Paris, France – Tour de France organisers on Tuesday unveiled a 2017 course light on mountain climbs that should boost reigning champion Chris Froome's bid for a fourth title.
The visually spectacular 104th race over 3,516 kilometers (2,183 miles) starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with the traditional time trial. There are only five real mountain stages, fewer than 2016.
"This Tour de France route has been designed to be won by a true champion," Tour director Christian Prudhomme insisted, without naming Froome, winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016 or any favourite.
If the playing field has been levelled by cutting down on mountains the alternative challenges opens the door to he who dares, Prudhomme promised.
The opening 13km time trial offers world champion time-triallist Tony Martin the chance to clinch the yellow jersey on stage one as the Tour embarks from his native Germany for the first time in 30 years.
As the tour starts in the north, Prudhomme, president of tour organisers ASO explained the route has to be 'J' shaped, and this year misses the north and west of France entirely as it enters France via Belgium.
With nine varied flat stages, five hilly ones designed to open up the challenge, the five real mountain stages are designed to have a visual backdrop which will amplify the exploits of the athletes who excel there.
And if the crucial penultimate day's time trial starting at the Marseille Velodrome football stadium is only 23km long, it will be run in searing heat and feature a 1km stretch at 18 per cent gradient.
Contrary to nearly all the preceding Tours there will never be more than two consecutive days of climbing either.
The Tour's toughest stage on paper is the 214km Pyrenean run from Pau to Peyragudes which feature the mountain where the James Bond movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies' was partly filmed, and has a summit finish as the fifth climb of the day.
In total contrast, the following day's stage 13 is a short but spectacular 100km mountain run from Saint Girons culminating in a 27km hair-raising descent to Foix, featuring extreme climbs and descents along the way.
This is followed with a day for punchers and will evoke powerful memories for both the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaert and world road champion Peter Sagan. The 181km 14th stage culminates in Rodez where the Belgian out-paced Sagan for a stage win in 2015.
But even in the first week there will be stages for rollers, sprinters, testing cross-wind infested plains, and on day five the Planches Des Belles Filles where Bradley Wiggins took the yellow jersey in 2012 on a day Chris Froome won the stage.
There was further good news for Froome when it was announced that around 10km of mountain terrain, at crucial tactical climb points, would be stripped of roadside fans. The 2016 champion will never forget his accident caused by packed crowds on Mont Ventoux in 2016 that saw him run part way to the summit having abandoned a broken bike.
Prudhomme says a daring and decisive rider will be encouraged to soar away rather than be suffocated by over-enthusiastic fans.
The two Alpine stages on day 17 and 18 finish at the summit of the Izoard, described in the presentation guide as the perfect frame for the potential champion.
The most watched of all the stages by television audiences is the final day jaunt to Paris and the 10 laps of the Champs Elysees generally won by a top sprinters such as Mark Cavendish or Andre Grepel or Marcel Kittel.