügenpass has only been used by the Tour de Suisse twice too - once in 1957 and once in the Varese - Lenzerheide stage in 1998. But it looks classic, it is classic, and it's an underrated and underutilised monster.

Here it is over 65km from the line, sure, but in a 127km stage, if the other mountain stages are satisfactorily organised to optimise it, we could see some racing. Likely to be more fruitful, however, is the never-before-used first category ascent to Mathon, 35km from home.

It's a bit experimental as to whether this would be achievable as an actual race climb, because parts of the ascent are almost Plattenweg-style as you can see at the bottom of that picture - two narrow chains of tarmac, but it is fully paved on all of the corners. It would probably need a new lick of asphalt if a race came into town, but they ride on worse in the Tro Bro Léon and so forth - the issue would be more for the trailing cars than the riders because obviously this would also create two new issues - having to select to attack potentially at inopportune times and also positioning coming out of the fully paved bits and choosing which side to ride on during the two-track sections. It's 8km at 7,5%, but the part with that odd paving is 3,5km @ 11,3% in the middle of the climb - I'm sure it's the kind of climb and organisational challenge that the much-missed Angelo Zomegnan would approve of. I haven't used that meme in forever...

Anyway, there's then a descent down to Thusis for a rolling run-in to the final climb, the 6,6km @ 8,3% up to the biathlon arena as mentioned above.

Stage proposal #2: Morbegno - Lenzerheide, 177km

This one would probably only be a Giro stage, seeing as it spends over half its time in Italy, though if Madesimo were to pay up for a finish over Splügen north, like that 1965 Giro stage, it could be a way back from Italy and into Switzerland in the Tour de Suisse; at the moment however it seems that overseas excursions for that race rely mainly on Austria, with the occasional trip to Malbun in Liechtenstein (another climb I like but that's not easy to chain to things too well) to break it up.

Here, the final climb is led into by a penultimate climb at a similar distance but a much more realistic climb for a pro race to take on in its current state, which is Albulapass by its easier southeastern face, which usually is descended into La Punt. It would probably be cat.1 but I've given it cat.2 here - with 560m ascent in the first 6,1km before a 3km false flat, it's like a slightly more difficult version of the Lenzerheide MTF from the first prospect:

However, in the hunt for a Mortirolo-Aprica type finish, I've elected instead to go for the two stepped route to Lenzerheide by the easier eastern side, entailing 2km @ 8% into Alvaneu, then a kilometre's gentle downhill, before the section of this profile from the junction for Davos at 15km to the plateau at 7km.

Now, obviously just the easier side of Albulapass on its own isn't going to create too much separation 36km from home even if much of the rest of the stage is descending; we have to tire some legs out first. For that reason I've gone for the Santa Cristina side of Trivigno, which consists of 13,8km @ 7,7% to Santa Cristina, followed by the last 4km (at 5%) of this profile, before a very tough and technical descent, and then the almighty Passo del Bernina, 33,3km @ 5,7% with the last 15km @ 8% in its two-stepped ascent; like Splügenpass it's a somewhat overlooked beast, this time thanks to its proximity to some of the Giro's most iconic climbs - it's almost unknown to the Giro and not climbed in the Tour de Suisse since 1953. As a result, although it comes with 70km remaining, it oughtn't be one that the péloton just soft-pedals because it's not a climb everybody knows like the back of their hand already - and its lopsided nature means that there's little respite either, as we enter the high plateau of the Engadin valley.

This has plenty of Nordic heritage of its own; the Engadin Ski Marathon is a well-established ski marathon, of course, and also the Engadin valley town of Pontresina hold what used to be Switzerland's premier biathlon facilities - which birthed Switzerland's most famous biathlon family, the Gasparins, three sisters with ten years from the eldest (Selina) to the youngest (Aita), with Elisa sandwiched in between. Selina is the country's most successful biathlete, being the only medallist the country has ever produced in the sport when it comes to the Olympics, when she took silver in the Individual in Sochi (yes, the team won gold in the military patrol race in 1924, but that isn't really classed as continuous with modern biathlon and was treated as an exhibition sport at the time) and with a couple of World Cup wins back in that era, and also they have an extended sporting family seeing as Selina is married to Russian former World Cup XC skier and now ski marathon specialist Ilya Chernousov, while Aita is dating Ukrainian biathlete Serhiy Semenov, which I'm sure makes for some interesting dinner table discussion.

l-r: Elisa, Aita, Selina

Anyway, that's enough to justify an intermediate sprint in the town, since we're in the business of honouring the Nordic sports.

Stage proposal #3: Bormio - Lenzerheide, 222km

Starting down in Bormio, this could only work for the Tour de Suisse if there was an Umbrailpass stage I anticipate, but it could make for a good Giro mountain stage off the back of a stage somewhere like Mortirolo-Aprica, or Stelvio or Umbrail (or Bormio 2000 after either Gavia or either of those two). Seven categorised climbs and 220km, but it's not the best stage for making time gaps - so it could be interesting as a final stage to see who dares to do what, given that the last cat.1 or HC climb of the stage is 75km from the stripe.

This stage borrows a little bit from all of the most recent Lenzerheide stages. The original design for the 1995 Giro stage went over Umbrailpass and then went from Bormio up to Livigno via the Passo di Foscagno and Passo d'Eira, much as they later did in the epic 2005 stage to Livigno, won by Iván Parra, brother of the legendary Fábio Parra, and seeing the unheralded Venezuelan pocket rocket José Rujano suddenly inject himself into the GC mix. After reaching Livigno, however, rather than turning southwest like the mooted 1995 stage, we head northeast through the tunnel to the Ofenpass/Passo del Fuorn, where we join up with the actual 1995 stage, which then included Flüelapass.

The descent from Flüelapass leads us into the famous resort town of Davos, a regular XC World Cup host and therefore this gives a bit of a spoiler for a future Nordic Series post. There's then a long and gradual downhill saunter broken up by a 3km, 6% climb to the village of Wiesen. This takes us almost all the way to Tiefencastel, which is how they led into the Lenzerheide climb in 1995. Here, however, we turn it into the 1998 Tour de Suisse Rund um Lenzerheide stage, and turn left to take on one of the Tour de Suisse's all time classics, Albulapass northwest.

Like Lagos de Covadonga, Albulapass was first raced in 1983 in the Tour de Suisse, and swiftly became one of its most revered - and feared - ascents. Here, it crests with 75km remaining, and its lopsided nature means that the descent isn't so long as to counter its difficulties. I've also included a smaller climb with the St Moritz resort, rather than just heading through the town, to try to prevent too much consolidation or things coming back together - I want as few domestiques available as I can get here, because although it starts steep, Julierpass is realistically cat.2 only (or cat.3 in the Giro, maybe, though its altitude stands in its favour) and with a 35km descent from its summit to Tiefencastel, there's plenty of time to negate any moves before that 6,6km, 8,3% final climb to the biathlon arena.

Stage proposal #4: Brig - Lenzerheide, 205km

Another 200km+ monstrosity, this one would be best suited transitioning us from the Francophone to the Germanophone parts of the country through the mountains, after a summit finish in the Valais, somewhere like Crans-Montana or Saas-Fee is perhaps most likely based on historical precedent.

This sees us climb through that great crossroads of the Swiss Alps around Pizzo Rotondo, with Nufenenpass, Sankt Gotthardpass and Furkapass. Furkapass is of course an old standard in the Tour de Suisse, first climbed in the 1930s, but here it's just an early leg-softener before Oberalppass as we try to mimic that classic Tour de Suisse trick of having a couple of super-sized early climbs to set a strong break and ensure there are tired legs, then an easier section before the final climb that will be decisive. Here however, there are a couple of cat.2 climbs in the highest part of the Rhine valley because, well, the Flims climb is hard to avoid (the only alternative is another similar but slightly smaller climb) and if we're including that I may as well through Obersaxen in too, although they didn't in the comparatively similar 2010 La Punt stage.

The real body of the stage from a decisive point of view, however, is Lenzerheidepass north, which is a decent cat.1 climb, two-stepped and tricky. The fear is that that final 3,5km from Churwalden, including 2km at 10,5%, will be the only part that is decisively raced, so we don't want to just descend into the finish from there.

As a result we descend the previously unexplored southwestern side of Lenzerheidepass, which takes us via a short up-and-down to Tiefencastel, meaning that the summit of the cat.1 climb comes 21km from home, with a tricky descent and then the cat.2 summit finish to come. The pass at Lenzerheide/Valbella makes for a lot of further options in terms of the finale, but it is slightly more limited when it comes to lead-in climbs as there are not many climbs that finish close to Chur, as where the Hinterrhein and Vorderrhein converge there's something of a wide glacial valley that means Flims there is the toughest direct lead-in to Lenzerheidepass north, unless you double back on yourself a bit and get creative with innovative climbs not yet known to racing.

Speaking of which...

Stage proposal #5: Lenzerheide - Lenzerheide, 194km

This stage starting and finishing in Lenzerheide Biathlon Arena could well make for a stage 9 in the Tour de Suisse with the current fad for a "finishing hub". It does begin somewhat like the 1998 stage, with the neutralised descent leading in to the classic climb of Albulapass once more straight from the gun. The first part of the stage ought to remind you of the Davos stage in 2016 which was won by Jarlinson Pantano, or at least the original mooted stage before the Extreme Weather Protocol removed Albulapass and made it a 60km one-climb stage over Flüelapass.

In 1998, they turned right in La Punt, for Saint-Moritz and Julierpass, so we're going by a tougher route going around Flüelapass anyway, but once we arrive in Davos, we turn right and head over the uncategorized (because it's a one-sided climb, effectively) Wolfgangpass, and head into a long valley section through the ski resort of Klosters and the Prättigau valley, which comes to a head in Landquart where it joins the Rhein.

Here we head southward once more towards Lenzerheide, and arrive in Chur ready to climb the Lenzerheidepass as per the previous stage option. But a kilometre into the climb, instead of continuing up the main road toward Valbella, we take a small left, and begin the climb to Tschiertschen, an almost unknown climb to a classic Swiss chocolate box village which is a small retro island amid the expanses of the Arosa-Lenzerheide ski resorts.

Though it has its own runs, Tschiertschen, at 1350m, is somewhat forgotten among the ski areas of that Arosa-Lenzerheide agglomeration; too small to host a stage finish, it has never been used by the Tour de Suisse. However, there is a road which leads down to a bridge at Molinis, and from here another road - short but steep, around 2km at 10% - which takes us up to the village of Sankt-Peter, at which we meet the road from Chur to Arosa, which has been used as a Tour de Suisse mountaintop finish a few times; as a result we could either make this into a more difficult route to Arosa, or as a loop around Chur, which is what we're doing (for obvious reasons since if we went to Arosa we couldn't finish at Lenzerheide, thus negating the point of these Nordic Series posts!).

That profile includes a road down to Molinis, however it's worth noting that that isn't the road we take; instead we actually continue beyond that profile on a narrow but steep road - another 500m at 10% - called Bödem, which is race-acceptable - before turning to descend through to Molinis via the road indicated by the profile. The descent is fine too - this bridge is the most bothersome part - so this ought to be no problem. This brings us out at km 17,5 of this profile of the Arosa climb therefore the descent is the first 14km or so of that, then we are back at the base of Lenzerheidepass, which we ride as per the previous proposal, only instead of descending down the southwestern face, we head directly along the false flat to the biathlon arena, meaning the final summit is just 7,5km from the line - and the summit of Tschiertschen is 42km from home, not too far for anyone to dare to dream if they have time to make up...

Stage proposal #6: Rapperswil-Jona - Lenzerheide, 179km

Here we introduce another new finale, and also for the first time go past the stadium finish before the actual stage finish. We're also approaching from the north for the first time among these profiles, so this could feasibly be a first mountain stage of the Tour de Suisse. There are a couple of early climbs, the most interesting of which is the Flumserberg-Bergheim climb, which is a new, slightly altered ascent of the first part of Flumserberg. Rather like the Côte de la Petite-Forclaz over on the other side of the country, this could both be a way to breathe life into Flumserberg, with a new steeper first half, or a lead-in climb to it, or as it is here, used as a climb in its own right. I can't find a full profile for this side, sadly, but cyclingcols' profile for the conventional side, which shows that it's far from easy, climbs the same section - from Flums to Bergheim - in 6km, although the first one of those is false flat. The side through Sankt Jakob is 4,5km @ 11,5% according to Cronoescalada, which is Vuelta-tastic. The road is narrow but it's nothing like as narrow as some of the roads the péloton's been asked to take over the years in the Classics, and better than the Col d'Ahusquy which the Vuelta climbed in 2016 - plus the descent is on the usual Flumserberg road which is wider and absolutely fine.

This climb has, however, only really been used just to show that this option exists, as the real meat and drink of this stage come in the final 80km after we arrive at Chur. At first, it's so far so good, reminiscent of the last stage, climbing up to Tschiertschen, descending into Molinis, climbing to Sankt Peter and descending the Arosa road back to Chur. But this time, when we reach the top of Lenzerheidepass, instead of 7km remaining, there's more. And not the 21km of proposal #4 either. Instead, we will head directly to the same finish as the last proposal, facing the opposite direction from the previous stages, but continue on, descending the climb which has formed the MTF for the first four options.

And then, we turn right in Tiefencastel, and right again, to take on a climb which was used twice in the 1998 Tour de Suisse, in the second Lenzerheide stage, but has never been used since. I can't even see that it's been mentioned once in this thread either.

There's no full profile for the climb that runs from Solis, near Tiefencastel, up through to the crossroads between the Lain-Lenzerheide road and the road running from the Voa Crestas 7 Hotel to the Tgantieni ski runs, unfortunately. The nearest is Quäl dich's profile of Lenzerheidepass west, which includes the first 4km, as far as Zorten, climbing 370m in the process at a gut-punching 9,25%. It doesn't get any easier as it continues, however, climbing a grand total of 734m in 7,5km, average therefore is 9,8% - a worthy cat.1 climb as I'm sure you'll agree. In the 1998 Tour de Suisse, de Paoli went away on the first ascent and held on to take the points on the second, but Garzelli was able to get up with him, with the latter eventually winning the stage. It's completely bizarre that this road is so forgotten or so little known - it would also make for a great lead in to Albulapass, with the descent as shown here leading straight to the base of the HC monolith. It's even been used in racing. And yet it's so little known to traceurs that no major site has a profile for it, even salite.ch which is based in Switzerland!!! Not only is it little known to cycling enthusiasts but it seems to be obscure in general, after all - one of the only pictures of the road I could find was of this lorry crash - maybe the road isn't suitable for LKWs but it should be fine for riders and team cars as you can see.

Anyway - this nasty but enticing little brute finishes just 6,2km from the line - surely an opportunity to make some serious time gaps with an average of almost 10%, no?

Stage proposal #7: Bergamo - Lenzerheide, 200km

The "fully loaded" version of proposal #1, this one is perhaps more achievable - no Plattenwege, just brutality. This would have to be a Giro stage - I can see the Tour de Suisse stepping far enough away from its borders for a start in Varese, or Chiavenna, or Bormio perhaps but not as far afield as Bergamo. Removing the Mathon climb brings the summit of Splügenpass much closer to the finish, though this distance has been elevated by, instead of using the general cat.2 climb of proposals 1-4 to get to the biathlon arena, I instead repeat the proposal 6 option of climbing up to the Lain-Tgantieni crossing for a 7,5km @ 9,8% climb with a 6km flat-downhill run-in. This means that the summit of Splügenpass, that monolithic monster of a climb, is now 56km from the line, most of which is descent. Cresting at 2113m, this is easily doable for the Giro, so could make for a very interesting stage if placed at the end of a mountain block. I've beefed up the early part of the stage with the southern side of the Passo San Marco, another sadly underrated and underused beast, though given Italy's embarrassment of riches in the monolithic climb department, it is perhaps unsurprising.

Stage proposal #8: Lachen - Lenzerheide, 175km

Finally, we have a stage that isn't a full-blown mountain stage but more of a transitional offering. Some Nordic venues do not have high mountain offerings, but Lenzerheide has something of a glut of opportunities on that front. Therefore we should show the opportunities for a more transitional stage in the region too, and this is an interesting alternative to all the high mountain goings-on. Coming in from the north via the Rhine valley as with proposal #6, here we bypass the Flumserberg detour and in Landquart, instead of continuing on to Chur, make a left into the Prättigau valley.

There are a couple of smaller climbs to upper valley towns on the way through the Prättigau, most notably to Putz, which amounts to this profile as far as the junction for Küblis at 14km, but the most sustained climb of the day is the fairly benign but lengthy Wolfgangpass, which takes us to an intermediate sprint at Davos.

From here we more or less follow the section Davos-Tiefencastel from the 1995 Giro stage, only we have a detour from Tiefencastel where we join a small road which is to a village above the Julierpass road, to the village of Mons. It's 5,6km @ 8,2% so similar but slightly shorter than the finishing climb from Tiefencastel to the Lenzerheide biathlon arena. The main profile is here for the first 4km into Mons, which average just over 9%. This crests with 19km remaining, with an awkward, narrow descent onto the normal Julierpass road at an unfortunately named village which I can't name here because it's going to be one of those place names that Anglophones laugh at. This then takes us down the hill back to Tiefencastel where we have the usual 6,6km climb up to the biathlon stadium.

