2016 Tour de France to take in D-Day beach

Race director Christian Prudhomme at Mont-Saint-Michel. Picture: Reuters
Race director Christian Prudhomme at Mont-Saint-Michel. Picture: Reuters
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The 2016 Tour de France will start at the Mont-Saint-Michel, one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions and visit a Normandy beach where Allied forces landed on D-Day during the Second World War.

The race will start at the foot of the gothic-style abbey on July with a 188km stage to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, one of the landing beaches in June 1944.

The second stage will take the peloton from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-Octeville, a 182km ride.

With next year’s race set to start in the Dutch city of Utrecht, cycling’s biggest event will be returning home for its “Grand Depart” in 2016 after starting in England in 2014.

“The Manche is a very beautiful department with breathtaking scenery. It offers varied terrain that will favour the sprinters at Utah Beach and allow the punchers their chance to stand out in the hills above Cherbourg-Octeville,” race director Christian Prudhomme said.

“Let us not forget the Mont-Saint-Michel that will majestically enhance the very first pedal strokes of the riders of the peloton, three years after it was the backdrop for the 100th Tour de France.”

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The Manche, in north-western France, has welcomed the Tour 23 times from 1911 to 2013, when an individual time trial was held between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel, which is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and attracts 3.5 million visitors each year.

There will be no prologue in 2016. Riders will be thrust into the fray on roads exposed to wind, where breakaway riders could use the conditions to their advantage, although the first stage, with its flat profile, seems to be tailor-made for sprinters. Team leaders will have to be on their guard in Stage Two, which features a 3km ascent with a 14 per cent grade section to the summit of the Cote de la Glacerie in the finale. The third stage will start from the seaside resort of Granville.

The remainder of the route is to be announced in October 2015 at the official race presentation. The 2015 Tour starts 4 July in Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a 14km time trial.

Meanwhile, cricketer Matt Prior – criticised for his passion for cycling by his former England team-mate Kevin Pietersen – has Tour de France ambitions for the new professional team he has co-founded. The wicketkeeper-batsman is chief executive of ONE Pro Cycling, who were launched yesterday with the aim of competing at UCI Continental level, two tiers below Team Sky.

The aim is to compete alongside the British super team which won cycling’s most prestigious race in 2012 through Sir Bradley Wiggins and 2013 with Chris Froome. The 12-rider ONE squad is led by Yanto Barker, who is well known on the UK circuit, and features a number or riders who came through the British Cycling set-up, including Jonny Bellis, Jon Mould and George Atkins. “We’re hugely ambitious as a team, to grow, develop and go through the ranks,” said Prior.

“The guys involved want to be racing in the big races: the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, World Tour events.”

Prior, who has made 79 Test appearances for England, was ridiculed by Pietersen for taking a bike on tour to New Zealand.

Pietersen wrote in KP: The Autobiography: “You don’t need to take your bike with you. They have bikes in New Zealand.

“Who the hell takes a bike? If Cheese [Prior] wasn’t a top genius cricketer Cheese would have been a world-class cyclist. Obviously.”

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