Tour de France 2016: Chris Froome delight at 'great course'
Britain's defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome has welcomed a "great" 2016 route which should help his bid for a third victory.
The course for the 2,187-mile race, which runs from 2-24 July, was announced in Paris on Tuesday.
The 21 stages feature 28 categorised climbs, visits to Andorra, Spain and Switzerland, and two time trials.
"It challenges every aspect of cycling - time trials, mountains, a technical descent," said Team Sky's Froome.
"It's such an amazing, special race. I'm still 30 years old and feel I have a lot left in my legs.
"It suits me better than this year's Tour," he added, in reference to a course featuring two time trials that total 33.5 miles, compared to one short individual time trial in the 2015 race.
The 103rd edition of the Tour will return to Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day - 14 July - three years after the famous victory that effectively sealed Froome's first Tour win.
"The beautiful thing about the Tour de France is that it's not specifically about one stage - I think it's going to take a complete cyclist - but the stage that certainly stands out for me is Mont Ventoux," said Froome, who won the Tour in 2013 and 2015.
"I know how difficult this climb is and how much time can be won or lost."
The race begins at Normandy's iconic Mont Saint-Michel and finishes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
After leaving Normandy, it heads south to the Pyrenees, via a tough fifth stage to Le Lioran in the Massif Central.
That is the most challenging day in a relatively sprinter-friendly first week, which opens with a dash to Utah Beach that should put a sprinter in yellow for the third time in the past four years.
But once the race reaches the Pyrenees on stage seven, the Tour reverts to recent type and largely becomes a climbing contest, punctuated by a couple of opportunities for the sprinters and the two time trials.
"It's so hard,'' said British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who is third on the all-time stage win list with 26. "For 21 days, it's going to be full gas."
Among the highlights are a brutal 183km eighth stage from Pau to Bagneres de Luchon, followed by a monumental day in Andorra, stage 17's finish on the Emosson Dam in Switzerland and a penultimate stage from Megeve to Morzine, via some of the Alps' most testing climbs.
"The favourite will be Chris Froome. He's the most complete rider. He's the stronger," said 25-year-old Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who finished third in 2014.
"But it will also be good for Nairo Quintana."
The Colombian climber, also 25, won the Giro d'Italia in 2014 and finished second to Froome at the 2013 and 2015 Tours.
2016 Tour de France
Stage 1: 2 July, Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, 188km
Stage 2: 3 July, Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-Octeville, 182km
Stage 3: 4 July, Granville to Angers, 222km
Stage 4: 5 July, Saumur to Limoges, 232km
Stage 5: 6 July, Limoges to Le Lioran, 216km
Stage 6: 7 July, Arpajon-sur-Cere to Montauban, 187km
Stage 7: 8 July, L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle, 162km
Stage 8: 9 July, Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 183km
Stage 9: 10 July, Vielha Val d'Aran (Spain) to Andorre Arcalis (Andorra), 184km
First rest day: 11 July
Stage 10: 12 July, Escaldes-Engordany (Andorra) to Revel, 198km
Stage 11: 13 July, Carcassonne to Montpellier, 164km
Stage 12: 14 July, Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, 185km
Stage 13: 15 July, Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc, 37km (individiual time-trial)
Stage 14: 16 July, Montelimar to Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208km
Stage 15: 17 July, Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz, 159km
Stage 16: 18 July, Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne (Switzerland), 206km
Second rest day: 19 July
Stage 17: 20 July, Berne (Switzerland) to Finhaut-Emosson (Switzerland), 184km
Stage 18: 21 July, Sallanches to Megeve, 17km (individual time-trial)
Stage 19: 22 July, Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146km
Stage 20: 23 July, Megeve to Morzine, 146km
Stage 21: 24 July, Chantilly to Paris, Champs-Elysees, 113km