There are a lot of options provided by Lenzerheide, and also this was a surprising experience for me in putting these together, as I was taken unawares as to a couple of the unexplored options there were, as I was anticipating there would be little that I could add that was new in a fairly well-trodden part of the country, seeing as Graubünden is a very common stop-off for the Tour de Suisse, and the nearest major climbs to Lenzerheide, Albulapass and Flüelapass, are of course icons of the race which we're all more than satisfactorily familiar with. The fact that there is still plenty that can be done to eke out some interesting innovation in stages with them was a pleasing discovery, especially as the Tour de Suisse, rather like the Giro, is often daunting for me owing to the sheer number of options.

But if the Antholz arena is going to promote itself using cycling hosting (and indeed the Italians do seem to have captured a bit of a link between the endurance sports of winter and the endurance sports of summer - the cyclist who tested out the Sorgenti di Piave climb was not in fact a pro cyclist, but the biathlete, Lisa Vittozzi, who is from Sappada, and the Italian biathlon team, or at least its Südtiroler beating heart of Lukas Hofer, Dominik Windisch and Dorothea Wierer, have regularly been visitors to the Giro in recent years. The Tour de Ski always finishes in Italy and is of course cycling-oriented in its organisation since stage racing is a pretty new thing for XC) - then why not Lenzerheide? After all, all the infrastructure for hosting top level bike racing is there and... you know, it hosts the Tour de Ski itself.

When designing my Deutschland Rundfahrt, I wanted to include as much as possible exciting cycling terrain. That has lead to a difficult 3-week effort, and the rather odd design of

Deutschland Rundfahrt 5. Etape: Goslar - Erfurt, 203km, cobbles
(Niedersachsen - Thüringen)

Goslar is situated immediately north of the Harz, one of those German regions that are somewhere between very hilly and medium mountainous. After a warm-up of about 10km the course crosses Bad Harzburg and turns south, steady Climbing to the village Torfhaus.
(I know it isn't very realistic to use the main road, instead of one of the possible alternatives, but hey, I just choose the most difficult option). The overal numbers of this climb conceal the steeper pitches of up to 15% here and there. This climbs seems to be an ideal launching platform for a strong breakaway, but those who want to take it easy can enjoy the scenery of the Nationalpark Harz.
A very gradual descent leads us out of the Harz and to the state of Thüringen. Here the second real difficulty of the day awaits the peloton: the Kulpenberg in the Kyffhäuser Gebirge.

The fourth and final climb of the day comes in 25km later and will also bode what's still to come in the final. The Günseroder berg isn't particularly difficult, but its steepest stretches are cobbled.

Given the overal statistics of the climb, and the cobbles, one might compare him to the Eikenberg in Flanders, but his position in the stage will mean that we don't have to expect any race-deciding moves.
Those may well happen 12km further up the road, on probably today's biggest difficulty. Despite the climbs in the first half of the stage, the 5.2km long cobbled sector between Niedertopfstedt and Frömmstedt has al it takes to tear the race apart.

The main drawback, however, is the distance to the finish: still 65km. Lucky enough, it's not the last difficulty of this stage. Five kilometers later there's a little uncatecorized hill to shake things up and after nine kilometers on tarmaced roads, there's the next cobbled sector. Between Thomas Müntzer Siedlung and Waltersdorf is a shortish sector (1.4km), but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in quality (or rather the lack thereof). More often than not the cobbles are laid out very uneven, with large joints in between and sometimes whole cobbles missing.

This second sector is followed by 18km on flat, asphalted roads, so there some possibility to set things right if some bad luck may have happened to you. If not, and you'd like to take a look around, you can enjoy the historic center of Sömmerda. The last four of those eighteen kilometers, however, are on narrow roads, suited to stretch out the peloton before the third sector of the day. Between Kranichborn and Großrudestedt is a 2.6km long cobbled sector that first descends (steepest part of 300m @ 6%) to a little brook and then gently rises again (about 1km @1.5%).

The cobbles here are of various sizes, bigger and rather well laid out in the beginning, but smaller and more uneven towards the end. At the end of this sector, there's still 35km to go,but if raced properly, the peloton should be splintered by now. The next 13km are once again on good roads, but then there's another cobbled road. This time it's only 1100m, and they're not difficult at all. But they are separated by only 1.5km from the more difficult 2.6km long final sector.

With this one behind the riders' backs all that's left are seventeen very gently ascending kilometers to the center of Erfurt.

Nordic Series 16: Alatau (Ak Bulak)

A bit of an odd one here, as route design options are comparatively limited, and there's only one bike race that goes near enough to consider it, and it's one that most people here won't be able to watch. However, it is a race which is growing, expanding its parcours and its number of days' racing, and it is a country which has some legacy in both cycling and the Nordic disciplines, even if it is comparatively peripheral to both: Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan's coming out party as a sporting power was the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, their first as an independent nation (they had entered Barcelona as part of the Unified Team), and immediately the Nordic disciplines became their focus, crystallised around their talismanic veteran captain, cross-country skier Vladimir Smirnov, who won a gold and two silvers at the Games, before following up with a bronze four years later in Nagano. Liudmila Prokasheva won a bronze in the 5000m speed skating at the Nagano Games too, but then began a twelve year wait for the next Kazakh Winter Olympic success, which came at the hands of controversial biathlete Elena Khrustaleva. Having switched from Russia to Belarus, back to Russia and then to Kazakhstan, Khrustaleva's career to that point - and indeed since - left her superb performances at Vancouver very much an outlier, although of course there is always the chance for a surprise result with - as Khrustaleva managed - 20/20 shooting in the Individual. And although he has yet to win any medals at the Olympics, the country's most recognizable wintersport star is the cross-country skier Alexey Poltoranin, who broke out in 2009-10 and whose career highlights include two bronze medals at the 2013 World Championships. He is something of a cult figure among the XC purists, owing to his specialisms in individual start races and classical technique running counter to a tendency toward shorter mass start events in the World Cup in recent years.

Poltoranin's wife is also part of the national biathlon team, and perhaps galvanized by that surprise success at the hands of Khrustaleva, the team has produced a number of decent talents in that sport, mainly female, with Galina Vishnevskaya and Darya Klimina earning a decent level of credibility in recent years. With the country looking to invest in sport as a way to promote itself - which obviously manifests itself quite clearly in cycling, with Astana as a team being a well-established part of the péloton at this stage, now into their twelfth full season after taking over from Liberty Seguros in the wake of Puerto in 2006 - Smirnov, now operating as a sports administrator and a relatively high up position in the IBU among his roles, masterminded a bid for Kazakhstan to host the Winter Olympics, originally scheduled for 2014 and eventually put back first to 2018 then 2022, when they narrowly lost out to Beijing. The 'dry run' for these events was to be the 2011 Asian Games, for which a series of new, state of the art venues were built, as well as considerable upgrades to the existing Medeu skating rink and Shymbulak Ski Resort. One of these venues was Ak Bulak, nearby which a disused quarry was used as the foundation for a brand new cross-country skiing and biathlon facility, which goes by the name of Alatau, or Soldatskoye if you prefer Russian.

The Asian Games were a resounding success for the hosts, but admittedly the Asian Winter Games attract a fairly limited crowd, with the Kazakhs mainly quarrelling with the Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans, none of whom are especially to the fore in the Nordic disciplines, other than the Japanese in ski jumping of course, and coming out mainly on top. Unfortunately, however, the Kazakhs have been unable to break the venue through to the World Cup level at either Cross Country or Biathlon, where the extent of travel counts against them to a great extent - biathlon is perhaps more likely as the Russian World Cup rounds are in Siberia rather than Rybinsk, but even so this has proven difficult; they did offer their services for the 2016-17 World Cup when Tyumen' was stripped of its World Cup round in a response to the McLaren report, seeing as the athletes would be returning from Pyeongchang to Europe and Almaty offered, like Tyumen', a halfway-house on the way back, but were overlooked in favour of the more established Kontiolahti. They did host the 2017 Winter Universiade, however, but they may be hamstrung by one simple problem: the wintersports that have taken the World Cup to Almaty have seen fairly limited interest, mainly because the sports that did go there are the ones which have very limited Kazakh interest - namely ski jumping and Nordic Combined. And with the site having been fashioned out of a quarry, it offered little visual interest either, something which had been rectified to an extent by the time the Universiade came around with the planting of trees in some sections of the course.

Simultaneously, like their compatriots in the Nordic disciplines, for many years the Kazakh cyclists have plied their trade among the world's best but without a home race to enter. The Tour of Almaty was introduced in 2013 but was a pretty tepid affair, an out and back course along a rolling highway - not the most enthusing of parcours. The race has gradually grown, with a tougher route introduced in 2015, and in 2017 it increased to become a stage race, with a rolling first stage, and then a second stage finishing with a mountaintop finish (actually only halfway up because they could have gone up to Shymbulak, a genuine HC) at the Medeu ice skating rink. There is apparently the intention to make it a five stage race over time, but it's growing slowly at the moment and can't really sustain that. The fact that we're getting further and further from Vino's heyday is a factor in that, but it has been won by locals every year; Maxim Iglinsky beat the sprinters in 2013, and then every year since the race has been won by Alexey Lutsenko. You can look at last year's race here.

As a result, my stages are somewhat conjectural - the second is perhaps fair for the current Tour of Almaty, but the first would be too tough at present and would require a shake up in the format to be workable.

Proposal #1: Almaty - Alatau Ski Complex, 157km

This is basically the toughest stage you could produce in the Almaty area without a Shymbulak MTF; the pass near the Tau Turan resort is the only really major climb in the area which is asphalted on both sides. At just under 14km at an average of 6% from the west, it's more than sufficient to be decisive if riders want it to be; the final time over the summit is at 25km to the line, so there's plenty of incentive to make it count. I've done three laps here as the stages of the Tour of Almaty don't tend to extend to around the 200km mark, and with the lap going up to Tau Turan, down to Talgar and around being a little over 40km, this would result in a longer-than-normal stage if we climbed the ascent a fourth time.

After the final ascent of Tau Turan, we have a shorter, cat.2 climb up to the biathlon / cross-country stadium, going through the main road up to the Ak Bulak resort which predated the building of the stadium. This climb consists of around 7km at 6% (7,2km @ 5,9% for those counting at home) before a short flat, 1km at 4,5%, then another short flat bit before it kicks up again for the last 200m. This climb isn't steep enough in and of itself to open up big gaps, rather being a climb of the kind we used to see won by the likes of Ángel Vicioso or Francesco Gavazzi if the climb wasn't raced too hard or the likes of Alejandro Valverde if it was. With the three times up Tau Turan I'd expect riders of the former type to be dropped here, so unless you want to lose to Valverde, you'd better try to attack before the final time over the summit of Tau Turan.

Proposal #2: Almaty - Alatau Ski Complex, 159km

Much more in line with what we could reasonably suggest is an acceptable stage in terms of length, difficulty and characteristics for the Tour of Almaty in its present format, the second stage to Alatau/Soldatskoye is considerably easier, but nevertheless not easy in and of itself.

We eschew the early loop around Almaty in favour of a flatter introduction as we head out of the city past the airport, which like the ski facilities was provided with a significant and drastic upgrade in the wake of the successful bid for the Asian Winter Games with an eye on future Olympic nominations; we then head to the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains and do two laps of a triangular circuit around the small town of Esik - this town has a pretty backdrop but the climbing itself is not too difficult, being fairly even and consistent 3% false flat all the way.

After this we head through Talgar and climb the opposite side of Tau Turan to that included in proposal #1; it's around 8km at 7% from this side, not as long and only a small amount steeper, as well as upping the distance from the finish to a little over 40km, but still - in this kind of race it's cat.1, maybe not elsewhere. It's kind of Verbier. This then means that rather than exiting the loop soon after the climb and proceeding directly to the finish like in route 1, we have a large ampersand shape as we then loop back toward Talgar, which now comes at the end of a false flat rather than a descent, before heading into the final climb. This time I have taken the smaller road from the Tau Talgar complex to Orman which reaches the stadium not long before that, which makes for a more direct final climb and omits the rolling Lagos-de-Covadonga-style flats and bumps at the end. This way, the final climb is 9km at 5,6% with a steepest 3,5km @ 7,5% in hte middle - plenty enough to be decisive in a field where Astana and maybe Katyusha will be the only World Tour riders, though there ought to be a fair few Pro Continental teams willing to make tbe journey, like Burgos-BH, Manzana-Postobon, Delko-Marseille or Wilier Triestina, looking to safeguard positions with late season points.
Nordic Series 17: Prémanon-Les Tuffes

While you may not be familiar with Prémanon-Les Tuffes, it does have a partial cycling connection already, for Prémanon is one of the four outlying villages of the Station des Rousses ski area, which has hosted the Tour de France in 2010 and 2017. On both occasions that the station has hosted Le Tour, the finish has been located in the La Serra village station, close to the village of Lamoura, meaning the climbs are closer to the finish than were they to move to the main central base of Les Rousses. Prémanon is around 2/3 of the way from La Serra to Les Rousses, sitting on the same plateau. It is very well-known to Nordic aficionados in France, since the Centre Nationale de Ski Nordique is located in the village, and a lengthy ski de fond event around the Jura, centred around Prémanon but also taking in Lamoura and Morez, is well-established.

Les Tuffes is a nearby mountain which is also part of the Franche-Comté side of the Jura mountains, in the Jura's eponymous département, on the other side of the road from the village; if you are approaching Les Rousses from La Serra, the D25 becomes the D29 at Les Jacobeys, and if you turn left into Prémanon itself (where the Centre Nationale is) you remain on the D25; if you continue on the D29, this links to the D1005 and N5, which will take you into Les Rousses, at La Cure. Just before this there is a right turn in a narrow gorge, which takes you to Prémanon-Les Tuffes (it is also accessible from the D1005 at both north and south ends). It is a very long-standing site in French Nordic competition, as at Les Tuffes there are two ski jumping hills, which held the Junior World Championships all the way back in 1968; however with the larger hill being a mere HS82, there isn't much room to expand the site either, and the site was supplanted by nearby Chaux-Neuve, which has now grown to be France's traditional stop on the Nordic Combined World Cup calendar. The trails here are of good standard however, and so despite being, you know, in France, the Swiss held their NoCo national championships here on three occasions. This link to the Romande part of Switzerland continues to bear fruit for the region as well, as in 2020 the Winter Youth Olympics take place in Lausanne; with the Champex facilities long since gone and Les Diablerets not of the requisite standard, Prémanon-Les Tuffes has stepped in to host the biathlon and Nordic Combined on behalf of the Swiss, with the cross-country taking place across the border at Le Brassus.

The Prémanon facilities have just been redeveloped to turn them into a world class facility capable of holding top level competition in cross-country and biathlon, partly influenced by the recent flow of interest to the sport thanks to the success of now seven-time World Cup overall winner, and umpteen time World and Olympic champion Martin Fourcade. By the time he's done with the sport he may even usurp the timeless Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a feat which nobody thought possible when Martin first started his reign of terror back in 2012. The yellow-and-red bib which signifies "leader of the overall World Cup AND leader of this discipline" (maybe cycling should do the same for people leading multiple competitions simultaneously to save confusion) is occasionally dubbed the "Fourcade bib" in jest, seeing as it is so rare to see somebody else wearing either yellow OR red in the biathlon World Cup (except the red Viessmann bibs, before you get pedantic - I mean the deep red classification leader bib), and also to capitalise on changing trends in Nordic sports in the region following the retirement of local hero Jason Lamy-Chappuis; born in the US but raised in Bois d'Amont, Lamy-Chappuis won his first ski jumping competition on the hills at Prémanon, and became a top regional skier in the XC format, so moving into Nordic Combined was a natural fit for him (and also why Chaux-Neuve became the national venue for the sport following his success); a winner of four overall crystal globes, five World Championships and winner of an Olympic gold in Vancouver, he managed 59 World Cup podiums, of which 26 were victories, in a career that saw him become one of the most decorated Combined athletes in history while still retiring before his 30th birthday - though he did attempt a comeback to help the ailing French team, whose funding had dropped drastically in the wake of his retirement, in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Since retirement, he has become an airline pilot, and a pundit for Eurosport France.

That said, there's plenty of biathlon interest in the area too - 1993-94 World Cup overall winner Patrice Bailly-Salins and 2006 Olympic bronze medal-winning relay competitor Ferréol Cannard are from nearby Morez, the small town of around 5.000 inhabitants which sits a little way beneath the Les Rousses stations, and which would provide the logistical base for the race when finishing here. Prémanon-Les Tuffes has been added to the IBU Junior World Cup for 2018-19, its first international competition since the rebuild, and it is looking to become a stop on the IBU Cup (since access makes Le Grand Bornand a more viable World Cup host) as well as now becoming the main training base for the French team thanks to its excellent tarmacked rollerskiing course being available all summer, whereas Le Grand Bornand has the problem of that temporary section in the village being over public roads.

