What is the perfect Grand Tour?

Since we spend the last 2-3 months just about each year on discussions related to this topic, I think it would be interesting with a more general thread on the topic. What do we excpect, and what would make us satisfied. I can start with some ideas on what it would take for me to rate a GT route a perfect 10. The elements below are primary based on a Giro route, and secondly the Tour. For the Vuelta I would have somewhat different expectations and reasons to rate it a 10. So to get started.

1. At least 5-6 stages in the high mountains:
And by high mountains, I mean mountains in plural. A stage with only lower/easier climbs before a MTF to for example Pratonevoso or Oropa would not be sufficient to be included in this category. The stages should also be of different type (MTF, descent finish, etc) and distributed throughout the GT (although this is more elaborated in point 4). In the Giro, I would for example rated the mountains 10 if we had 2 big MTFs like a double Passo Lanciano in the first week and Monte Bondone the last week, a descent finish from a big mountain like Monte Grappa and two of this stages with big climb/smaller climb combo like Finestre-Sestriere and Fedaia-Pordoi. Especially in the Giro there should be at least two of the last kind of stages for a perfect rating. This is the most important point, I would deduct more points here than any of the other if the mountain stages were too easy and/or too similar.

2. Maximum number of (pure) sprinter stages:

Flat or more or less flat stages which ends in a big mass sprint should be limited. No more than 5 would be preferable. You could have a couple of extra which could end a in a sprint with a reduced peloton, but these should also be limited. If you had 7 almost flat stages and 3-4 more that could end in a sprint with a reduced peloton, I would have a hard time rating the GT a perfect 10.

3. At least 2 medium mountain/hilly stages relevant for the GC:
High mountains are good, but medium mountains should neither be ignored. And by relevant for the GC I mean something more than a Muro de Guardigrele finish or a similar medium mountain finish as Super Besse. The Torino stage next year seems like a really good medium mountain stage. And a hilly stage similar to those Tirreno stages that has prompted a lot of actions in the last few years. There should also be more hilly/medium mountain stages, but as stated at least 2 potentially very relevant for the GC.

4. A "correct" sequence of different type of stages:
Neither of the stages mentioned above would be top notch if the sequence of the stages were really bad. And of course the route should not be not backloaded. At least one of the high mountain stages and one of the medium mountain/hilly stages should be in week 1. And two or three more of these in week two. One should also avoid packing the high mountain stages with 3 or more tough stages in a row, and where the very toughest stage is the last. And avoid having big mountain stages the day before an ITT.

5. Something "extra" or original:
For a perfect route, we also need something extra. It could be a sterrato stage like the stages to Montalcino. Or a monster 250 km medium mountain stage with a load of climbs and a strategically placed tough climb in a suitable distance from the stage finish. Or something brand new in the mountains. Doing Col de la Loze, descending past Courchevel and climbing fairly easy section to Pralognan de Vanoise would be much more original than just paving the last few km from Meribel to Col de la Loze. But this point is less significant. If all the other requirements listed were fulfilled, I woudn't withdraw much without this point.

6. A suitable amount of ITT
This is certainly more important for some in this forum. I would say a suitable amount, given all the other listed points here were fulfilled, is perhaps 70-80 km. But if rest of the route was perfect, I wouldn't withdraw much if the number of ITT were signicantly lower or higher. Maybe I would have rated 9,5 if it were 30 km of ITT or 120 km of ITT, but the rest was more or less flawless.
 
Just take the 2015 Giro route as a rough template, ditch the TTT for a 20km starting ITT, line up all the big GC guys and you don't need that many adaptations.
2010 Giro with the TTT turned into an ITT (maybe make it a few kms longer and turn the opening ITT in a really short Prologue, around 4kms) is probably as good.
The original 2013 Giro route was also outstanding, while the 2014 Tour route had one of the best opening weeks in recent history., but the high mountain stages were a bit by the numbers.
 
