Mountains galore again for 2020 Tour de France

Paris - The 2020 Tour de France will be as mountainous and open to attacks as this year's vintage edition, the race designer hinted to AFP a day ahead of the official Grande Boucle route unveiling.

If what Thierry Gouvenou suggested to AFP on Monday is accurate, the course would suit defending champion Egan Bernal, who grew up in the Andes, and his Ineos team-mate, four-time champion Chris Froome.

The route will be unveiled at a ceremony in Paris on Tuesday.

The race opens in Nice a week earlier than usual on June 27 and finishes on the Champs Elysees on July 19, just a week ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games with its Mount Fuji road race.

Embarking from the Promenade des Anglais, scene of terror attacks in 2016, the opening stage offers a run along the Mediterranean coast, but mountains are also on the early menu as the Tour climbs into the low Alps as of stage two.

"From there we hardly leave the medium of high mountains at all, that's the general spirit of this Tour," said Gouvenou, the man charged with the task of penning a new and exciting event each year.

"If you're looking for the spirit of the thing in terms of general difficulty, it'll be almost identical (to 2019)," he said.

The 2018 Tour, won by Welshman Geraint Thomas, was much less mountainous than the high-altitude spectacular of 2019, which culminated with a trilogy of Alpine summit finishes, where Thomas ended second to Bernal, who grew to his task on the climbs.

"But that's just a clue," Gouvenou said.

"But you can say that 2019 and 2020 are a kind of pair before a clean break in 2021," he said of the race that will open in Danish capital Copenhagen with four flat runs.

Asked if relentless mountains would put off sprinters such as Australia's Caleb Ewan, winner of three bunch sprints in 2019, Gouvenou insisted otherwise.

"Not really, even if there are very few flat stages, there are others where sprinters can stay in the mix and go for the win. But it will never be easy."

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe set this year's Tour alight, his solo assault on stage three setting the tone for others to try their luck and force the conservative big guns to also go for broke.

"We have learned our lessons from the 2019 Tour," said Gouvenou.

It was a hint that the punchy riders like Alaphilippe will once again be offered the chance to wreak havoc on the established order.

Stages in the medium mountains of the Jura, Massif Central and the Vosges would provide the stage for a more aggressive style of racing, including downhill dashes.

Tour de France general director Christian Prudhomme and his designer Gouvenou have sworn to break the defensive tactics of the big teams and there are rumours of a spectacular finale in 2020.