Being at an altitude of around 1100m, and with a few decently-sized climbs nearby but none leading directly to the station, Prémanon offers some interesting possibilities for intermediate terrain in the Tour, either as a precursor to the main mountain stages, or as a final roll of the dice coming after them, say on around stage 18 in an anti-clockwise Tour as you could have the Alpine block, ending with a stage into the Jura here, then a transitional stage before either a Vosges finish on stage 20 or, more likely, an ITT, cutting the transfer to Paris. It could also offer some decent options for the Tour de Romandie, the Tour de l'Avenir or even maybe the Dauphiné. The Tour de l'Ain has had some nearby finishes, but Prémanon is outside of the Ain département so would appear relatively unlikely.

Proposal #1: Châlon-sur-Saône - Prémanon-les Tuffes, 171km

The first proposal is also the easiest of the stages, an intermediate one that is liable to end in a sprint of reduced size or a sprint of the élites depending on how the final climb is dealt with. Arriving from the northwest, the first part of the stage is flat until we get to the area around Lons-le-Saunier, whereupon we start to climb as the general terrain gets higher. As a result there isn't really any respite after either of the first two climbs of the day, because there's no descent to speak of. The first of these is a fairly obscure one, but the Col de la Joux, 10,4km @ 4,6%, is a reasonable challenge; 7% is the maximum so it's not going to ruin anybody's day but the worst climbers asmong the rouleurs and sprinters, but it's long enough that it will put some testy feeling in the legs over the undulating terrain to Morez. Once we get to Morez, there's a circuit involving the finish at Les Tuffes which goes over a cat.2 climb into Prémanon itself, which is 7,1km @ 5,4% with a steepest kilometre at just under 8%.

Seeing as this climb crests with 3,5km remaining the second time around, most of which is rolling, you can see most of the sprinty types will be dropped here, and even the likes of Sagan may have to ensure that they're well-placed to avoid losing time and earning the right to contest the sprint. It's possible to just swing by the entrance to the stadium here, but I have included part of the tarmacked rollerski course in the stage seeing as we can enter it by the entrance and leave it into the car park to the south east of the venue, which is at slightly higher altitude and adds a little bit more climbing. The descent to Morez takes us through Les Rousses town, giving us a 26-27km circuit built around that climb. Double-climbs are uncommon in Le Tour, as are stages with a climb so close to the finish but not actually serving as the finish; however I would use as examples of the type of outcome I expect here stages such as the Monte Assunção finish in the Volta a Portugal (especially when used early in the race as the direction of travel here suggests it would be the first real mountains encountered in the race) or the Super-Besse finish in 2008 (not in 2011, where they approached from much closer to the summit so the final climb was only cat.3; in 2008 they descended all the way to Murol giving a lower average but more sustained final climb).

Proposal #2: Bourg-en-Bresse - Prémanon-les-Tuffes, 214km

The second proposal is perhaps the most interesting way to approach Prémanon from Switzerland; that said, this is clearly a stage for Le Tour, although it would require some creative geography to get this to a coherent design plan - I suggest maybe finishing doing the Alps south-to-north before a rest day, then an ITT in the Lyon area before this stage - if the rest day is after stage 16 then it would fit my theme from above, but with the TT on stage 17 and this on stage 18, it would then necessitate a stage to somewhere like Vesoul or Montbéliard on stage 19 and then a Vosges mountain stage on stage 20 to make it achievable; a Vosges mountain stage might tame the racing on this one, however.

This stage would be utilizing a few of the medium-sized Jurassien climbs, like Crêt Marquet, which will be familiar from my Valromey-Retord suggestions, and there's also a loop-de-loop on this stage to include the tougher side of the Col de la Croix de la Serra, the easier side of which was used in the 2010 Station des Rousses stage:

Therefore, you could potentially cut this loop out, reducing the stage length to a more palatable 176km, but I feel this one really needs the length to be decisive. After the looping around Saint-Claude and Croix de la Serra, we climb the Côte de Lamoura, which was of course the decisive climb of that stage won by Sylvain Chavanel, ahead of the splintered remains of the break, unthreatening counter-attackers and a "péloton" numbering around 30-40, which is something similar to what I'd expect here; not this soon in the stage of course, but from the overall stage plan which is not dissimilar. Here's ASO's official profile for the Côte de Lamoura, I have headed south rather than east from Lamoura itself however to descend into Mijoux and take on the easier side of the very lopsided Col de la Faucille (more of that later) - one of the few French climbs that resembles those Spanish climbs that involve climbing up onto the Meseta, so the likes of Escudo, Ventana, Pajáres, Somiedo, Palombera, San Glorio, Orduña or Urkiola. This means a long and technical descent into Gex, before crossing over the Swiss border briefly to descend into Nyon, before the long and grinding ascent to the Col de la Givrine.

Realistically it's only because of the length that I've categorised Givrine as first category, as it's not that dissimilar from the Côte de Lamoura which only earnt second category in 2010; the middle section includes 10km @ 5,7% but there's false flat on either side of that so the meagre average gradient means it will likely only be a war of attrition among the main contenders, who you wouldn't expect to be troubled by it. The breakaway could produce some interesting battling here though, especially given that we crest the summit less than 5km from the finish (the French border is around 2,5km from the line as we descend directly to the stadium from La Cure rather than doing the loop around Les Rousses, Morez and Prémanon). This will likely be a similar kind of outcome to the 2010 Les Rousses stage but with the likelihood of being a week 3 stage and more lead-in climbs, it could well make for a bigger, stronger, more active breakaway, especially if there's still an ongoing fight for the polka dots with some significant points available in that competition.

Proposal #3: Bourg-en-Bresse - Prémanon-les Tuffes, 181km

The more fully loaded version of the below, this one could legitimately work as a 'real' mountain stage, since the climbing has been beefed up significantly, and while the last potentially decisive climb is further from the finish than the Col de la Givrine in proposal #2, it's also a much easier climb to create separation on, as we saw in the 2017 Tour when the Station des Rousses stage used this previously unheralded climb as its finale.

Before we get there, however, there's a number of serious climbs little known to Le Tour, but some of them well known to followers of the Tour de l'Ain, for the riders to contend with. This stage should come as a final Alpine stage seguing into the Jura, possibly after a MTF in the southern Jura (Grand Colombier?) or perhaps if the Alpine stages are mainly central, after a stage exiting the Alps from somewhere like the Maurienne valley to a hilly conclusion either north of Lyon or near Mont Brouilly, as that would make Bourg-en-Bresse a logical ensuing stage host. This would allow for the typical Alpine doubles in the Maurienne or Trois-Vallées area as well - a transitional flat or hilly stage from Albertville or Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne out of the Alps and then heading back across the Jura the following stage could be an interesting sequence. After a couple of cat.2 climbs in the southern Jura, the first cat.1 climb is the Col des Menthières, which is often a key feature in the Tour de l'Ain, with its 7km @ 8% in the middle and worn tarmac.

I hesitated on whether to classify the ensuing Côte des Avalanches cat.1 or cat.2; given recent route trends it would get cat.1 simply because of a steeper few kilometres, whereas extremely long but consistent climbs tend to get downgraded. With 5km @ 10,6% being the main body of the climb, cat.1 is more than feasible especially if easier climbs than this, like the Planche des Belles Filles, can get cat.1, however the fact that it's nearly 70km from the finish dissuaded me. However, ASO do like to overstate the difficulty of new climbs, and if Chevrères can get cat.1 and Plateau des Glières can get HC, this would probably be cat.1.

There is, as you will note, a short stretch of sterrato before we join the D48a back to Giron, so this would presumably need resurfacing for Le Tour to go there, but given the steepness of the climb and the challenge that it poses as well as the options it opens, I don't see that as too unreasonable, nor do I think the condition of it at present is so poor that they couldn't ride it now, as the road is very straight and forested, so it's not a treacherous stretch at all, downhill at about 2-3%. We then climb the last part of the Col de la Croix de la Serra from its easier northern side, before descending down to Saint-Claude. But where in proposal #2 we took the 2010 route to Les Rousses via Côte de Lamoura, this time we take the tougher 2017 route via the Montée de la Combe de Laisia des Molunes, an excellently overwrought name for a brand new climb to the Tour which provided some intriguing racing in a stage won by Warren Barguil - 11,7km @ 6,4% is a worthy cat.1 in anybody's language (except maybe Italian, since the Passo Tonale is usually cat.2 and is 12km @ 6,2%).

Of course, with the finish where it was, they were able to crest the climb just 12km from the line then; here, however, that distance is bumped up to 25. As a result, it's less likely to be decisive, although it does offer the possibility for a Pietransieri-Pescocostanzo double in the style of that glorious 2008 Giro stage, as instead of going straight to Lamoura and directly to Prémanon-les Tuffes, I have elected to go to Mijoux via the Côte de Lajoux - a small summit which backs on to the Col de la Faucille well and crests very close to the Côte de Lamoura - so as to take on a final climb which crests 11km from the line. This is the first 5km of the north side of Faucille, so around a 5,5% average with no serious ramps, to the Nordic facilities at Le Vattay, just to maintain the theme.

This final climb is not that difficult but if the pace is high on the Montée de la Combe de Laisia des Molunes (that needs an abbreviation, but CLM already has a place in Tour parlance. CdLdM?) and riders are lacking in domestiques, then there's the opportunity to make some tactical attacks here that could prove surprisingly decisive.

Proposal #4: Oyonnax - Prémanon-les Tuffes, 228km

The longest of the proposed stages, this is one that provides a tough mixture of climbs where the last couple of climbs are not likely to be the most decisive and the best opportunity to create separation is earlier, but the sheer length could make the final climbs provide opportunities - or it could be a transitional stage that ends up in a heavily, heavily reduced bunch fighting to take it to the line through attrition. The geographical spread of the stage is much smaller, too, as it loops around itself plenty, so it could lead to further Alpine stages if need be.

The stage opens up with the same pair of early climbs as Proposal #2, only starting from Oyonnax they are literally straight from the gun, which means we will probably see them necessitate a strong breakaway forming, which can then solidify its advantage on the flat stretch along the base of the Jura range from Bellegarde-sur-Valserine to Gex, where for the first time we see the 'proper' side of the Col de la Faucille, with its views across to the Alps and even as far as Mont Blanc, across Lac Léman.

Faucille from this side is 11,8km @ 6,2%, and has been a mountaintop finish in a stage of the Tour de l'Ain which was won by Arthur Vichot; normally however it features either in the Lelex stages or not at all, since it is located right in the corner of the département. The Tour de l'Ain has always been a race I've been tempted to have a go at. It can be very close to the Station des Rousses villages, but here due to the complex looping shape of the stage it is a full 125km from the finish. Instead we follow it immediately with the Côte de Lajoux, but instead of retracing our steps from route #2 via a descent of the Côte de Lamoura, instead we head over some rolling terrain via the village of Molunes, and take the D25E1 until it joins the D124, just north of the summit of the Col de la Croix de la Serra.

After this, we arrive back in Saint-Claude, where we climb the snappily-named Montée de la Combe de Laisia des Molunes once more like in the last proposal, this time once more with 70km remaining not likely to be as selective as in proposal #3, but nevertheless the hardest climb of the day. The high plateau in the Haut-Jura is somewhat shorter this time, heading to Lamoura as per the 2017 Tour and then descending again. The last two climbs are not especially threatening in and of themselves, but on the back of such a long and demanding stage they could be more than anticipated; firstly, the Côte de Cinquétral, which hosts an annual hillclimb event, is 9,2km at 5%, cresting at just over 30km from the line, and then there's just flat until the last couple of kilometres into Morez, where we repeat the run-in from proposal #1, the 7km climb up to Prémanon before 3km flat into the Les Tuffes biathlon stadium.

Proposal #5: Belley - Prémanon-les-Tuffes, 170km

This one is inspired by that Tour de Suisse trick of the tough climbs at the start then the long consolidation before the final climb, usually but not always a mountaintop finish. It also features some Tour de l'Ain classics as well as some recent fad work in the Tour. This would potentially make a decent final mountain stage in Le Tour and also because it's starting not in the flat lands between the Massif Central and the Alps but in the fringes of the Alps and Jura, it could be chained directly off a serious mountain stage, potentially including the likes of Le Semnoz, Mont Revard, Mont du Chat and the like. My personal choice would be all three of them in order, with the Col du Granier between Revard and Chat, and then a finish in Belley, but that might make this overkill as with three HC climbs there, and then another two in this stage, you're going to town on the HCs which leaves much less room for them in other stages even if, in my opinion, calling the Col de la Biche HC is borderline.

What isn't borderline, however, is the Col du Grand-Colombier from Artemare, its hardest side.

A long-standing stalwart of the Tour de l'Ain, the Grand Colombier has historically been climbed from Culoz, and it was this side that was first introduced to the Tour when the climb was unveiled at the ASO's biggest dance for the first time in 2012. In time honoured fashion well in keeping with the dreck that the 2012 route served us, however, it was miles and miles from the finish and the riders got a perfect recce with an almost exact clone of the stage taking place in the Dauphiné, to prevent such unwanted problems as aggressive racing or intrigue created by novelty for riders never having taken on the climb in race conditions before, and Thomas Voeckler won from the break. 2016 was better, climbing the northwestern side from Lochieu though cutting the start out, and 2017 was best, climbing the last 8,5km of the brutal Artemare side that we ascend here, directly off the back of the Col de la Biche. We do those climbs in reverse here, climbing the full Artemare side then descending the climb as done in 2016 via the Anglefort side before taking on the Col de la Biche, cresting at the Croix de Famban, another brute of a climb which made its Tour début in 2017, won by Primož Roglič.

However, these two HC climbs come while there's still 100km to go so it's plenty of mountains points for the breakaway more than anything else here; it's also why I'm reluctant to go too ballistic on a stage before it because there tend to be limited numbers of HC climbs at the Tour and it would almost be a waste to have them this early even if I think the stage can justify it.

After a much easier climb to the Col de Richemond, we then have that same flat stretch from Bellegarde-sur-Valserin to Gex as the last stage design, only instead of the colossal loop we go directly from the Col de la Faucille to Prémanon, going via the Le Vattay nordic station mentioned in route #2 to make the descent more direct although "descent" is a rather grandiose name for what will realistically be a couple of vaguely downhill false flat kilometres before a flat run-in. The Col de la Faucille crests with just under 15km remaining and its 11,8km @ 6,2% mightn't be the toughest climb in the world but for a péloton with Grand Colombier and Biche in its legs, there is every opportunity to isolate people here and make this more of a shootout than it has any business being. This run-in is very reminiscent of the Station des Rousses stage in 2017, only if there'd been two genuine HCs before it, that one might have broken up more, it gave us some pretty decent entertainment by modern Tour standards nonetheless.

Châlon-sur-Saône - Prémanon-les Tuffes, 159km

This one is fairly similar in characteristics to proposal #1, for the most part, setting off likewise from Châlon-sur-Saône and heading to Morez via a couple of early climbs (here it's a bit tougher, with two cat.3s) and then the Col de la Joux. It's only after Morez that things start to differ, where instead of climbing immediately up to Prémanon we instead take a narrow road to the west of the town up to the hamlet of Les Lattes, a further cat.3, before the very narrow road from Longchaumois to Prémanon over a tricky narrow road.

8km at 5% means it's in a similar vein to the climb from Morez, but it has a genuine descent and is a full 9km from the line rather than 3, and it's much narrower, but more consistent and without that kilometre at nearly 8% that could be decisive on the Montée de Prémanon. Nevertheless, it's the best platform to attack here, though for the first time in this listing, a reduced sprint is possible.

Proposal #7: Pontarlier - Prémanon-les Tuffes, 190km

The final opportunity comes from a complete opposite direction and spends most of its distance in Switzerland, even though it starts and finishes in France. It could be a Tour stage winding its way from the Vosges to the Jura, or potentially with a different start host a stage of the Tour de Romandie, utilizing many Romande climbs but finishing close to the border in France. It's not like French towns have never hosted Romandie before - Châtel-Saint-Denis in 2010 and Montbéliard in 2012 most notably. Nevertheless, in keeping with the theme of the Nordic Series, the start is in Pontarlier, a home of skiing in France - Vincent Defrasne, Olympic biathlon pursuit champion in 2006 and flagbearer for Vancouver 2010, fellow 2006 biathlon gold medallist Florence Baverel-Robert (who won the sprint), Fabrice Guy, 1992 Olympic champion in the Nordic Combined, World Cup race-winning cross-country skier Alexandre Rousselet and cross-sport XC skier/biathlete Célia Aymonier all count the city as their home.

After the first set of climbs that take us over the Jura foothills and down to the Lac de Neuchâtel, the ensuing climbs ought to be more familiar. The Côte de Mauborget was a decisive climb in the 2009 Tour de Romandie, where its 8km @ 8% slopes broke the field up with Roman Kreuziger triumphant, outsprinting Rein Taaramäe with Vladimir Karpets trailing in behind. This takes us back to France for a period of consolidation before we arrive at Vallorbe for another couple of smaller climbs - first the Col du Mont d'Orzeires, which includes a kilometre at a surprising 10,2% in its 5km at 6% length, then 4,6km @ 3,6% to the Col du Mollendruz, before a flat section to the base of the final climb - 10km @ 7,2% of the Col du Marchairuz.

Cresting with 25km remaining, I'd expect this to only work in Le Tour if a flatter stage from somewhere like Morez to somewhere like Lyon or Bourg-en-Bresse followed, allowing a respite between this stage and the Alps, otherwise the distance to the finish will dissuade riders in the modern era from attacking on the Col du Marchairuz.

This is especially the case as after turning left in Le Brassus to take the road back across the French border means heading onto an almost ramrod-straight road, so getting out of sight and out of mind will be nigh on impossible unless that gap has already been created. There are a few more severe corners between Les Rousses and La Cure, but still nothing serious enough to pose any kind of technical challenge. In Romandie this would be less of an issue as short stage races are by nature not as decided by recovery as Grand Tours, but nevertheless pacing would be key to make this stage into the potentially challenging one that it could be.

Nevertheless, the Prémanon-les Tuffes station offers a wide range of options, and with its entry onto the Junior Biathlon World Cup and its hosting of Youth Olympic events, the fact that Station les Rousses is already paying for finishes and it looks like the Giro is going to use its clout to promote the upcoming Biathlon World Championships in Antholz might make this one for the 'keeping up with the Joneses' syndrome in encouraging ASO to make the most of this station's recent redevelopment and the varied parcours options it offers.
Oh my... This design is taking me ages, with above all a lack of spare time and adding to that constant changing of stage designs (I sorted out the general layout by now, I only have to squeeze in one or more itt's somewhere).

After three consecutive stages for the classics specialists (or durable sprinters), a flat stage and a TT, it's time for the pure climbers to stretch their legs.

Deutschland Rundfahrt 6. Etape: Erfurt - Großalmerode: 189.5km, medium mountains+hilltop finish
(Thüringen - Hessen)

No transfer before the start of stage 6, that'll keep a bunch of riders and team staff happy. Many of them will also be happy with the first flat part of the stage.
The first 20km of the stage go straight west, from the outskirts of Erfurt to the city of Gotha. Gotha was founded somewhere in the 8th century and became the seat of the newly created duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the early 19th century. At the eve of the first world war, descendants of its first duke and his siblings possessed the royal thrones of the UK, Belgium, Germany, Russia or were queen-consort in a bunch more.
Schloß Friedenstein, the former residence of the dukes is still one of the more prominent monuments of the city,but it's certainly not the only one.

After the city center, the course swiftly turns north for another 20km, going to Bad Langensalza, formerly known as Langensalza and even earlier as Salza. It is something of a tourist spot, with a typical German Altstadt and sulphur baths nearby. Racing-wise there's the only thing that this part of the stage offers are two intermediate sprints in the aforementioned cities.
But after 67km things begin in earnest with the climb to the Hachelberg, just before the hilltop town of Heyerode. Being a decent 3rd category climb may be enough to spark some action in the breakaway, who would have been established by now. In the following kilometers there are two more uncategorized bumps before a sustained descent sets in. When this ends in Großtöpfer, it immediately gives way to the second climb of the day, which has similar stats as the first one. Less than 10km later the third climb of the day already tops out in the village Dieterode, all this while crossing the Naturpark Eichsfeld-Hainich-Werratal.

A short but steepish climb to Sickenberg commands nice views over the town Bad Sooberg-Allendorf and is in itself a precursor to the more difficult climb An der Soleteichen.

By now the touristic part of the stage is really over and in the next 12km the big guns will earch for a good position to start the most difficult climb of the day: the Hoher Meißner. Being a small densely forested mountain massif, it dominates the surrounding plains by about 400m.

Its overall stats (4.8km @8.5%)conceal the steep part of 4km @ 10% that will certainly split the field but don't justify a rating higher than 2nd category (albeit just). Its descent, almost as steep as the climb and with only a few elongated curves leads to Velmelden and after some false flat to Großalmerode, today's finishtown, 150km into the stage.
However, this is not where the stage ends. When reaching the B451 main road, the course turns right instead of aiming for the city center. The descent continues to Trubenhausen, situated at the foot of the Heiligenberg am Meißner. This second climb on the Meißner range is about as long as the first one, but considerably less steep. At the very end of its descent the course closes a lop and joins itself where it went by 36km ago.
So, by now, all riders should know what's waiting for them: a second climb of the Hoher Meißner whoch tops out at less than 15km to go, followed by the same road to Großalmerode. But this time, he course crosses the city center and climbs to the sports' center high above town.
The very final of the stage is quite complicated, with several turns, a sharp left-hand U-turn and an ever sharper final kick.

The sprinters had to wait a few days, but now they have a second chance to grab a stage victory in...

Deutschland Rundfahrt 7. Etape: Kassel - Köln: 222km, flat
(Hesse - Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Well, there's flat and "flat". This stage, with an elevation gain that's higher than that of the previous stages, certainly belongs to the "flat" category. Along the way there are numerous small bumps, long false flats, some 3rd and 4th category climbs and it al starts with the 2nd category climb to Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe just outside Kassel.

The construction of the park began in 1696 and the last additions were made some 150 years later. In 2013 it became a UNESCO world heritage site.

From the Wilhelmshöhe it goes west, first through Korbach and later through the wintersport venue of Winterberg.

Winterberg also has a large MTB-park, so this may draw the attention of cyclotourists to he fact that there's more to Winterberg than (nordic) skiing, bobsleigh and so on. Through the center of Winterberg it goes to the flanks of the Kahler Asten, which is the highest point of today.
For the next 40 or so kilometers the course follows the small river Lenne, but this stage continues west when the Lenne turns northwest shortly after Lennestadt.
Leaving the valley, there's a long false flat to Meinerzhagen that awaits the peloton before the long, gradual descent to the Rhine plains and Köln sets in, where the finish will take place close to the Kölner Dom, another world heritage site.

I know I could have designed a way more difficult stage in this region,but they will come, don't worry.
Here's one of those more difficul stages I promissed:

Deutschland Rundfahrt 8. Etape: Brühl - Trier: 246km, hilly
(Nordrhein-Westfalen - Rheinland-Pfalz)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, is sometimes said. And although stage 2 of the new (real-life) Deutschland Rundfahrt certainly wasn't broke, I made some alterations to it.

First of all, instead of Bonn, I have a start in Brühl, 15km southwest of the citycenter of Köln. I do so mainly for touristic reasons, as the town has two former huntinglodges of the archbishops of Köln that were made world heritage sites: Schloß Augustusburg and Schloß Falkenlust

A second main alteration I made is that I included more of the Mittelmosel valley, one of those quintessential German landscapes of a meandering river, sided by vinyards that carved its way through a hill range and so separates the Eifel from the Hunsrück.

The map of the result is this:

And, more interesting, the profile is this:

Let's look more detailed into it.

From the official start the course heads south for about 100km. The first part of this journey will be a very gradual climb out of the Rhine plain to the hills of the Eifel. After 40km we enter the Rheinland-Pfalz and a few km later the first official climb of the day starts. It starts out steep, with sustained sections of around 10%, but then flattens out, making it very similar to the Haute Levée in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Its descent leads to the Ahr, one of the small rivers crossing the Eifel.

Immediately after the road starts to climb again, first false flat to Adenau, than steeper to the Döttinger Höhe, which is the summit of the second categorised climb. Meanwhile, there are views to the Nürburg and of course, over the Nürburgring, which hosted the world championships in 1966, on one of the most difficult courses ever.

Next is a rolling section of about 30km, before the descent to the Mosel sets in. Today's stage joins said river by Cochem, a typical German tourist hotspot, dominated by the Reichsburg.

This part of the Mosel is characterized by a meandering course, sided by steep hills covered by vinyards. These hills will define the remainder of the stage.
First, there's the steep climb to the Reckersberg, which starts with 2km @ 10.5% before flattening out. Almost immediately after the descent comes a longer but more gradual climb, Auf Pellert, before the third climb of this tryptich starts.
Then there's a descending and flat part of about 25km, leading to the well-known winemaking village Bernkastel-Kues. Just like Cochem, it has a picturesque citycenter, guarded by a medieval castle.

The ensuing climb of the flanks of the Olymp is the longest of the day, but not very steep. The descent to Mülheim is followed by thirteen kilometer along the Mittelmosel, abruptly ended by the climb to the Heukehr. This is just another road leading to the Klausen summit from the 2nd stage of this year's Deutschland Tour. From the top of this climb this stage will closely follow the design of the real-life stage to Trier.
First there is the climb to Auf Zummet, but instead of directly going to Naurath, I make a little detour including an extra climb. The climbs from Naurath and to Thomm are next on the course, as is the descent to Waldrach and climb to Krolingen (I labelled it Galgenkopf, because that sounds cooler).
I skipped the local lap around Trier, but climbed the Petrisberg by the Soterstraße, a rather narrow backstreet. I'm assuming that the field will be completely shatterd by now and that this wouldn't cause any problems. And finally I descent the Petrisberg by the road it was climbed in the Deutschland Tour before arriving in the center of Trier, known for its Roman and medieval heritage.

And a second difficult stage follows on the second sunday of the race:

Deutschland Rundfahrt9. Etape: Sankt-Wendel - Idar-Oberstein: 180km, hilly-medium mountains
(Saarland - Rheinland-Pfalz)

A short transfer to Sankt-Wendel, just to include the Saarland in my design.

Sankt-Wendel is no stranger to cycling, as in the past it hosted several editions of the MTB world cup and two editions of the world championships cyclocross (with Sven Nys and Zdenek Stybar as winners of the male pro event). As far as I known, it doesn't have any ties with road cycling.

Right from the start there's a little uncategorized climb (about 1.5km @ 5%), soon to be followed by two more small climbs, this time they are categorized. After this hilly start, there's a 65km long flat transition towards the Rhine plain, but then this stage begins in earnest with the climb to the Donnersberg.

After some initial false flat, there's a section of about 2km @ 10%, before it levels out a bit in the final 1.5km.
The descent to the Alsenz river is followed by some flat, but soon enough the road starts to climb again, although less steep than to the Donnersberg. Three more climbs in the next 20km will break the rythm of the bunch as much of a breakaway, and five flat kilometers from Lauterecken to Offenbach-Hundheim won't be enough to salvage tired legs. Even less so if they are followed by 1km @ 10.5% to start the climb to Deimberg. Once again there' s a rolling section of about 20km with only one categorized climb, but very few flat. This ends in the little hamlet of Mittelbollenbach, with the climb of the short but steep Mahlbergskopf.

This little monster tops out with 30km to go and would be an ideal launchpad for an attack amongst the favourits, given this stage is followed by a restday. If the bunch is littered with cowards, they can wait a bit longer for the penultimate climb, to Göttschied. This two-stepped climb is a bit shorter and less steep than the Mahlbergskopf, but still difficult enough to get rid of about anyone else if you happen to be a punchy climber.

Its descent, with a small intermediate bump leads to Gerach and the last climb of the day: the 3k @ 7% effort to Huben. The final descent isn't that steep overall, but has a technical section with 4 consecutive hairpins about 3.5km to go. So a good descender or crazy daredevil can take advantage of this before finishing in the center of Idar.

After a rest day , it's time for the first real mountain stage:

Deutschland Rundfahrt 10. Etape: Offenburg - Todtnauberg: 177km, "high" mountains + hilltop finish

The course starts from Offenburg, a small city at the foot of the Schwarzwald and winds its way south through the aforementioned mountain range. It ends with a loop around the mountain village Todtnau.

Although the climbs aren't real high altitude ones, the profile is difficult enough to call it high mountains.

Offenburg citycenter

The stage starts with a 25km long flat section, from Offenburg following the river Kinzig upstream to Schwenden and the hills. Then the course turns west, following the Mühlbach upstream, while the road becomes steeper and steeper and finally becomes the Hallener Höhe.
The peloton will leave the main road and take a shortcut to the top, resulting in a solid average gradient of 8.7% over 4km.

The descent to Elzach and 10km in the Elz valley lead to the foot of the Kandel, the most difficult climb of the Schwarzwald. At just under 12km long and a tad less than 8%, this is an easy HC climb or a difficult 1st category.

Its descent, snaking through the mountains, leads the peloton to the final part of the Thurner, a rather regular climb with one steep kilometer.

This time there's only a very gentle descent that goes over into the climb of the Feldbergpaß. Although being the highest point of the day, it is also probably the easiest climb of this stage. It will probably cause a status-quo in race development, as a strong break will have formed while the favorites won't throw their cards on the table just yet.

At the end of the Feldberg descent, with a bit more than 40km to go, things are starting to become serious. From now on there are no more false flats, while there are some serious gradients thrown at the riders.
The final of this stage starts with a warmup on the Hohtann, and continues after a fast descent with the final, steep, part of the Schauinsland. This, although not very long has a stretch of 3km at over 11.5%. Both are labelled as 1st category climbs.

The penultimate climb starts with 11km to go and consists of the final 4.5km of the Notschrei from Kirchzarten, good for an average gradiënt of 7.7%.

It all ends, after a 3.5km long descent, with a climb to the wintersport town of Todtnauberg. This climb averages 6.2% over 3.5km, but its final kilometer has a gradiënt of over 11%. If it hasn't happened before, this wall will be enough to sort the pretenders from the contenders.

@rghysens, if you have any plans on speeding up you race then i'll terminate mine. Mine should take roughly a week to post. This time it's a smaller one... a much smaller one.

Tour de l'Avenir by railxmig.

Possibly my last venture into France as i still need to cover some leftover ideas that i would like to share and this tour mostly does that. If i will come back to France in the future then most probably with a serious attempt at a realistic tour, but that's uncertain. In this one i don't care for optimalisation etc. However, throughout this tour you'll see me deliberately using smaller roads to save up some money.

This tour is composed of some leftover ideas, that i would like to showcase. It includes some obscure finishing places and some obscure dirt/cobbled options. Because Paris-Nice forces me to Provence, where for now i have nothing new left (Vallée des Merveilles? That may end up in a future Giro or a different, smaller race) i decided to modify the l'Avenir by screwing Bretagne and start from Île-de-France. If there are any interesting places then i'll try to expand on them a little but that won't be the focus of this tour and i'll try to keep the posts at a reasonable length.

Tour de l'Avenir – prologue. Provins, 8,4km, ITT.

Place du Châtel – 0,6km, ~7%, cat. 3, 137m
Chemin de Fontaine Riante – 1km, ~5,5%, cat. 3, 152m

Because of my miscalculation, the race has 10 stages rather than 9 but thankfully the most interesting ones (that sometimes also include the biggest cities) are on the weekends. The tour starts in Provins – one of the best preserved medieval towns of Brie – a general area east of Paris, that also includes Champagne. This town of medieval fairs is also part of the UNESCO WHS. I do recommend it. It feels like a medieval, untouched by time commune hidden somewhere in the Birtish countryside.

Provins seen from Tour César.

Provins was already known in antiquity but it came into prominence during the reign of Charlemagne as then the capital of Champagne. At the time it was the 3rd biggest French city after Paris and Rouen. The town was home to two Champagne fairs. They were an annual stock markets (mainly agricultural) held in a number of Champagne towns – Lagny-sur-Marne (now a Paris suburb), Provins (twice), Troyes (twice) and Bar-sur-Aube. In the early middle ages they were the biggest fairs in Europe. Since the middle ages the town is also renown for its Brie cheese.

City walls of Provins.

Half-timbered architecture of Provins.

I doubt Provins could be comparable with Ávila but its city walls are quite large. Within them are the XII c. dungeon Tour César, underground medieval clay quarries featured in Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum", XIII c. Grange aux Dîmes manor house and covered market, XI c. manor house – now the museum of Provins, a number of medieval half-timbered houses, XIII c. Hostellerie de la Croix d'Or – the oldest French hotel and now a restaurant, XIII/XIV c. Hôtel de Vauluisant – another ancient hotel, XII c. Collégiale Saint-Quiriace and many, many more. Provins is also the birthplace of David Moncoutié.

Tour César, Provins.

Collégiale Saint-Quiriace, Provins.

The race will be housed mainly on Place du 29ème Dragons on the side of Boulevard d'Aligre (former city walls), where also the finish line is located. The start is on the other side of Boulevard d'Aligre on Avenue Alain Peyrefitte. The ride through the town is on quite narrow roads. From Avenue Alain Peyrefitte the stage goes through Rue Victor Garnier and Rue Fourtier Masson to end up just outside of the Hostellerie de la Croix d'Or. Of course the ride is accompanied by half-timbered architecture and sometimes quite exotic looking XIX c. neoclassicism.

Hostellerie de la Croix d'Or, Provins.

After a short transition on Rue Christophe Opoix the stage enters the oldest street of the town – Rue Saint-Thibault. It leads to the very historic center of Provins (Place du Châtel), which is on top of a local hill. This climb is 0,6km at roughly 7%. It's on a narrow road that has a cobbled sidewalk. The last roughly 200m approach 10%.

