In just a few weeks the greatest bike race in the world, the Tour de France, will once again be a part of our lives. What does this year’s edition have in store for us? How many kilometres will the peloton cover this year? Where and when does the Tour de France start? Here’s a little aperitif…

How many riders in the Tour de France?

Every year, 22 teams get the opportunity to show what they’ve got during the biggest race in the year. The first 18 spots are automatically filled by the teams that have been granted a UCI World Tour licence. This includes all the major teams, such as Team LottoNL Jumbo, Team Sunweb, Team Sky, and Team Quickstep Floors—basically all the teams you see in the racing headlines. The final four spots are reserved for so-called wild cards. These are awarded for one edition of the race. This year, the following teams have been awarded a wild card: Wanty-Group Gobert, Cofidis, Direct Energie, and Fortuneo-Samsic.

This year’s peloton consists of 22 teams. Photo: Cor Vos

A new rule—reducing the number of riders in each team by one—was introduced this year. While in the past each team could field nine riders, now each team comprises eight men on the road. The organisers hope that this new set-up will create a safer and more open race.

One fewer domestique at a crucial moment during the race could make the difference between first and second place on the podium in Paris. So how many riders are in the Tour de France peloton? The full cohort this year is 176.

How many stages in the Tour de France?

The Tour de France consists of 21 stages and, including the two rest days, the riders are on the road for 23 days from start to finish. This year the Tour starts on the west coast of France, in Noirmoutier-en-Île, and the whole race takes place entirely within the French borders.

It does travel to virtually every corner of the country though. After the start in the Nantes region, the circus moves northward towards Roubaix, near the Franco-Belgian border. The riders then fly down to the French Alps (in the east) and ride to the Pyrenees (near the Spanish border).

As always, the race ends with a sprint stage on the famous Champs-Élysées. Will Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen repeat his victory of last year?

The peloton racing over the cobbles on the Champs-Élysées during the 2017 Tour. Photo: Cor Vos

How long is the Tour de France?

If you add up all 21 stages of this year’s Tour, the total comes to 3,329 kilometres. This makes it one of the shortest in recent history. The number of time trial kilometres totals 66, with 35 for the team time trial and 31 for the individual time trial. There is no ultra-short Prologue time trial to start things off this year; the race begins with a 201-kilometre flat stage.

Although the first few stages are relatively flat, it gets really serious after the first rest day, when the Tour circus flies down to the Alps. And this year, the route includes the legendary Alpe d’Huez climb. The riders then continue to the Pyrenees where the battles continue until the day before Paris. This year’s race could keep up the tension until the last moment.

Whether or not Tom Dumoulin, Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, and Vincenzo Nibali will be the ones to bring home the bacon, we will find out in a couple of week’s time. We can at least expect a clash of the titans, and perhaps a dark horse will overtake the established contenders.