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I like a route
a) with some nice "tricks" or surprises, like a cool descent, cobbles, gravel, a very technical stage or one with several possibilites of highly likely echelons...
b) that has a distinctive feeling about it, so that I could give it a label
c) with stages that don't follow all the same pattern, but are just all different from each other, for instance not always one mountain, then valley, then mtf, or half of the stages ending with a descent or whatever... just a real mix
d) that offers many possible scenarios
e) that has a ttt. Unfair. But I love them.
f) that has like one very classic mountain in it, like Zoncolan or Alpe d'Huez, but mostly some more unknown territory, as far as that is possible. Doesn't mean I like to have everything tarmaced when it used to be gravel, but especially with the classics and medium mountains you could try a few new ways.
g) I'd rather have a real time trial or no time trial at all. Either make it at least 35km, even 90 if you like - or simply don't bother. The worst, for me, are these time trials of 18km, which bring differences of 8 seconds between the main contenders. I have spent too many days watching those because somehow the format promises that you will have differences at the end of the day, but then those totally don't matter. Prologues are okay.
h) with some short, but mostly longer stages, and some need to be seriously long
i) with nice scenery
j) without pure, boring transition stages - I have nothing against pure sprint stages, they absolutely belong in a GT, there can be many of them, but even they deserve some thinking and care. I don't like it when they are really just meant to transport you from a to b and have a bad finish.
k) I don't like mtfs very much with 130k flat before that...
l) I like it when many different parts of a country get visited and it's really a Tour through the whole country.
m) I don't like the visiting of neighboring countries very much
n) the last stage should be a bunch sprint, so that they all arrive together
o) the sprint finishes shouldn't be too dangerous, just because the town pays for it
p) I don't like the "island routes", rather make the start of each stage in the town where the last one finished
q) I don't care much about the typical "sprinter who can climb" stage, for me those are the worst. If it's a flat sprint stage I know it's enough to tune in 15, at best 25km before the finish, I can follow a ticker and then start to watch. If it's a clear mtf where it will come to a 200m uphill sprint - the same. But with a few very random hills in between... you think something interesting might happen. But it won't.

About the rest, when which mountains from which side I don't care much. I believe in hazard, fate, riders making the race, and I will watch with humility what is presented to me... :grin::kissingsmiling:
 
No rest days. Total length should always be over 4000 km. There should always be more ITT km than MTF km.
What counts as a MTF? Is Aprica after Mortirolo considered as that.

And it's also a hugh difference between MTFs. 10 km of Zoncolan would separate much, much more than 17 km of Montevergine.
Just take the 2015 Giro route as a rough template, ditch the TTT for a 20km starting ITT, line up all the big GC guys and you don't need that many adaptations.
The first half of Giro 2015 was not more than just above average designwise. Take the first 12 stages (or at least the Italian part, not very fond of the Hungarian stages) for the 2022 version and combine with the last 9 stages in 2015, and you're pretty close to an optimal GT.
 
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World championships this year.

Let a Peloton with Pogacar, Bernal, Alaphilippe, Powless, Carapaz, van der Poel and Evenepoel race, and then let Mas, van Aert, Valverde, Uran, Colbrelli, Dumoulin and Michael Matthews instead in the same peloton do the same race.
Yes, both route and peloton matter. Just like both genes and environment matter.

When discussing routes, it is blank slate level ignorance to talk about how riders make the race. As if the genes of a potato would make a human in the right environment.
 
What counts as a MTF? Is Aprica after Mortirolo considered as that.

And it's also a hugh difference between MTFs. 10 km of Zoncolan would separate much, much more than 17 km of Montevergine.
I think Mortirolo+Aprica make greater differences than 15 km of ITT.

It’s a minimum, so a route with 3 MTFs all like Zonc would probably need more than just 30 km of ITT.
 