Rue Saint-Thibault, Provins.

Place du Châtel, Provins.

On Place du Châtel the race continues on a flat and narrow Rue de Jouy and after going underneath the Porte de Jouy gate it descend down alongside the city walls on Chemin des Hazarches. The descent is roughly 0,6km at 6%. it's on a quite narrow and technical road. It leads to Rue des Coudoux on the other side of the Le Durient river.

Rue de Jouy, Provins.

Descent from the historic center of Provins alongside the city walls.

Rue des Coudoux is home to an aquatic center Centre Aquatique du Provinois. Soon i'm detouring with uphill Rue Gustave Chrétien and then downhill Rue André-François Poncet because otherwise i would need to go across the Place du 29ème Dragons. I could finish it there but because it's the only test agains the clock in the race i prefer to have it slightly longer and there's a nice hill on Chemin de Fontaine Riante that i would like to feature. This hill is 1km at roughly 5,5% with the first 200m at roughly 8%. After another false-flat 1km on an open hillside north of Provins the race descends back to the town on a wide and not too steep Avenue de la Ferté, which even includes one serpentine. The descent ends on Route de Nanteuil which then leads to the finish on Place du 29ème Dragons.

8km is not too long, even for l'Avenir standards but soon you'll see, why i decided to limit the amout of TT in the race.
You know the Champcueil cobbles already, but this time i'll focus on the hellingen hidden in the Fontainebleau forest. I don't live in France so i cannot confirm these tracks are entirely cobbled but i still think this should be a somewhat exciting fantasy prospect to have them in an actual race.

Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 2. Provins – Fontainebleau, 175km, hilly, cobbles.

Côte de Beauvais – 1,1km, 4,5% (max 10%), cat. 3, 135m
Côte de Route des Princes x2 – 0,8km, 6% (max 14-15%), cat. 3, 95m
Côte de Route du Pavée de la Cave x2 – 1,6km, 3% (max 10-12%), cat. 3, 140m

Rue des Montils – 900m, ***
Rue de la Butte Geoliette – 900m, ****
Rue de Milly – 1300m, ***
Route des Princes x2 – 700m, *****
Route du Pavée de la Cave x2 – 1600m, *****

It's one of the longest and hardest stages of this race. I could keep it a bit shorter and went the Moret-sur-Loing route but i decided to go via Melun to have the Champcueil cobbles as a warm-up before the the Fontainebleau laps.

From Provins the race heads through the Seine-et-Marne department, mainly on D403 that's inside the Voulzie valley. The main towns of the valley are Sainte-Colombe, Longueville and Jutigny. The valley was supposed to be a XVII c. canal linking Provins with Paris but the project did not succeded. The nearby village of Sigy is home to a XV-XVI c. castle. Soon the race will leave the D403 in Donnemarie-Dontilly.

Château de Sigy.

XI c. Église Saint-Pierre, Donnemarie-Dontilly.

From Donnemarie-Dontilly the race heads straight towards Melun via a large patch of forest known as Villefermoy, passing close by the Château des Bordes. Sometimes i'm using smaller roads to dodge tricky rail tracks in the Seine valley. The race will cross the Seine in Saint-Fargeau-Ponthierry after passing through Melun (D39 alongside the Seine).


Melun is located right on the Seine. The historic center is on the Saint-Étienne island, which in antiquity was home to the capital of Senones – Meledunum. The antique city was destroyed in 845 by Vikings. The rebuilded commune was later a royal residence for French kings like Robert II the Pious, Philip I the Amorous, Henry I and Philip Augustus (who was born here). The town is home to XI c. Collégiale Notre-Dame which untill 1775 housed a XV c. Melun Diptych – a two-panel painting by Jean Fouquet. Just north of the city is the XVII c. Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte built for then the Minister of Finances Nicolas Fouquet.

Collégiale Notre-Dame, Melun.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

After crossing the Seine the race continues on some smaller roads via Moulignon and Auvernaux and enters the Essonne to end up in Champcueil. If you want a bit more info on these more obscure options (cobbles, hills etc.) south of Paris you can check up this thread. The first sector is a 900m long extension of Rue des Montils. It's a rather typical Flemmish/Nord cobbled track. Nothing too stressfull, but it should be a fine introduction to this "type" of cobbles. Also considering it's l'Avenir it may already produce a quite significant selection.

The positioning at the end of this sector will be very important as it's immediately followed by the most obscure of these 3 cobbled tracks – Rue de la Butte Geoliette, which leads from Loutteville to D75. This yet another 900m long sector is split in half. The first half in the village is slightly uphill and on bigger than usual cobbles but it's also more refined than the 2nd half. That's in the forest, is slightly downhill and seems to be closed from the public use. I guess the 2nd half should be close to a 5-star hence it's overally a 4-star sector. It can make a lot of damage to some lightweight Colombians and co. This time the distance between this and next cobbled sector is larger, at roughly 3km.

Rue de la Butte Geoliette.

The last and the longest of three (1,3km) cobbled sector starts in Le Saut du Postillon and leads towards Beauvais. It 's on Chemin de la Padole and later Rue de Milly. The 1st half is slightly downhill while the 2nd half is slightly uphill (2-3%). It's worth noting that while the cobbles doesn't seen to be too rough, they're mixed in with some patches of asphalt, which only escalates the bumpiness.

Rue de Milly.

At the end of this section starts the first categorised climb of the day, which peaks just west of Beauvais at a 150m high Plateau de la Beauce. This climb is 1,1km at 4,5% with the last roughly 250m at roughly 10%. The climb is on a rather narrow and technical road. There's no immediate descent, the next roughly 5km are flat. The descent starts in Mondeville and leads to Videlles. From there the road leads first to Courances – home to a XVII c. Château de Courances renown for its English style garden and later to Milly-la-Forêt.

Château de Courances.

Milly-la-Forêt is an ancient Gallic town, mainly known as the birthplace of the Archbishop of Sens Saint Wulfram and for the crowning of Frankish king Dagobert I. In the middle ages it was alongside with Nemours, Montargis and Fontainebleau one of the biggest towns of Gâtinais. At the time it was also a royal residence and a hunting lodge where the likes of Charles VI, Louis XI, Henri IV and even Napoléon Bonaparte lived for some time. The modern Milly-la-Forêt is mainly a spa and tourist center known for it's herbs and parfums. The town is home to a XIII c. royal castle, later rebuilt by Louis Malet de Graville.

Château de Milly-la-Forêt.

Between Milly-la-Forêt and Fontainebleau is Forêt des Trois Pignons with its characteristic 3 hills, the "Trois Pignons". It's part of the vast royal forest system on the hills of Fontainebleau. Within it are plenty of hike and fire roads known as routes forestières. Today's and tomorrow's stage hazards are within these type of roads. While most of the routes forestières are dirt there are at least two that are cobbled. They date back from before the French Revolution. They're also definitely not used by cars and they'll probably never feature in a bike race.

Forêt des Trois Pignons.

After reaching Fontainebleau and heading back to the Seine-et-Marne department via D409 there are two 28km long laps. The intermediate sprint is on the 2nd passage through the finish line, which for now is in front of the royal castle (it's maybe also possible to have it on Avenue des Cascades). The passage through Fontainebleau is via Boulevard Magenta, Rue Grande and Avenue des Cascades before heading back to the forest via D606.

Château de Fontainebleau.

Lap around Fontainebleau.

From Fontainebleau the race is on straight and wide roads that lead to Thomery, where the first Fontainebleau hellinge on Route des Princes (Allée du Pavé du Prince) awaits. This narrow track (inside a local ditch) is just west of Thomery. It's 0,8km at roughly 6% with the first 400m at roughly 10,5% with even some small patches of 14-15%. Unlike many other French cobbles, the road surface here is composed of quite large, square shaped stones. Because this road is closed from traffic it would need to be cleared from any weeds and high grass. This section ends when joining D137.

Route des Princes.

From here the next hellinge is roughly 12km away as the lap goes on the eastern outskirts of Fontainebleau via D137, D210 (Avenue Franklin Roosevelt) and D606, close to the picturesque Route de la Reine Amélie that's just north of the city. The next hellinge starts near a small hill known as La Butte de Saint-Louis.

Le Bouquet de la Reine Amélie.

The second cobbled sector is also the longest of the day at 1,6km length. It's on an old, probably royal road of Route du Pavée de la Cave. The climb is longer but not as severe as that of Route des Princes. The cobbles also seems to be slightly more bearable. The climb is 1,6km at roughly 3%, but the last 400m are relatively flat. The hardest are the middle 650m at roughly 5,5% (max slightly above 10%). It ends when joining D142. Of course the road is closed to traffic so it would need to be cleared out of any weeds beforehand. It ends roughly 7km from the finish line.

Route du Pavée de la Cave.

I think this stage could be a cool little one-day race and i think even for the "adult" races like Paris-Nice or Tour de France it would be a reasonably hard challenge and considering it's l'Avenir i think there might be carnage. See many little Colombian somewhere near the end of the peloton. The next race also has a surface gimmick, but this time it'll be full on dirt tracks. And no, they shouldn't be as rough as these around Tours.
Last time the star was the Fontainebleau forest. Now it'll pass the torch (touché) to the Orléans forest and its set of routes forestières. I hope the tracks will be somewhat cleared out of any bigger debris to limit the risk of punctures (France doesn't have the quality dirt that Italy, Spain or eastern Europe has).

Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 3. Étampes – Orléans Métropole. Fleury-les-Aubrais, 143km, flat, dirt roads.

Côte de Saclas – 1,8km, 3,2%, cat. 3, 136m

Dirt roads:
Route Forestière de Vitry-aux-Loges – 8,9km, ***
Route Forestière de la Cour Dieu – 6,6km, ***
Route Forestière de Nibelle – 6,3km, **

I've decided to start in Étampes to have something more of Essonne than only Champcueil. Étampes is the biggest city of Essonne that's not a part of the Parisian suburbs. It's considered to be the northern gate to Beauce – a vast, flat and agricultural region south of Paris.


While in antiquity Étampes was just a minor village, the town is home to the largest ancient necropolis of Île-de-France. The modern city was founded around VII c. In 1130 a royal council held in the city opted for the recognition of Innocent II as the legitimate pope against Anacletus II. 17 years later another council was crucial in the preparation for the 2nd crusade. Thanks to Louis Bleriot in 1909 the city was one of the first to have an aviation school (crucial during the WW1).

Tour Guinette, Étampes.

Étampes is home to XII c. Tour Guinette – the only remain of a former castle, some remains of the city walls, XII c. Église Notre-Dame-du-Fort, XII c. Église Saint-Martin with its romanesque leaning tower and a number of medieval manor houses from XV-XVII c. like Hôtel d'Anne de Pisseleu or Palais de Justice. Étampes is the birthplace of XII c. Thibault d'Étampes, who was the first teacher to have lectured at Oxford. The city was also home to an early XX c. automobile factory of Pierre Morisse.

Église Notre-Dame-du-Fort, Étampes.

The first 20km are on a former Roman road that links Paris with Orléans. Nowadays it's a wide and straight D97. Before entering the Beauce and the department of Loiret the stage goes inside the Juine valley (one of the main Essonne valleys) that's just south of Étampes. The main towns in the valley are Saclas and Méréville. The valley is also the main French producer of watercress. The stage leaves the valley near Charmont-en-Beauce and heads via D22 towards Pithiviers. The Beauce roads can be exposed to wind and while in August it shouldn't be too big of a problem, during the Paris-Nice in March the same roads are often responsible for echelons.

XVII c. wooden fair market, Méréville.

Pithiviers is a rather standard French town with a quite interesting past. During the WW2 it was home to a Nazi/Vichy internment camp. However, the camp existed since 1939 when it was used as a concentration camp for Spanish refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War. From Pithiviers the stage heads towards Bellegarde (former Soisy-aux-Loges) via D30 and D44. Bellegarde is a former estate of the Dukes of Antin, home to a nice looking XVIII c. palace, formerly of XV c. Just to the west the peloton will scrape the Orléans forest for the first time.


XV-XVIII c. Château de Bellegarde.

From Bellegarde the race leads via D44 towards Lorris, but this voyage will be cut short in Beauchamps-sur-Huillard where the stage will go on a smaller road through the wetlands of Châtenoy and then enter the Orléans forest. Just south of Châtenoy, on D948 starts the first route forestière of the day. The Route Forestière de Vitry-aux-Loges is possibly the longest straight of the day. Of course it's on dirt and there's no civilization in sight. It ends 93km from the finish line.

Route Forestière de Vitry-aux-Loges.

This dirt track leads to the villages of Vitry-aux-Loges and Ingrannes. Both villages were medieval royal hunting lodges (the French king Henry I died here in 1060). Ingrannes is also home to a botanical garden Arboretum des Grandes Bruyères. Both villages are also part of the vast Natura 2000 area that roughly covers the entire forest, protecting various bird species.

Château du Plessis, Vitry-aux-Loges.

Arboretum des Grandes Bruyères, Ingrannes.

Sadly, these forest tracks are obscure so it's not easy to find anything more on them, but judging by the streetview snippets they seems to be relatively serviceable. I mean Tro Bro Léon (and now Paris – Tours) has much rougher tracks, but they seems to be generally less refined than the Strade Bianche ones. The rest of them are very similar to each other – long, rather flattish straights in the middle of the forest, normally used as hiking, fire and maintenance tracks. Next dirt track – Route Forestière de la Cour Dieu starts in Ingrannes after roughly 13km from the last track. This time it's a 6,6km straight that leads to D2152 just south of Chilleurs-aux-Bois, known for Château de Chamerolles – now a parfume museum. This section ends roughly 30km from the finish.

Château de Chamerolles, Chilleurs-aux-Bois.

Route Forestière de la Cour Dieu.

The last dirt sector of the day – Route Forestière de Nibelle, starts roughly 14km from here. It starts on D8 just south of Neuville-aux-Bois, which is the biggest municipality in the area with 4500 inhabitants. This 6,3km long straight leads back to the D97 Paris – Orléans Roman road. It seems to be the most refined of today's choices, hence i decided to knock one star off of it. It ends roughly 10km from the finish line.

Route Forestière de Nibelle.

The last 10km to the northern outskirts of the Orléans Métropole are on wide and mostly straight D97. While technically it's unchallenging, there are two rail crossings, but i think none of them is used anymore. However, there are slippery so look out for any crashes. There's also a much smaller town of Chevilly (further north) that also could be a potential finish while not needing to cross any rail tracks.

The metropolitan area of Orléans.

Fleury-les-Aubrais is a new northern district of Orléans founded in XIX c. It was home to a major battle of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. At first it was mainly an industrial center but lately it invests in commerce (plenty of big supermarkets). For now i've placed the finish line on Rue de Verdun, but there's plenty of other options (Rue des Fossés?) to consider.

Cathédrale de Sainte-Croix, Orléans.

Even if it's Sunday, i've decided to move the finish from the main Orléans towards it's northern suburb mainly to save up some money. It shouldn't be too big of a change as the finish is still within the borders of Orléans and Fleury-les-Aubrais has more than enough space for a much bigger race.

I assume it won't generate as much buzz as the previous stage but considering it's not Tour de France, a strong pace on these dirt straights could provide a lot of grief for the miniscule guys. The peloton will stay overnight in Orléans as the next stage will start in its southern suburbs.
Libertine Seguros said:
These would also make an awesome first couple of Paris-Nice stages and help that shore up its rouleur quotient with people preparing for Classics season too.
Because these stages were created with Paris-Nice in mind, but i don't really have anything left for Provence (besides one cat. 1 MTF) and still have some unfinished stuff in the Alps so i decided for l'Avenir. Maybe if i did a two-week Paris-Nice. Interestingly, i've seen the La Flamme Rouge's cobble map is still alive and there seems to be some new stuff near Compiegne. Actually i've knew about the stage 2's cobbles before thanks to one Velowire thread. I think it was this one. I wonder, how many undiscovered or only locally unknown sectors are there. For example, there still doesn't seem to be like 95% of cobbled climbs east of Porto traced and you can abuse the hell out of them.

This should be the first time for climbers to try and maybe cut some seconds of their potential losses from previous days. I decided to left the climb to Sancerre uncategorised on the profile to keep it readable.

Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 4. Orléans Métropole. Olivet – Sancerre, 126km, hilly, HTF.

Mur de Ménétréol (La Pierre Coupilière) x3 – 1,5km, 8,5% (max 14-15%), cat. 3, 288m
Côte de Sancerre x3 – 1km, 6,4%, 3 cat. 274m

The entire stage takes place on the left bank of the Loire. At times the race literally hughs the river. Thanks to it there will be a lot of sightseeing. For the start i've chosen the southern district of Orléans – Olivet. The stage visits many towns and castles over Loire like Sully-sur-Loire, Gien, Biare or Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire. The stage features the historical regions of Solonge, Puisaye and Berry (one of the most famous French medieval regions).

Loire in Gien.

