PARIS (Reuters) – Next year’s Tour de France will be a treacherous affair featuring two treks through the Alps as organisers avoid Paris ahead of the Summer Olympics, while the women’s race will have a grand finale at L’Alpe d’Huez in August.

For the first time since its creation in 1903, the men’s Tour will not finish in Paris with the winner being crowned in Nice after the race’s first Grand Depart in Italy, Florence playing host for the world’s greatest cycling race.

There will be four stages in Italy, with some great names being honoured as the second stage will start a few kilometres from the late Marco Pantani’s birth town and finish in Rimini, where he died in 2004.

The peloton will enter the Alps as early as the fourth stage and will return for the final block of racing, which will be decided with a mountain stage ending at the Col de la Couillole (15.7km at 7.1%) and a hilly individual time trial between Monaco and Nice.

It will be the first time since 1989 that the last stage of the race will be actually competed.

Since Greg Lemond won a time trial on the Champs-Elysees to pip France’s Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in the overall rankings, the final stage has always been a procession with only the final sprint being contested.

“The last three four days will be very tough because we will be in the mountains,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters.

A brutal finish at the Lioran could do some damage midway through the race in the Massif Central.

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard and runner-up Tadej Pogacar, if he takes part, will once again be the top favourites.

“We were committed to avoid Paris because of the Olympics,” Prudhomme told Reuters.

“There are only 28,000 police forces available and we knew we could not get more.”

With the Olympics being staged in Paris from July 26-Aug. 11, organisers decided, following talks with the government, to ease the pressure on police force by avoiding the capital, and the women’s Tour will even avoid France for the first three days, in the Netherlands and Belgium.

It will, however, deliver a mouthwatering finale at L’Alpe d’Huez.

“We went to the Tourmalet last year, we wanted to go to iconic places and L’Alpe d’Huez is part of cycling’s history,” women’s Tour director Marion Rousse told reporters.

“It’s the toughest stage in Tour de France Femmes history with 4,000m of altitude gain. The stage also features the Col du Glandon, which I think is the hardest in France. Women have proved they have the level for that.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Cycling – 2024 Tour de France Presentation – Paris, France – October 25, 2023 Tour de France men’s and women’s director Christian Prudhomme and Marion Rousse infront of a map of the route of the 2024 Tour de France Femmes cycling race during the presentation REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq