Tour de France: Five key stages

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PARIS — With seven mountain stages and five summit finishes, including three above 2,000 meters, this year’s Tour de France is the highest in the history of the race.

The route for the 106th edition of the thee-week marquee event offers only a few moments of respite. The first mountain test will come after just five days of racing, and contenders won’t be able to hide their tactics for long.

Also, there is only 54 kilometers against the clock, split between one team time trial and an individual time trial, meaning a pure climber has a good chance to triumph in Paris on July 28.

Here is a look at five key stages that could define the race dynamics.

STAGE 6: Mulhouse to La Planche Des Belles Filles, 160.5 kilometers, July 11.

Introduced to the Tour in 2012, the Planche des Belles Filles ascent immediately became a classic.

Set up in the Vosges mountains, it is steep, tortuous and brutal, featuring a 20 percent gradient at the top. Chris Froome, who is missing the Tour this year because of an injury, mastered the Planche in 2012 and Vincenzo Nibali triumphed at the summit in 2014, the year he won the Tour.

The final ascent comes after several other climbs including the Markstein, the Ballon d’Alsace and the Col des Chevreres, meaning the pack should be reduced to a small bunch of general classification contenders in the last few kilometers.

STAGE 13: Pau, individual time trial, 27.2 kilometers, July 19

The only individual time trial of this year’s Tour is taking place on a rolling terrain and features an uphill stretch of road with a seven percent gradient. A good chance for overall contenders to gain valuable time on the pure climbers before the race ventures into the high mountains.

The winner of the stage will receive a special collector’s shirt marking the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey.

STAGE 15: Limoux to Foix Prat d’Albis, 185 kilometers, July 21

Coming right after Stage 14 to the famed Col du Tourmalet – the first of three finishes over 2,000 meters this year – the last Pyrenean trek running close to the ancient Cathar castles is a grueling and daunting ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing. The final ascent of the day leading to the finish at Prat d’Albis is an 11.8-kilometer climb at an average of 6.9 percent. The Tour’s “Queen Stage.”

STAGE 19: Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to Tignes, 126.5 kilometers, July 26

At 2,770 meters, the Iseran mountain in the Alps is a Tour de France giant, and one of the highest road passes in Europe where thin air makes things harder for the peloton.

Tour riders will tackle it for the eighth time in the history of the race, from its tougher south side, before a final 7.4-kilometer uphill effort to Tignes ski resort. The last kilometer is rather flat and seems ideal for a sprint between the best climbers.

STAGE 20: Albertville to Val Thorens, 130 kilometers, July 27

In their bid to maintain suspense right up until the end, Tour organizers have set up an ideal stage for a final showdown in the Alps.

On the eve of a final processional stage to Paris, yellow jersey contenders will be taking on each other on a royal battleground featuring three climbs and technical downhills. Capping the highest Tour in the race history, the final climb to the ski station of Val Thorens, at an altitude of 2,365 meters, is more than 33 kilometers, at an average gradient of 5.5 percent. Good luck with that!

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Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.