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Few perfect GTs posted here

Bit sad so many image links are dead
Man do I miss those days. The amount of time I put into this competition was completely insane. I was in the last year of school and had two write my final paper that fall, which was a sh*tton of work and there I was spending hours and hours writing about a hypothetical cycling race in the Roman Empire. I 100% wouldn't make that kind of commitment again, but it's still just cool to look back and see what kind of crazy stuff people came up with.

That being said, the best GT routes posted on this forum are undoubtedly in the Race Design thread. A bit of a pity that thread has pretty much died out.
 
Everything.
Why no rest days? Just to emphasise that the pro riders are wimps in your opinion because they need a day off once a week?
Why much longer than anything remotely realistic?
And I don't like TT's.
Do you think the 1998 Giro route (the most recent GT without rest days) was worse off for not having any rest days? Do you think the route was spoiled by too much ITT? Do you think longer stages would ruin it?
 
I think the descriptions of how a gt should look like have already been top notch. I feel like this thread basically could have been closed right after its first post by @OlavEH .

One thing which I think cannot be emphasized enough is that when it comes to mountain stages it should be all about quality not quantity. I honestly think that 6 should be the absolute maximum for really hard mountain stages, and I'm perfectly fine with 5 or even 4. The important thing is that those stages are designed to generate attacks from far out and huge time gaps and then you can have a lot of easier medium mountain stages that can all be gc relevant but might only lead in gaps of a few dozen seconds.

The Giro in particular has often seen its big mountain stages ridden as if there was only one climb coming right at the end because there is no apparent need to approach the queen stage as such, if there is another stage almost just as hard coming the next day. Meanwhile the Vuelta, when it has been at its best, has had editions with gc action almost every day due to a great number of medium mountain stages (I include short mtf's in that category) but stages like Formigal or Fuente De with significant attacks from far out have been extremely rare and only happened because of one man anyway. Think back to 2017 when Contador and Nibali were really willing to throw everything they had at Froome but there was just no place where that ever had a chance to work against a team as strong as Sky was back then. That was completely down to a lack of proper high mountain stages.

About sprint stages, I feel like they have their right to exist but only to a certain extent. I honestly think there shouldn't be more than 2 clear cut, pan flat sprint stages per GT, preferably one of them being a parade stage 21. Aside from that organizers should mix things up with stages that deliberately go over roads that are often exposed to strong crosswind, things like cobbles or gravel roads, maybe one uphill sprint per gt and most importantly, small hills near the finish. There are few regions that are so flat that you can't find any small ramp near the finishing area and those small climbs make stages so much better. I'd go as far as saying that the finale of gt stages where you have battles between sprinter, rouleurs and puncheurs are among the best pieces of racing you are gonna find anywhere yet there are often gt's without a single stage designed with that in mind.
 
Think of sprint stages as rest days for the viewer. It's better with guaranteed boredom that you will skip, than getting disappointed by nothing happening in stages that you somehow convinced yourself to watch.

When I look back at what GTs I enjoyed the most, it pretty much all depends on the handful (or two) of stages that delivered the most, not how many that didn't deliver at all.
 
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Think of sprint stages as rest days for the viewer. It's better with guaranteed boredom that you will skip, than getting disappointed by nothing happening in stages that you somehow convinced yourself to watch.

When I look back at what GTs I enjoyed the most, it pretty much all depends on the handful (or two) of stages that delivered the most, not how many that didn't deliver at all.
A low number of boring stages does help the race overall though, even if they don't always have GC action. The 2018 Giro is the best example, once they got to Italy there were like three stages that weren't interesting. The 2020 Tour was also helped by the green jersey battle really bringing stages that were mediocre on paper to life. Conversely, the huge number of (one-sided) flat sprint stages dragged an already-poor Tour down further in 2017, and we've also seen GTs that took forever to get going because the early stages were very uninspiring (e.g. 2011 Tour, 2019/20 Giros) which does hurt the perception of those races to some extent. After all, the gap between the 2020 Giro and Tour overall is much smaller than what the gap between the best stages of both races would suggest.
 
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I think the descriptions of how a gt should look like have already been top notch. I feel like this thread basically could have been closed right after its first post by @OlavEH .

