1957 was the last year the Tour actually circumnavigated France, at least entirely by bicycle. Part of Nantes to arrive in Paris 4,665 kilometers further, and won by Jacques Anquetil, the 44th edition of the Grande Boucle did not include any transfer. In other words, at each stage, the city of arrival was also the city of departure, and the runners were not brought by bus – or by plane – from one point to another.
The Tour of the 21st century, on the other hand, use and abuse transfers: on average 1,382 kilometers as the crow flies (and 1,839 kilometers by road), when, from the first Tour in 1903, to 1939, the 33 first editions only saw two transfers (for a total of… 400 kilometers by road in 1904 and 1906) – for stages that often exceeded 300 km nevertheless. In this regard, the year 2018 had so far broken all records: a route of 3,330 kilometers by bike for… 2,740 kilometers of transfer by bus or plane.
Like a 2021 route which gave pride of place to the mountainous massifs and which sought to cover as many of them as possible, the route of the Tour de France 2022 is on the drop and is in second position among those with the most transfers in bus or plane. The 109th edition of the Tour has “only” 1,979 km of transfers as the crow flies, or about 2,680 km by road, partly due to the transfer of 657 km as the crow flies between Sønderborg (Denmark) and Dunkirk (North). The big loop 2022 is therefore in the upper middle of the transfers of the 21st century, of those which wear out the riders and the caravan.
A change in appearance from the 1970s
From 1947 until the end of the 1960s, transfers remained modest: around 140 kilometers of road on average per edition. And then from the 1970s, as Liberation recalled in 2015, the fashion was for “half-steps” – two in the same day – which forced runners to get up at dawn: in 1978, they went on strike on the route de Valence-d’Agen (Tarn-et-Garonne), and will no longer have sausage stages.
And if the Tour in the 21st century has broken all records, between 1980 and 2000, transfers take place at 1,200 kilometers by road or plane on average, to reach 1,750 kilometers in 1987. Already, it is no longer so much question that the city of arrival is also the city of departure; for runners, that means more buses, passing through the hands of the masseur later, dinner later, and, ultimately, less recovery.
To avoid the disappointment of 1978 within a peloton that knows how to organize itself – as within the National Union of Professional Cyclists (UNCP) – the organizers of the Tour take care of the transition between the Pyrenees and the Alps by planning calmer stages or even a Monday off. Thus, for the 109th edition, that of 2022, the organization has placed not two, as is usually the case, but three days of rest. The first of them, Monday July 4, after the three Danish stages and before the trying northern stages (there are cobblestones on the programme), the second just after the Alpine stages, and the third before new mountain stages but in the Pyrenees, this time.