The first château of the day is in Sully-sur-Loire. It was founded in XII c. as the seat of a local lordship. The modern castle was created by Maximilien de Béthune in early XVII c. He was one of the main royal helpers of Henry IV. Close by is another XVII c. Château de Cuissy and a Celtic dolmen Tumulus de la Butte des Druides in Lion-en-Suillas.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire.

On the other side of Loire is Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, home to a VII c. Abbaye de Fleury. It's one of the most important French Benedictine abbeys since the early middle ages (Cardinal Richelieu was the most famous abbot). It's said it may possess the relics of the saint. These relics made the abbey a prime pilgrimage site in the middle ages. It was named after Floriacum – the name the town was known by in antiquity.

Abbaye de Fleury, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire.

Next town is Gien on the other side of the river. With nearby Biare it's the main hub of Puisaye. The town was founded by Charlemagne. Because of it's strategic location as the crossing over Loire it was bombed by Luftwaffe during the WW2. The town is home to a XV c. castle, built on top of a previous keep from IX c. by Anne de Beaujeu, the daughter of Louis XI. Native to Gien is Pierre Rolland. In nearby Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire is another XIII c. castle founded by the counts of Sancerre. In the town the race will enter Berry.

Gien with its castle.

Château de Saint-Brisson.

Of course Berry is one of the most famous of medieval French regions. It's mainly known for producing a number of French kings, the Bourbon family and a knight Baldwin Chauderon, who fought during the 1st Crusade. The capital of Berry is Bourges. The finishing town of Sancerre was one of the most prominent Berry towns, which also had it's own local county.

Sancerre is a hilltop town on the left side of Loire (not far away from Bourges) that more resembles the former oppidums in Burgundy. Because of it's strategic location this town dates back to antiquity, when it was occupied by the Gallic tribe of the Bituriges. In the middle ages Sancerre was in constant skirmishes between Berry and Champagne. During the Wars of Religion the town was subject to an 8 months long siege of the royal forces against the Huguenots. The siege was the last time the medieval slings were used durring a battle. During the siege the city walls collapsed on the attackers, killing roughly 600 men. In 1621 the remains of the castle were also dismantled.


Sadly, because of the siege not many things were left untouched. The only remnant of the former castle is XIV c. Tour des Fiefs. The town is also home to an early XV c. belfry. A Cher wine is produced in the hills around Sancerre (Collines du Sancerrois), mainly around Côte de l'Orme au Loup. On the profile it's called Mur de Ménétréol and it will be ascended 3 times. This ascent is 1,5km at 8,5% with patched of roughly 15% near the top. The road is quite narrow but in fine quality.

Tour des Fiefs, Sancerre.

Vineyards around Sancerre (here near Côte de l'Orme au Loup).

The top is 3km from the finish line, which will be crossed only at the very end of the stage. The finish is on Rempart des Augustins, while the laps cut short on Rue Saint-André to then descend down to Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre, where the previously mentioned Mur de Ménétréol starts. The laps are quite short at only 7,3km long, so there may be some cases of lapping some weaker guys. I guess the laps will be ridden quite hard as i guess some guys will lose time on previous two stages and will need to start getting back. I still expect the gaps to be small though.

Because this stage is just a sprint one i decided to merge it with the one above.

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 5. Sancerre – Circuit de Lurcy-Lévis, 141km, flat.

Côte de Chaumont – 1,1km, 5,4%, cat. 3, 267m

The only pure sprint stage of the race, but with a rather tricky approach to a not so big racing track of Lurcy-Lévis in between of Saint-Amand-Montrond, Moulins and Montluçon. The race stays overnight in Sancerre and then once again hugs the left side of the Loire. It finally leaves the river after 50km, in a nice looking village of Apremont-sur-Allier that's opposide of Nevers. The last roughly 100km are in the hilly countryside of Berry, which tops at the only categorised climb of the day near the village of Chaumont.

South of Sancerre is the first of today's Loire castles – XVII c. Château de Lagrange-Montalivet built on top of a former Château de Vèvre from XIII c. which belonged to the lords of Sully-sur-Loire.

Château de Lagrange-Montalivet.

Later on is La Charité-sur-Loire, which had the distinction of being the oldest Cluniac priory and for a while the 2nd (or 3rd after Vézelay) largest abbey in France. The church dates back to 1052 and was founded by the Cluniac abbot Hugues de Cluny and the Count of nearby Nevers William I. The town was founded a little later in 1181 by Philippe Augustus. The city walls partialy stands to this day with a number of towers like Tour de Cuffy or Tour Perrinet Gressard. Like many other towns of Berry, it was seriously damaged during the Wars of Religion (another 8 months long siege).

La Charité-sur-Loire.

Prieuré de La Charité, La Charité-sur-Loire.

The race continues alongside the Loire towards a nice historic village of Apremont-sur-Allier. It was a medieval stone quarry, which was used in raising the likes of the Orléans cathedral or the Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire priory. The village is quite well preserved with a XV c. castle built by then the Minister of Finances Philibert de Boutillat and a number of medieval homes from XV-XVII c. Slightly further away from Loire is La Guerche-sur-l'Aubois – a Gallic oppidum that's home to one of the oldest churches in the region – XI c. Église de Saint-Etienne and a XV c. Maison Chezelles.


Château d'Apremont.

In Apremont-sur-Allier the race leaves the Loire and heads inland towards the hills of Bourbonnais, straight towards Sancoins, which is home to a XIV c. keep Donjon de Jouy, built probably on the remains of a Roman castrum (possibly founded by Julius Caesar) and a small monastery of the Irish Saint Colomban.

Donjon de Jouy.

After following smaller roads in the hills of Bourbonnais (Berry) just to keep the stage at a reasonable length and to have at least one categorised ascent the race lands in the Tronçais forest. Of course the forest is home to plenty of dirt tracks of which some could be raceable, but this time i'll stay with harder surfaces. The forest (which covers the majority of the southern Berry and Bourbonnais) is mostly deserted and the only bigger civilisation centers are Ainay-le-Château and Lurcy-Lévis. Ainay-le-Château is a rather inconspicuous little town, historically a Bourbon castellany. Thanks to it's rather obscure location it's quite well preserved with XIII c. Église Saint-Étienne and an extensive set of city walls with a clock tower Porte de l'Horloge.

Porte de l'Horloge, Ainay-le-Château.

Starting from Ainay-le-Château the stage is very straightfoward as it goes through the Tronçais forest via wide and straight D953 and D978 towards Lurcy-Lévis – a small town of only 2000 inhabitants. It was a medieval estate of a local Lévis family and later of a French Marshal Charles Eugène de Castries. The town is very sports oriented with a concrete vélodrome from 1897 and the Lurcy-Lévis testing track that sports a 1,5km straight, hence it's often used in testing aerodynamics. The town is also home to XVII c. Château de Lurcy-Lévis with some parts from XII c. and Église Saint-Martin from XII c.

Circuit de Lurcy-Lévis.

Château de Lurcy-Lévis.

The 26km run-in to Lurcy-Lévis is mostly straight. However, the run-in to the circuit is quite narrow (Route du Circuit). The finish line is close to the end of the 1,5km straight. Because the straight ends in a dead end i'm forced to shorten it to 700m. The last 1,7km on the circuit include a long and narrow-ish bend towards the finishing straight. While the circuit doesn't have too much of open spaces i guess it should be fine enough for a smaller race.

From now on there won't be any chances for sprinters but potentially one (it will be more for a breakaway though). The last 2-3km towards and on the circuit itself are quite technical, but i guess the higher chance of crashes is on the vast straights of the Tronçais forest.
Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 6. Montluçon – Le Mayet-de-Montagne, 175km, medium mountain.

Côte de Néris-les-Bains – 2,5km, 4,8%, cat. 3, 372m
Côte de Pouzol – 6,6km, 4,7%, cat. 3, 663m
Col de la Charme – 6,6km, 7,5%, cat. 1, 1120m
Col de la Loge des Gardes – 6,8km, 7,1%, cat. 2, 1078m

Let's start this one in Montluçon. I also thought of Commentry but then i woud have trouble dealing with Vichy and A71 so i decided to bail out with D2144 (former N144). Montluçon is historically the 2nd town of Allier after Moulins and one of the more prominent towns of Bourbonnais. It's located on the northern edges of Limange – plains between Monts Dômes and Monts de la Madeleine, which are the northern edges of the hilly region of Livardois.

Limagne and Monts Dômes in the background.

Château des Ducs de Bourbon, Montluçon.

First 110km to Thiers are in Limagne. They include some smaller and narrower roads just to limit the usage of big roads. The transition towards Thiers is quite complicated. During it the race will move from Allier to Puy-de-Dôme and only go back to Allier near the finish.

Towards Thiers the race passes through a number of rather obscure towns like Saint-Éloy-les-Mines, Menat with Le Pont-de-Menat, Aigueperse and Maringues. The most interesting of them seems to be Néris-les-Bains, which was a relatively large Gallic oppidum. At the time it was also a Roman spa known as Nériomagos and Aquae Nerii. The spa once again came into prominence in XIX c. During the WW1 it was a military hospital. Mains sights are the XI c. Église Saint-Georges, Roman spa, remains of a Roman villa and a Merovingian necropolis.

Église Saint-Georges, Néris-les-Bains.

Outside of Montluçon the biggest town today is Thiers (12000 pop.), located on the edge of Livardois on top of a number of hills. It specialises in knife manufacturing. The tradition of making knifes dates back to XIV c.


XV c. Hôtel du Charriol, Thiers.

The focal point of this stage are the Monts de la Madeleine – the northernmost range of the Livardois. The main climbs of the region are Col de la Charme and Col de la Loge des Gardes – quite good cat. 2 climbs nicely put for a breakaway stage to Roanne. However, today i'm working with a smaller race and i would like to open a new bid for such a race (P-N, Avenir etc.) with Le Mayet-de-Montagne/Châtel-Montagne, roughly halfway towards Vichy.

Monts de la Madeleine.

Both Charme and Loge des Gardes are very similar to each other. Charme is slightly harder with a quite stable 7,5% compared to Loge des Gardes' also stable 7,1%. Both climbs have also similar descents which are quite long, smooth and technical. The top of Charme is 43km and Loge des Gardes is 21km from the finish line. There's one slight change to Charme and that's a very steep and narrow shortcut near the bottom of the climb. This shortcut leads to Arconsat and it's 700m at roughly 11,5%.

Profile of Col de la Charme and Col de la Loge des Gardes.

Both Charme and Loge des Gardes can be quite well linked with your favourite Livardois combo of Béal and Chansert. Then the approach to Charme would lead through small but steep Col Saint-Thomas or alongside the A89.

Col de la Charme.

Col de la Loge des Gardes.

The approach to the finish is quite complicated. The descent from Col de la Loge des Gardes is 12km long with 5-6% slopes. The road is wide but quite technical. The last roughly 10km are mostly flat with even a small 2,4km at 3,6% (first 1km at 6%) hill from Saint-Clément to Bertucat. The finish line is 2,6km away, on Rue de Ferrières. The last 400m on Rue de Ferrières are slightly uphill.

Lac des Moines, Le Mayet-de-Montagne.

Le Mayet-de-Montagne is a little town (1500 pop.) in Montagne Bourbonnaise – a hilly region north of Monts de la Madeleine and east of Vichy. Le Mayet-de-Montagne is sort of the modern iteration of nearby village of Châtel-Montagne, which in the middle ages was the capital of a major bourbonnaise barony. The village is also home to a Cluniac XI-XII c. Église Notre-Dame. Of course i doubt any of the settlements ever featured in a bike race.

Église Notre-Dame, Châtel Montagne.

With potential loses in the GC i hope some little guys will try to spark up the life of what it would normally be a breakaway stage and i think Charme and Loge des Gardes should be enough for that. I moved the finish from Roanne because it was just too far away even if it would be more logical as the finish in Mayet-de-Montagne forces me to go back to Allier after the brief wander in Loire. The next stage will be a pure transitional fare from Loire towards Isère.

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 7. Roanne – La Côte-Saint-André, 178km, hilly/medium mountain.

Nothing to see here. It's just a transitional stage to bring myself closer towards the Alps. It will be won by a breakaway.
Another stage that's focal to this tour and its creation. I hope you'll also like it.

Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 8. Saint-Antoine-l'Abbaye – Gresse-en-Vercors, 140km, mountain.

Col du Mont-Noir – 17,4km, 7%, cat. HC, 1421m
Col de l'Arzelier – 11,8km, 6,6%, cat. 1, 1154m
Côte de Saint-Andéol – 4km, 8,4%, cat. 2, 1020m
Col des Deux – 2,5km, 8,7%, cat. 2, 1222m

The stage starts near Isère in Saint-Antoine-l'Abbaye, on the southeastern edges of Plateau de Chambaran (middle of Dauphine). The village was founded by Gaston of Valloire as La Motte-Saint-Didier in early XII c. It was located around an abbey (created just after the 1st Crusade), that was founded to store the remains of Saint Anthony (i guess they were stolen during the crusade). Right with the abbey also the Order of Saint Anthony was founded. Apparently the saint appeared in front of a local knight during the 1st Crusade, hence this place was chosen for the abbey. The abbey stopped operating in 1901 when it was moved to Andora in Liguria (not Andorra).


The front of the Saint-Antoine abbey.

The first mostly flat 15km towards Isère are on D27. The first climb of the day starts immediately after crossing the Isère in Saint-Marcellin. It's also the first of two HC climbs of the race. Of course you know it very well because it's the very hyped here Col du Mont-Noir, which just had it's virginity taken by the Dauphine. It's here mainly to provide a good battleground for a strong breakaway.

Profile of Col du Mont-Noir.

From Mont-Noir the race goes the ususal way towards Villard-de-Lans and Lans-en-Vercors via the Gorges de la Bourne and then descends down to the western outskirts of Grenoble (Seyssins), mainly known for some ridiculous placement of road signs. The descent starts in Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte and is quite complicated. It's 14,5km at 6,4% (a good cat. 1) with 7 harpins and a ton of smaller turns. The road is wide and seems to be in good quality but if it's wet in can be troublesome.

Profile of the descent from Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte.

La Grande Mucherotte (2285m).

The ride through Seyssins is on smaller roads that sometimes date back to antiquity. I'm going alongside the A51, trying to use as less of D1075 as possible. From Seyssins the stage heads through Claix, Varces and Vif on the left side of the Drac to enter the region of Gresse, where the last part of the stage will took place.


Gresse is a small hilly region east of Vercors and of the Grand Veymont (2341m) and Grande Mucherotte (2285m) ridges. It's west of A51 and former N175. The first spark of life is the A51 highway ending up with a... roundabout!? Hidden in the shadows of the rockface of Grand Veymont and Grande Mucherotte are a set of local roads, which create three main climbs of Gresse – southernmost Allimas (just south of Gresse-en-Vercors), westernmost Deux and northernmost (and hardest) Arzelier. There's also a secondary climb to Saint-Guillaume, which can be extended by either Arzelier or Deux.

Le Grand Veymont (2341m).

The main municipality of the region is the finishing village of Gresse-en-Vercors. The best place for a finish should be a parking space at the end of Route du Grand-Veymont. This parking is 350m long, but not too wide though. It should have enough space for potentially even a Dauphine. Gresse-en-Vercors is also the biggest ski resort of Gresse with roughly 25km of ski slopes. It sometimes also hosts some national level competition in alpine skiing. I assume for l'Avenir it should have enough money.


The voyage in this rather isolated area will begin with a very picturesque cat. 1 Col de l'Arzelier. It's 11,8km at 6,6%. It's a relatively regular climb on a nice and wide road reaching the max slopes of roughly 10%. The hardest are the middle 5km at 7,4% that's followed by the easiest 2km of the climb at 4,5%. The top is 27km from the finish line. The top also provides quality views of the Grand Veymont. Judging by the abundance of MTB videos including this col it seems to be a popular mountain biking/treking hub.

Profile of Col de l'Arzelier.

While a decent cat. 1 climb for the Tour standards, for Avenir it should provide a good selection and a potential launch pad for a longer attack. While the next days are in the mountains i think/hope many climbers with GC aspirations will have quite big loses to the leaders and will try something bigger to close the gap.

Col de l'Arzelier.

The descent to the Gresse river/gorge is 8km long on a mostly wide and fine quality road. It's quite technical, but not as much as the ascent. The first 4km to the village of Château-Bernard are on 6-7% slopes. They're not too difficult with only 2 harpins above the village. After a roughly 1,3km of 2-3% in the village the toughest part starts. The last 2km to the junction with D8 are at 8-10% and above a quite sizeable (protected) backdrop.

Immediately after the descent is a small 900m at 6,2% climb to Saint-Guillaume. It's followed by a 1,5km long false descent to Pont Massette before the climb to Saint-Andéol starts. Pont Massette is roughly in the middle of a quite deep La Gresse gorge. The climb to Saint-Andéol is 4km at a steep and stable 8,4%. It's quite picturesque with occasional views over the Gresse and the Grand Veymont range. The top is 12km from the finish line. The roads are wide, but their quality is not the best.