One thing which I think cannot be emphasized enough is that when it comes to mountain stages it should be all about quality not quantity. I honestly think that 6 should be the absolute maximum for really hard mountain stages, and I'm perfectly fine with 5 or even 4. The important thing is that those stages are designed to generate attacks from far out and huge time gaps and then you can have a lot of easier medium mountain stages that can all be gc relevant but might only lead in gaps of a few dozen seconds.

The Giro in particular has often seen its big mountain stages ridden as if there was only one climb coming right at the end because there is no apparent need to approach the queen stage as such, if there is another stage almost just as hard coming the next day. Meanwhile the Vuelta, when it has been at its best, has had editions with gc action almost every day due to a great number of medium mountain stages (I include short mtf's in that category) but stages like Formigal or Fuente De with significant attacks from far out have been extremely rare and only happened because of one man anyway. Think back to 2017 when Contador and Nibali were really willing to throw everything they had at Froome but there was just no place where that ever had a chance to work against a team as strong as Sky was back then. That was completely down to a lack of proper high mountain stages.

About sprint stages, I feel like they have their right to exist but only to a certain extent. I honestly think there shouldn't be more than 2 clear cut, pan flat sprint stages per GT, preferably one of them being a parade stage 21. Aside from that organizers should mix things up with stages that deliberately go over roads that are often exposed to strong crosswind, things like cobbles or gravel roads, maybe one uphill sprint per gt and most importantly, small hills near the finish. There are few regions that are so flat that you can't find any small ramp near the finishing area and those small climbs make stages so much better. I'd go as far as saying that the finale of gt stages where you have battles between sprinter, rouleurs and puncheurs are among the best pieces of racing you are gonna find anywhere yet there are often gt's without a single stage designed with that in mind.
Pretty much. I don't like making too many stages extremely hard without much pay off. If it's all gonna come down to the MTF then I don't need 2 extra HC climbs just so we can call it a queen stage. In a sense I actually think unipuerto stages can easily have a place in a well designed GT if you use them for the token HC finishes while hte hardest mountain stages come without the hardest MTF.


Similarly, I think a lot of medium mountain stages go to waste because they're highly opportunistic stages at moments when riders won't make crazy/desperate attacks yet, so the best way to do said medium mountain stages might still be with murito's close to the finish.
 
Do you think the 1998 Giro route (the most recent GT without rest days) was worse off for not having any rest days? Do you think the route was spoiled by too much ITT? Do you think longer stages would ruin it?
Anyone asking for people to race for 4000km over 21 days with no rest days, has no humanity.
Even if it produced the best GTs every single year against the the alternative being the 2012 tdf I wouldn't want it.
Apart from anything else some riders being 'blocky' the day after a rest day can play its part in adding excitement.

For me the only rule should be a minimum of 60km of TT and a maximum of about 100km. No TTT over 10km and no descent finish more than 5km from the bottom of the last mountain.
 
My ideal GT

An 8km PROLOGUE to start things
A 70km TTT
A 60 km flat ITT
A 45 km rolling ITT
an MTT (preferably up and down the climb, like the 2013 TDF MTT)
6 high mountain stages. 3 summit finishes, 2 descent, 1 with the final climb well away from the finish. One of these needs to be a true Queen stage on the order of Morzine 1983, Luz Ardiden 1988, Sestrieres/ADH 1992

2 true medium mountain stages
1 cobbled stage

7 flat stages. One finishing with a cat 4 climb, one with a cat 3 topping out <10 km from the finish, the other 5 can be sprinters, but at least 2 of the sprint stages need to allow for crosswinds
 
Anyone asking for people to race for 4000km over 21 days with no rest days, has no humanity.
Lol. I'm hardly asking them to race from sunrise to sunset. Riding 174 km on average for 23 days in a row is possible and humane for even amateurs. An inhumane route would not allow for a full night of sleep, 4000 km is far away from that.
 

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