• Riders pose in front of the 2016 Tour de France route map at the Palais des Congrs de Paris (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The Tour de France looks set to be dominated by the climbers once more in 2016 but cycling's most prestigious stage race should get off to a calmer start than this year after organisers revealed a balanced course.

Cycling Central
21 Oct 2015 - 5:39 AM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2015 - 7:50 AM

After rattling through cobbled sections and battling perilous crosswinds in an extremely nervous opening block of racing this year, the overall contenders will be relieved that the first week will be much less treacherous.

"It looks that way but we can never be sure. The Tour de France is a stressful race," warned defending champion Chris Froome of Britain.

"It will, however, be a week for the strong," said competition director Thierry Gouvenou, who designs the course along with Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

The sprinters will have more chances to shine with about seven stage finishes designed for the speed merchants, between the first stage ending at Utah Beach, the site of one of the D-Day landing operations in 1944, to the traditional final dash up the Champs-Elysees.

It means that a sprinter is highly likely to wear the yellow jersey after the first stage.

"That makes me super excited obviously, hopefully this time it's going to work out," said Mark Cavendish, who missed out on that opportunity in 2014.

There will be plenty of mountains too, with 28 climbs, three more than this year, scattered over four chains - the Massif Central, Pyrenees, Alps and Jura. Four mountain stages will conclude with uphill finishes.

The Tour has heavily favoured the pure climbers since 2012, when all-rounder Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the race.

The Queen stage on Bastille Day will take the peloton from Montpellier to the iconic Mont Ventoux, one of France's toughest climbs, a 22.7km ascent at an average gradient of 7.2 per cent, where defending champion Chris Froome crushed his rivals in 2013.

"We try, when possible, to have a significant stage on the 14th of July (Bastille Day)," Prudhomme told reporters.

While this year's race had a post-World War Two low single individual time trial measuring just 14km, the 2016 edition will feature two arduous tests against the clock that are likely to suit the overall contenders and Olympics-bound cyclists.

The first, a 37km ride between Bourg-Saint-Andeol and La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc, will feature two climbs (7km at 5.5 per cent and 3.5km at six per cent) and the second, an undulating 17km course from Sallanches to Megeve.

"The first time trial will also be a good opportunity for the specialists to test themselves ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because the courses are similar," Prudhomme added.

While the mountain stages started after 10 days in 2015, the first big test for the overall contenders will come as early as the fifth stage in the form of a 216km trek in the Massif Central featuring three ascents.

2016 Tour de France stages

July 2 — Stage 1: Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach, 188km
July 3 — Stage 2: Saint-Lo to Cherbourg, 182km
July 4 — Stage 3: Granville to Angers, 222km
July 5 — Stage 4: Saumur to Limoges, 232km
July 6 — Stage 5: Limoges to Le Lioran, 216km
July 7 — Stage 6: Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban, 187km
July 8 — Stage 7: L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162km
July 9 — Stage 8: Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 183km
July 10 — Stage 9: Vielha Val d’Aran, Spain, to Andorre Arcalis, Andorra, 184km
July 11 — Rest day
July 12 — Stage 10: Escaldes-Engordany to Revel, 198km
July 13 — Stage 11: Carcassonne to Montpellier, 164km
July 14 — Stage 12: Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, 185km
July 15 — Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, time trial, 37km
July 16 — Stage 14: Montelimar to Villars-Les-Dombes, 208km
July 17 — Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, 159km
July 18 — Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne to Bern, Switzerland, 206km
July 19 — Rest day
July 20 — Stage 17: Bern, Switzerland, to Finhaut-Emosson, Switzerland, 184km
July 21 — Stage 18: Sallanches to Megeve, time trial, 17km
July 22 — Stage 19: Albertville to Saint-Gervais, 146km
July 23 — Stage 20: Megeve to Morzine, 146km
July 24 — Stage 21: Chantilly to Paris, 113km

Total: 3519 kilometers