Gresse seen from the ascent to Saint-Andéol.

From Saint-Andéol there's no descent but 5km of plateau ride just below the Grand Veymont. This plateau ends with another short murito to the top of Col des Deux. It's 2,5km at 8,7% with the middle 1km at 10,5% (max 11%). The top is roughly 5km from the finish line. The descent is wide and straight but it's also steep and on a rather shaky surface. It leads to Gresse-en-Vercors.

Profile of Col des Deux and Côte de Saint-Andéol.

Col des Deux.

The finish line is not in the village but just above it on a parking space belonging to the local ski station. The last 3,2km starting right after the descent is at a relatively stable 3%. The hardest seems to be roughly 500m near the bottom (when approaching the village's XIII c. Église Saint‑Barthélémy) with 5-6%. The road is wide and on a much better surface.

Finish in Gresse-en-Vercors.

So, i guess Mont-Noir should provide a good content for the first half of the stage, while the last 40km should be hopefully also full of content. I hope potential GC time losses the climbers will hopefully have will force them to go deep on Arzelier. The last 20km are also quite bumpy with two short (less than 4km) but steep (over 8%) muritos and a slightly uphill grind to the finish.

Hopefully i've provided a fine enough guidance of the rather overlooked Gresse region as it can provide a potentially interesting medium mountain/mountain experience at the edge of the Hautes-Alpes.
Today is time for the only MTF of the race, which hopefully will also open up for you a new option for the Durance valley.

Last stage: link

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 9. La Mure – Crévoux, 142km, mountain, MTF.

Côte de Saint-Jean-d'Hérans – 4,5km, 5%, cat. 2, 820m
Col de Saint-Sébastien – 2km, 7%, cat. 3, 983m
Côte des Costes – 6,5km, 4%, cat. 3, 1091m
Col de Manse – 4,8km, 3,8%, cat. 3, 1262m
Côte de Puy-Sanières – 6km, 6,5%, cat. 2, 1177m
Montée de Crévoux – 12km, 6,7%, cat. 1, 1610m

There's a lot of small climbs peppered around the Route Napoléon but i'll be mainly focusing on the last climb to Crévoux. You probably may not recognize the name, but you probably do the Parpaillon. Besides the last 1-2km in the village the climb to Crévoux is mainly on the Parpaillon road. Its difficulty is comparable with neighboring Les Orres 1800 and it should be a bit tougher than also nearby Puy-Saint-Vincent.

La Mure.

The stage starts in La Mure and heads towards Trièves via Pont de Ponsonnas and Saint-Jean-d'Hérans, which is home to the first climb of the day. Together with Col de Saint-Sébastien it should shape up the breakaway. After passing through Mens – the main town of Trièves and Col de Saint-Sébastien the race will come back to Route Napoléon in Corps via the picturesque Barrage du Sautet. Of course the region is known for it's man made lakes inside local valleys like the Lac du Sautet or Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet.


Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet.

After climbing to Corps (topped by the intermediate sprint) the race stays for a while on Route Napoléon before leaving it near Saint-Jacques-en-Valgodemard for smaller roads of the Champsaur plateau north of Gap. The region is well known thanks to Orcières-Merlette, Manse, Gleize, Moissière etc. Today however i'll only zip through the region via the north side of Manse before descending the La Rochette route back to the Route Napoléon, bypassing Gap in the process. The roads can be quite narrow in some places.



Of course from Gap the stage borrows the N94 up to the Pont de Savines in Savines-le-Lac on the coast of Lac de Serre-Ponçon. The ride passes through La Bâtie-Neuve and Chorges. Of course you should know the region pretty well and if not then check out the 2013 time trial from Embrun to Chorges. Interestingly, it was the last edition the Tour had two long time trials.

Lac de Serre-Ponçon.

I'll be borrowing the Côte de Puy-Sanières from that time trial but i'm doing it the other way. It's 6km at 6,5% and should be a fine warm-up before the last climb. A quite tricky and narrow descent leads to Embrun – an ancient Alpine town and bishopric. It's a quite picturesque town right at the top of a cliffside.


XIII c. Maison Chanonges, Embrun.

The last climb starts after crossing the Durance just below Embrun. Rather than taking the normal route of D39 i'm tackling a smaller sideroad through a hamlet called Le Coin. The whole climb takes place in the Crévoux valley that's parallel to the Les Orres valley. It's overshadowed by a very massive Pic Saint-André (2863m).

Le Grand Parpaillon.

The climb is split in half. The first half to Le Coin Haut is 3,4km at a stable 8,5%. It's followed by an easier 2km at 2,3% with even a small section on a descent (roughly 350m at 4-5%). The last 6,6km to Crévoux are at a stable 7,3%. Overall, it's a cat. 1, 12km at 6,7%. It should be hard enough for even something like Dauphine, not to mention l'Avenir.

Crévoux and Pic Saint-André (2863m).

Crévoux is a village and a minor ski station (dating back to 1937) below the Grand Parpaillon massif, roughly halfway through Col du Parpaillon. It's obviously not as popular as the famous col but it has some space available for a smaller race and it should be enough for something like l'Avenir. The finish line is just above the village on a parking belonging to the local ski station. I hope it's a fine alternative for any Durance MTF like Les Orres or also nearby Risoul.

Crévoux and its XV c. church.

I hope it's a nice enough MTF for such kind of a race. The next stage will be a bit weird as for this hilltop finish i decided to visit Italy.I think you may already guess it'll have something to do with Mont-Cenis and the upper Arc/Maurienne valley and it's here only to say that it may be a lot more probable option than rather tiny Bessans or some of the dead ends of the Vanoise.

Tour de l'Avenir – stage 10. Briançon – Modane-La Norma, 149km, mountain, HTF.

Col de Montgenèvre – 8km, 6,2%, cat. 2, 1850m
Montée de Sestrières – 6,5km, 7,6%, cat. 1, 2035m
Montée de Moncenisio – 10km, 8,1%, cat. HC, 1435m
Col du Mont-Cenis – 13,3km, 6%, cat. 1, 2094m
Montée de la Norma – 1,8km, 7,8%, cat. 3, 1346m

Treat this stage as sort of an optional bonus. It doesn't need to be in the race and for me it can finish in Crévoux. It's an alternative towards Valfréjus and that Bessans experiment LS once did.

Mont-Cenis with Moncenisio.

This stage also features a lot of Piemonte. The climb to Sestriere (or Sestrières in French) is quite interesting as i'm climbing the less used SP215 side via Bessè, which has the last 6,5km at decent 7,6% and then descending back to Cesana via the traditional side. I'm not crossing over with myself in Cesana as one way i'm going right through the middle of the village via Viale Senatore Bouvier and then i'm going back on the other side of the river (Dora Riparia). Both roads are separated by only 150m.
I finally found some spare time to continue my Deutschland Tour.
My last stage was a mountain stage with a sawtoothed final through the Black Forest. In order to induce long range action in that stage I made the following stage a bit easier, but there are still possibilities to ambush someone if that would be necessary.

Deutschland Rundfahrt, 11. Etape: Freiburg - Bad Säckingen, 142km, medium mountains

From the town center of Freiburg the course goes more or less parallel to the Rhine for about 30km, until the town of Müllheim. After a lefthand turn the road starts to rise, first very gently, but later steeper to culminate in the Kreuzweg, the highest, and highest ranked climb of the day.

The descent to Tegenau, on wide roads, isn't overly technical or steep, but comes abruptly to an end with the first steep pitches of the Gresgen:

The peloton remains on main roads en route to Zell am Wiesenthal, situated at the foot of the Eckhag, which is no more than the first, steep part of the Northwestern side of the Gersbacher Höhe.

Allthough the race hasn't even covered 80km, it's well over halfway and after the descent to Wehr, things are getting really serious. The Heuberg is similar to La Planche des belles Filles in length and gradiënt but since it's no mtf and i'm not working for ASO, it doesn't get an easy 1st category rating. Its descent isn't that steep and contains even a few minor bumps and leads to today's finish: Bad Säckingen. This is, however, not the finish, as there's a local lap of 22km. This includes the climb to the hamlet Jungholz, which is similar to the Heuberg. After the village there isn't an immediate descent, but 5km on rolling terrain. The descent itself isn't technical, but has some steep pitches and ends right at the city center of Bad Säckingen, located on the banks of the Rhine.

Obviously all of these fictional race designs take place in some kind of alternate universe where they can exist seeing as they’re our fictional creations, but this next event takes place in an even more different universe than most, one that involves the re-writing of a lot of history for it to even make the remotest lick of sense.

I’ve obviously had two attempts at a Peace Race before; the first was essentially a modern bike race but between Warsaw, Prague and Berlin, and the second was an attempt at staying true to the spirit of the Peace Race racing-wise, so more cobbles and mud, but using smaller towns and cities in an attempt to make it a semi-realistic revival of the great race. This attempt, however, is more an attempt (first of a few but I won’t go into them all back to back as I tend to design at a faster rate than I’m able to post) at what the legendary Course de la Paix would look like if it had never gone away in the first place. To that end, history is a bit different in this universe, and we have a Friedensfahrt in glorious technicolor, like in the 2018 documentary MDR made about it, with Täve Schur, Olaf Ludwig, Jens Voigt and Robert Forster.

Obviously, we need some ‘creative’ political history for this to be possible, and my reasoning is that instead of a fully-fledged reunification, we have a rapprochement between East and West in the late 80s and early 90s, with the approach being instead a gradual transition toward reunification. To that end, the DDR never ceases to be, and the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia never break up, but the latter switches to a Federalist model and there are concessions made away from the rigid amateurism of the past in the sports model. This means that until the end of 1994, the history of cycling is as per real life including that success of the post-Soviets in the 1994 season with Berzin winning LBL and the Giro, and Tchmil and Bobrik also winning Roubaix and Lombardia respectively, however without the comparatively pliable Yeltsin in charge, the weakening of the Russians doesn’t take place to the same extent and an uneasy post-Cold War tension exists. In cycling, the restructuring of the calendar in 1995 has major effects. The moving of the Vuelta to September and the Worlds moving to the end of the season rather than their August position as a result creates an opportunity that the Ostbloc nations are keen to exploit, which is that the Vuelta, the one GT they’d been able to get invites to in the pre-professional days (no trade teams in the east), can now be accessed with a double peak as it’s no longer so close to the Peace Race that nobody can do both. As a result, a lot of talented Warsaw Pact riders are given significant incentives to remain amateur in the east, as this is seen as a huge propaganda prospect by those nations. Those existing pros remain professional, but this also means there is no abandonment of the Amateur World Championships for 1996 either. The Peace Race therefore sees a resurgence of importance among the Ostbloc riders as a ticket to prestige and with many benefits in the East as well as being a potential ticket to the west.

That strange period of coexistence between commercial sponsorship and the Communist nations, the two Uwes, Raab and Ampler, representing the DDR after signing for PDM in 1990

In 1996, this has an obvious impact with the emergence of the first enduring champion since Uwe Ampler turned professional. Svoráda, Rjakshinski, Wesemann, Bílek, Voigt and Padrnos are decent enough names, but the field had been hurt by the best eastern riders going west to turn pro and the race had shortened. Now back up to 13 stages (12 and a prologue), there is a concerted effort to restore the race’s prestige. The 1996 edition sees a new star born as Jan Ullrich takes the overall GC victory thanks to a thunderous ITT performance, ahead of Sergei Ivanov and Andrei Zintchenko of the USSR team. A combined pro/am DDR team also including Dietz, Wesemann and Kummer takes part in the 1996 Vuelta and the world is shocked and impressed when Der Kaiser finishes 4th overall. The escapade does harm the DDR-Rundfahrt, however, which moves its position in the calendar to August to ensure the strongest home riders will enter.

In 1997, Ullrich goes on the rampage, winning the Peace Race by slaughtering the field, and follows it up with a victory in the DDR-Rundfahrt, earning a further Vuelta selection. The results shock the world even more than the previous year, after the new Uwe Ampler showcases he’s not just a time trial king, dropping everybody to Sierra Nevada and assuming the lead of the race after the Córdoba TT. Neues Deutschland goes into fits of ecstasy celebrating the triumph of Communism as, after trading the lead with Alex Zülle for the ensuing two weeks, Ullrich narrowly defends his lead in the Alcobendas time trial on the penultimate day and becomes the first amateur to win a Grand Tour in decades. He is fêted and awarded the highest possible honours by the SED, and enters into negotiations for professional contracts with their blessing. Eventually a deal is struck to move him into the pro ranks after the 1998 Peace Race, to join a team with fellow DDR propaganda icon Erik Zabel. In the meantime, Richard Virenque wins the Tour de France. Ullrich also wins the amateur road race at the World Championships a second time for good measure.

Jan Ullrich after winning the amateur World Championships in 1993

Ullrich backs up his Friedensfahrt achievement the next year in what amounts to a lap of honour for him; the race starts in East Berlin and is back up to 14 stages. A 55km ITT in his hometown of Rostock is arranged which he unsurprisingly dominates, and holds onto his lead for the rest of the event. Signs are that the Soviets are reacting to the DDR dominance, however, as while Klöden finishes 2nd, a young Kazakh named Vinokourov manages to get onto the podium and excites many back in the USSR with his swashbuckling style. The Festina affair leads to a bit of panic among western teams, and given the long and sometimes chequered history of Eastern Bloc sports, there is a bit of reluctance to take risks on riders from the East, although a few more Czechs and Poles get opportunities to turn professional than East Germans and Soviets.

The 1999 Peace Race ushers in an era of Soviet domination; with no Ullrich, the DDR team looks rudderless, and the Soviets go 1-2, with Vinokourov winning ahead of Rumsas and new DDR leader Andreas Klöden. In response to the DDR successes at the Vuelta, the Russians also move their National Championships in Stage Racing, a 10-day race around the Crimea with teams from each SSR, to August, to serve as a major selection race. It backfires somewhat, as there is such competition for places that riders go too hard in the preparation event and are undercooked late in the Vuelta when Vandenbroucke starts wreaking havoc. We then enter a period of relative stability for cycling, as the Peace Race continues to hold high prestige as an amateur race, but post-Tour-of-Redemption, it becomes a ticket to the pro ranks for riders on both sides of the Curtain. Rumsas wins the 2000 Peace Race before turning professional, while in 2001 Óscar Freire becomes the first man to win the World Championships three times back to back, because Vainsteins won the amateur road race in 2000 rather than the pro edition, however his success after turning professional in 2001 show that he was a genuine talent anyhow.

Óscar Freire proving himself better than that Sagan fellow

Post-9/11, there is a cooling again of relations between the US and the USSR about the response to it, and it looks like we’re headed for a new era of separatism à la the Brezhnev era. In cycling this is truly manifested when the UCI restructures the sport ahead of the 2005 season. Under the UCI’s new system there are now three levels of team - Pro Tour, Wildcard, and Pro Am. This therefore renders the days of the Eastern Bloc teams riding the biggest races over, so no more Vuelta wildcards and no repeats of Ullrich’s legendary 1997 achievements being possible without turning pro. Races are divided into Pro Tour, Continental Pro Tour, Open and Amateur, coded as “PT, HC, .1 and .2”. Sensing this might be the last opportunity available to be a professional, a few of the better known Ostbloc riders such as 2003 Peace Race winner Yaroslav Popovych and star climber Denis Menchov, who hasn’t been able to win the Course de la Paix owing to bike handling problems - he was never one for the rain or the all-too-common-for-the-Peace-Race cobbled surfaces, and especially both rain and cobbles at the same time as we discovered in 2009 - but who has demolished the Tour of Sochi and the Soviet Championships in Stage Racing in the Crimea, as well as two overall wins in the mountainous Tour of Yugoslavia, the Circuito Montañés and one at he Vuelta al León, two big Spanish amateur races, sign pro contracts. The recommencing of the “Open” era does safeguard the Friedensfahrt, however, which fixes on a 15-stage, two week duration with a rest day after stage 9, and becomes the highest profile race under the Amateur category once more.

At first, things remain as you were; the Soviets are in control of the Course de la Paix, winning in 2005 with Aleksandr Kolobnev and 2006 with the 2004 World Amateur Champion Kanstantsin Siutsou. When Operación Puerto hits, however, the impact is strong on the sport at all levels. The collapse of the Liberty Seguros team leaves big Ostbloc names like Vinokourov and Kashechkin without a team. After much wrangling with the UCI it is agreed that “elite sin contrato” riders can be considered for the amateur ranks, and so the duo return to the USSR and wreak havoc on the Crimean stage races for the rest of 2006 while Alejandro Valverde wins his first Vuelta. The duo are signed by the Unibet team for the 2007 season and return to Western Europe.

Debates raged throughout the cycling world - who wore it better? Vladimir Karpets, or Laurent Brochard?

