Tadej Pogacar 'already looking forward' to 2022 Tour de France after route is unveiled

UAE Team Emirates' two-time defending champion once again the early favourite for the race as organisers announce return of women's Tour

UAE Team Emirates' reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar said he is "already looking forward" to next year's race after the route for the 2022 tour was unveiled on Thursday.

Tour de France organisers have designed a highly treacherous route for the 2022 edition which will feature rides in gusting winds, cobblestones and punishing mountain stages.

The race will start with a 13km individual time trial in Copenhagen before the second stage takes the peloton over the 18km Great Belt bridge.

"It's windy 364 days a year, here," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told reporters on Thursday. "This Tour can be lost as early as the second day."

Those who get past the three-day opening block in Denmark and fourth stage through the Flanders hills must cope with the fifth stage through cobbled sectors between Lille and Arenberg.

That is when light climbers are expected to suffer on a day that could be marred by crashes and mechanical issues due to the tricky terrain which usually favours one-day race specialists.

"To go through these stages and hope to win the Tour you will need to be a versatile rider and have a strong team at your disposal," said Tour deputy director Thierry Gouvenou.

The first test for climbers will come on the seventh stage with the first of five summit finishes at the top of the Planche des Belles Filles, where Pogacar effectively claimed his first title in 2020 by upsetting fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic in the final time trial.

Pogacar, who hammered his rivals in the mountains in the last edition, has also proved he is a strong one-day classic rider, having won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia Monument classics this year and, given the nature of the route, it is hard to see beyond him for a Tour favourite.

"I had been waiting for this moment since this year's Tour finished," Pogacar told reporters at the presentation ceremony on Thursday.

"I'm already looking forward to the race. It has everything, it's going to be fun. I don't know which one is the key stage. There are a lot of stages where you can lose the Tour and stages where you can win it."

The race will reach its highest point at the top of the lung-busting ascent to the Col du Galibier, 2,607 metres above sea level, on the way to a summit finish at the Col du Granon (2,413 metres) after a punishing 11.3km effort at an average gradient of 9.3%.

The 12th stage starts from Briancon and ends atop the iconic Alpe d'Huez (13.8km at 8.1%), taking the same route as the 1986 Tour when five-time winner Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond crossed the line hand-in-hand for a famous one-two.

Women's Tour de France returns in 2022

The route presentation also confirmed the return of the Women's Tour de France for 2022.

The women's Tour had not been held since 1989 and will this year start from Paris and end eight days later at the top of the Super Planche des Belles Filles climb at the end of an eight-stage ride through eastern France.

Christian Prudhomme, cycling director at Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) said the biggest challenge was to make the race a financially sustainable event.

"If it had been (sustainable), the women's Tour would have been held for 40 years," he said, adding the event would be broadcast in 170 countries. "The biggest challenge is to broadcast the race. I think we've done a good job, with the race starting the same day as the men's race ends in Paris."

While more than 300 towns apply and pay to host a stage of the men's Tour every year, Prudhomme had to approach candidates himself for the women's race.

"But they are all paying an entry fee and to give you an element of comparison, it's more than for (the week-long men's stage races) Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphine," he added.

"The goal is to organise a race that will stay, that will still exist in 100 years, that I can watch when I'm old and using a walker," Prudhomme, 60, said.

Pogacar said he will closely follow the event, which will run from July 24-31, two weeks after the end of the longest women's race on the calendar, the Giro Donne (July 1-10).

"Probably when I finish my Tour, I'm going in a camper to see the women's Tour," he told reporters on Thursday. "It's a historic moment for cycling, it's going to be a great event."

UAE Team Emirates will hope to field their own women's team at the Tour de France after it was revealed earlier this week that the Emirati-backed operation is in talks to acquire Alè BTC Ljubljana, with the aim to relaunch at the start of next year.

Updated: October 14th 2021, 1:09 PM