Vladimir Karpets wins the 2007 Course de la Paix as part of a one-season campaign of destruction reminiscent of Yuri Barinov. Only with a better mullet than the guy who was actually racing back when that was actually fashionable. It’s the fifth straight win for the Soviets, but more controversy is coming in the West. The Freiburg saga takes down the biggest West German team, and following the Landis saga and then Rasmussen the following year US sponsors are dwindling. Discovery Channel pulls out leading to a merger between them and the nascent Unibet team, which has been having trouble securing the invites its ProTour status suggested should be automatic; the presence on their team of a number of major stars including two-time Peace Race winner Yaroslav Popovych, reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and some old bald guy who is four years away from hitting a career high when he causes the cyclingnews forum to break the scale for impotent internet rage means that that they are able to safeguard those invites even despite the mid-season suspensions of Vino and Kashechkin for doping and the massive disappointment of anticipated team backup GC challenger José Rujano. Spaniard Xavier Tondó wins the amateur World Championship, the first westerner for several years, to much consternation in the east. The number of participations in “open” races is stepped up as a response to being beaten on what the Ostbloc feels should be its own turf.

2008 is the start of the DDR’s revenge. They unleash new sprint stars André Greipel and John Degenkolb on the world after the former wins Berlin-Cottbus-Berlin and the Rund um Berlin in short order, and he goes on to win five Peace Race stages, to which Neues Deutschland goes crazy with talk of a new Olaf Ludwig. The Czechs take the overall in a surprise result after Roman Kreuziger drops Vladimir Efimkin on the climactic final mountain summit to Praděd, near his hometown, while fresh from the comical domination of the Vuelta a Asturias, Ángel Vicioso finishes 3rd, leading to some consternation about the long term effects of the 2006 judgement on Vino and Kash meaning lots of top level pros unable to find a team at the wildcard level are being classed as amateur and entering races supposed to be strictly for amateurs. These protests, along with the general changing of the guard in the Ostbloc, are rather overshadowed, however, by the return of Lance Armstrong, who joins the Unibet team to reunite with former boss Johan Bruyneel. The DDR’s rejuvenation continues into 2009, with a less mountainous route in the Peace Race leading to no fewer than eight stage wins for the men in Königsblau - four sprints for André Greipel, one apiece for Degenkolb and emerging sprinter/time trialist Marcel Kittel and two time trials and the overall GC for Tony Martin, though the Russians can console themselves with Kolobnev’s second straight amateur World Championship and the emergence of young prospect Mikhail Ignatiev.

Mikhail Ignatiev, with the world at his feet, or so it seemed...

The breakup between Contador and Bruyneel thus leads to Telefonica jumping into the sport a year early to secure El Pistolero for Abarcá, which has the effect of rather squeezing out Joaquím Rodríguez, who leaves along with his close companion Daniel Moreno for Unibet, now a shell of a team that can build around him with Armstrong and Bruyneel having set up their own Radioshack team by this point. Martin wins the Peace Race again in 2010 but the DDR is unable to capitalise in the rainbow race, with Greipel dropped and Degenkolb beaten in the sprint by young Australian Michael Matthews. One of the big stories is the discovery by Czechoslovakia of their young talent Peter Sagan, however, who is kept away from the two week Peace Race at age 19 but draws attention in Open races in the West, winning stages of the Circuit de la Sarthe, the Tour de Wallonie, the Tour de Luxembourg, the Tour du Haut-Var and in the east in the Tour of Bohemia. Perhaps most interestingly for eastern teams long term is that following the scandals for LA-MSS in 2008 and Liberty Seguros in 2009, the Volta a Portugal downgrades itself from Continental Pro to Open, in order to strengthen its start lists with strong teams from the East and giving a second viable season goal for the Ostbloc stage racers, resulting in some interesting battles as the best stage racers of the East take on the August machines.

2011 is even more about the Chrono, and Martin triples up. Sagan continues to impress and André Greipel wins the rainbow jersey in the amateur Worlds along with this fourth straight Berlin-Cottbus-Berlin classic, at 250km+ the longest race in the East. Lots of debate ensues about wanting to see the East German sprinter take on Mark Cavendish, the fastest man in the west. 2012 sees even more hot debate as to who would win between ITT specialists, Martin or Wiggins (the answer is the latter, as proven in the Olympics). The Britons are on fire at all levels, however, as Jonathan Tiernan-Locke wins the rainbow jersey in Valkenburg, though the Peace Race fell during his mid-season slump leading to a bit of disappointment. Major news is made in August, however, as while facing a CAS date for his HGH positive test, Patrik Sinkewitz becomes the first rider to defect from West to East Germany, seeking to preserve his career by racing as a theoretical amateur, though speculation is rife that it is a paid transfer. Poland is on the rise, strangely enough needing the mountains to achieve at their best, with late bloomer Przemysław Niemiec and newcomer Rafał Majka along with all-rounder Michał Kwiatkowski forming the basis of a strong team. It’s too early for the young Kwiatkowski, and he fades in the final week, with Martin becoming the first ever rider to win four on the bounce.

A young Tony Martin at one of his first international successes, leading the FBD Insurance Ras, a large amateur race in Ireland

The Poles have a little longer to wait, however, as in 2013 a veritable shock takes place, as Riccardo Zoidl becomes the first westerner to win the Peace Race since Jean-Pierre Danguillaume all the way back in 1969, capitalising on a stellar season where he was strong over every single type of terrain. It’s a strange year’s race with the DDR team’s GC aims blowing up in their face; Sagan is in the midst of a struggle to convert placements into wins as he gets constantly outnumbered, while Lutsenko and Kwiatkowski make up the rest of the podium. 2014 is Poland’s year, as the team earns favourable comparisons with the great team of the early 70s, as Majka wins the Friedensfahrt and Kwiatkowski wins the amateur World Championships (France is sent into raptures as Tony Gallopin wins the elite Worlds, thanks mainly to a disorganised chase).

However, 2015 is the year of Peter Sagan. Climbing like he’s never climbed before, winning where once he’d have come second, and generally being the new Olaf Ludwig, Sagan goes into beast mode like never before. He wins the Course de la Paix thanks to time bonuses after surprisingly losing only a minute to new Soviet sensation Ilnur Zakarin on the Przehyba climb, as well as the Tour of Bohemia GC, the newly-Open-category Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen, Nokere-Koerse, two stages of the Tour de Brétagne, Tro Bro Léon, the GP Pino Cerami, the GC of the Tour de Wallonie, two stages of the Volta a Portugal and of course the amateur World Championships. Talk is of whether he can be lured west, and whether or not he can replicate that kind of a season. He can’t - 2016’s Peace Race is won by Ilnur Zakarin ahead of Kwiatkowski and Lutsenko, but Sagan’s stage-winning domination and success in Open races such as the Tour de Luxembourg continues, leading to much speculation especially from CN forum blowhard Libertine Seguros about how great he would be if he got to ride the biggest races in the West. He doubles up on World Amateur Championships in September and inks a Piasecki-type deal to switch to the pro ranks in return for bike tech and gear by the Czechoslovakia team, eventually signing with Quick Step.

Peter Sagan, one of the most successful riders of modern cycling

The top two from the Friedensfahrt, Zakarin and Kwiatkowski, are reversed in 2017, but the most interesting thing to note is the emergence of former ski jumper Primož Roglič, who wins two mountain stages along with his home tours (both the regional Tour of Slovenia and the national Tour of Yugoslavia) as well as finishing an impressive 2nd behind Raúl Alarcón in the Volta a Portugal. Yugoslavia won the first two Peace Races, but have never won one since, so there is a lot of excitement about Roglič in Yugoslavia. He goes one better in 2018, but just lacks a bit of skill for the ruler stages and loses out by the narrowest of margins to Michał Kwiatkowski. However, history is made in Bergen when Sagan becomes the first rider since Merckx to win the World Championships as both an amateur and a professional, and one of very few to win a rainbow jersey at the first attempt.

Peace Race palmarès post-Wende:
1990: Jan Svoráda (CZE)
1991: Viktor Rjaksinski (URS)
1992: Steffen Wesemann (DDR)
1993: Jaroslav Bílek (CZE)
1994: Jens Voigt (DDR)
1995: Pavel Padrnos (CZE)
1996: Jan Ullrich (DDR)
1997: Jan Ullrich (DDR)
1998: Jan Ullrich (DDR)
1999: Aleksandr Vinokourov (URS)
2000: Raimondas Rumšas (URS)
2001: Aleksandr Botcharov (URS)
2002: Ondřej Sosenka (CZE)
2003: Yaroslav Popovych (URS)
2004: Yaroslav Popovych (URS)
2005: Aleksandr Kolobnev (URS)
2006: Kanstantsin Siutsou (URS)
2007: Vladimir Karpets (URS)
2008: Roman Kreuziger (CZE)
2009: Tony Martin (DDR)
2010: Tony Martin (DDR)
2011: Tony Martin (DDR)
2012: Tony Martin (DDR)
2013: Riccardo Zoidl (AUT)
2014: Rafał Majka (POL)
2015: Peter Sagan (CZE)
2016: Ilnur Zakarin (URS)
2017: Michał Kwiatkowski (POL)
2018: Michał Kwiatkowski (POL)

Anyway, this is essentially a very over-long way to explain the reasoning behind the philosophy of this race design; my first Peace Race was basically a modern race, but between Warsaw, Prague and Berlin, and the second was an attempt to honour what the race was about but transplanted to now. This route, however, is what the Peace Race would, or should, be if it had never gone away in the first place. And just think of the teams we could have in this parallel universe - Poland with Banaszek, Bodnar, Kwiatkowski, Majka, Owsian, Paterski, Sajnok; Czechoslovakia with Barta, Hirt, Hnik, Kreuziger, Štybar, Toupalík, Turek (or Sagan of course); Yugoslavia with Roglič, Đurašek, Kišerlovski, Mezgec, Mohorič, Pogačar, Polanc and Špilak; the DDR with Burghardt, Degenkolb, Geschke, Greipel, Kanter, Kittel, Kluge, Martin, Selig, Wagner, Zabel; the USSR with Chernetskiy, Foliforov, Grivko, Kangert, Kiryienka, Kuznetsov, Lutsenko, Navardauskas, Neilands, Ovechkin, Padun, Sivakov, Skujins, Stalnov, Strakhov, Taaramäe, Zakarin and Zeits. Western teams restricted to Conti or below could nevertheless mix journeymen and latecomers to the sport with prospects - France could have Antomarchi, Barbier, Champoussin, Gaillard, Lebas, Le Cunff, Maldonado, Paillot, Raibaud; the Dutch could have David van Der Poel, Arensman, de Last, Inkelaar, Kooistra,Looij, Ottema and even Rob Ruijgh; Belgium with Stevens, Pardini, Jans, Janssens, van More and Teugels; Britain with Continental vets and young prospects like Bibby, Clancy, Cullaigh, Hayter, Pidcock, Stewart, Connor Swift and Dan Whitehouse; Italy with loads of riders like Battistella, Dainese, Ficara, Seid Lizde, Marengo, Ravanelli, Santoro, Paolo Toto and Marco Zanotti; Spain with people like Alarcón, Errazkin, García de Mateos, Salva Guardiola, Benjamí Prades, António Soto and Óscar Pelegrí; Australia with Dyball, Crome, Ewart, Giacoppo, Harper, Hill, Hucker, Tim Roe, Steele von Hoff; and what of the South Americans, whose domestic scene have plenty of strong riders? How about, given the exotic nature of some of the Peace Race start lists, Iran with the likes of Pourseyedi and Kohladouz? Could you imagine that? Open racing with the strongest beasts of Colombian and Venezuelan domestic cycling vs. Portugal and Spain with the jet-propelled Volta teams vs. Tabriz Petrochemical beast mode vs. No holds barred Eastern Europe - absolute hell on wheels. It might end up being carnival cycling, like racing on another planet, but don’t pretend that wouldn’t have you curious.

So let’s get that Activity Classification definition dusted off (points for each intermediate sprint and KOM plus bonus points if you finish in a group of less than 10 that finishes a minute ahead of the next group on the road, with an extra bonus point for every additional 30”, by the way. An excellent classification to reward combativity by giving points not only for the escape but more incentive to keep working once the break has gone as well as giving more benefit to successful escapades than to pointless ones), dig out the anecdotes about relay races and ski jumps, and fling ourselves headlong into the 2019 Course de la Paix parcours!

Stage 1: Praha - Praha, 133km

Starting uncharacteristically with a road stage, the first stage of the Course de la Paix for 2019 is a circuit race in the Czech capital of Prague. Previous routes have been Warsaw-Prague-Berlin and Warsaw-Berlin-Prague; this time around I’m going Prague-Warsaw-Berlin, to shake things up and try to ensure things don’t get to repetitious.

The circuit may be familiar to some of you - it certainly should be, at least for the older ones among you; this same 13,3km circuit was used in the 1981 World Championships Road Races, the second time the World Championships had been held in the Eastern Bloc, after 1960 in Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) nominally (the course was the old Sachsenring motorcycle racing venue a good few kilometres outside the city) - though that’s only partially true in and of itself, since in 1969 the Czechs had held the amateur and women’s road races while the Belgians held the professional road race and TTT events - both using motor racing circuits, the Belgians using the pan flat Zolder and the Czechs using the much longer and more complicated, undulating Masaryk-Ring. The 1981 World Championships featured 14 laps of the circuit for the amateurs and 21 for the professionals; the gradual rise up to the line on the undulating course meant that Freddy Maertens outsprinted Giuseppe Saronni (who would go on to win the rainbow jersey a year later in Goodwood on a course which had a similar but somewhat tougher rising final few kilometres) and Bernard Hinault (who had won on the much tougher course in Sallanches the year before) to take the title. You can see the finale here.

The amateur road race was won by the Soviet Andrei Vedernikov, who beat Belgium’s Rudy Rogiers - who would go on to finish second in Paris-Roubaix three years later as his crowning achievement - in a two-up sprint. He became the first Soviet to win the amateur road race, a source of some embarrassment to them even if there had been no race the year before because it was superseded by the Olympic road race which Sukhoruchenkov had won. Nevertheless, it was imperative to them to have a rider from a Communist nation triumph on effectively home soil in Czechoslovakia, and with East Germany and Poland having two former champions each (Schur and Eckstein, and Szurkowski and Kowalski respectively) it was about time for a Soviet champion, they thought - after all, they were in the midst of dominating the Eastern and Open race calendar with some ludicrous strength in depth at the time - they’d just won their fifth straight Friedensfahrt with their fifth different rider (Aavo Pikkuus in 1977, then Aleksandr Averin, Sergey Sukhoruchenkov, Yuri Barinov and Shahid Zagretdinov in order).

The riders here, however, will only take on 10 laps of the course, for a truncated total of 133km. This is as the Course de la Paix always had a few shorter stages to account for its amateur countenance, but also as this kind of day 1 circuit often sees shortish stages, like the Giro in Napoli a few years ago. That and the parcours is rolling enough to see some selection but not sufficient to really create big gaps, so I anticipate a reduced sprint or a small breakaway that gets allowed too much rope by accident to be caught on the low-gradient climb up to the finish (one of the times at the line will offer GPM points, simply to be able to give the jersey out) and holds on by a few seconds. Replicating a World Championships kind of distance on day 1 was of course never going to happen, and I do tend to favour using round numbers on this kind of course so 10 laps was a satisfying number to use.

Not least because the course uses a couple of one-way streets against the normal direction of traffic and corners that require some precise routing to make the mapping engine take the riders the way I wanted to, and it was proving frustrating to map several laps of the course that way, so that also justifies the short stage to me… the stage starts and finishes outside Velký strahovský stadion, the colossal sports facility nine times the size of a football pitch with a capacity of over 250.000 - built apparently for synchronised gymnastic displays, its enormous size means in terms of capacity, the only sports venue ever built that is larger is Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Too large for any ‘normal’ sports, however, the venue fell into disuse post-1990 other than occasional rock concerts, however the intervention of UNESCO and interest from Sparta Praha football club saved it from demolition, with the football team converting the behemoth stadium into a range of different training pitches and secondary and tertiary team venues (the main team stick to the much more compact and ordinary stadium-sized Letná Stadion).

The absurdly-sized Velký strahovský stadion - you can see the final few corners of the circuit bottom right, the stage finish is on the straight at the far side of the stadium. Neighbouring national athletics stadia for scale

With, in this universe, the Peace Race never having gone away, it would not be a problem to shut down a section of the capital for the race, notwithstanding that, you know, unlike my previous incursions into Prague we aren’t affecting the main tourist areas like Václavské Náměstí, Karlův Most, Malá Straná or Staroměstské Náměstí. There should be some pretty good crowds out, in fact, seeing as they’ll get to see the riders no fewer than ten times en route…

Don’t worry, not all of the stages are going to feature this much hypothetical drivel - but I had to set the scene. My imagination rather ran away with me about how the sporting world would have played out…
@LS going bonkers... Why does it feel like you're specifically creating an alternate lore just to include east Germany? I guess that's just me. I myslef would drop Germany as historically it has nothing to do with Slavic countries (at least up to XII c. if you include west Slavs from Mecklenburg) and include Hungary, which while ethnically diferent it has basically the same history as it's neighbors and it would have way more sence in the modern day. I'm worried this race will once again end up as an East Germany pornfest.