The timing was perfect. The Paris 2024 OCOG chose the fourth day of the Tour de France, Tuesday July 4, to officially unveil the road cycling routes for the next Olympic Games, at the finish on the Nogaro circuit. Unsurprisingly, they include a number of new features.
The first of these is the inversion of events. Breaking with tradition, the program begins with the time trial. This is scheduled for Saturday July 27, the day after the opening ceremony on the Seine. The road race, traditionally held at the very start of the Games, has been moved to the following weekend, straddling Week 1 and Week 2.
Another new feature was the number of competitors. Parity obliges, the number of runners will be identical for men and women. There will be 90 riders, not one more, in each of the two road race pelotons. The men’s contingent is considerably smaller than in previous editions. For the time trial, there will be even fewer entrants: 35 men and the same number of women.
Now for the courses. As the OCOG explained to the media before the official unveiling on the sidelines of the Tour de France, they have been designed and built to meet UCI requirements, to showcase the Paris and Ile-de-France regions and, last but not least, to enable the public to flock to support the riders.
The result? Promising, at least on paper. The first event on the program, the race against the clock, will start at Les Invalides, with the finish on the Alexandre III bridge. Classy.
In between, a 32.4 km loop, to be run only once. A first: the time-trial course will be identical for men and women.
It will lean towards the east and south-east of Paris and the Paris region. After the start at Les Invalides, the route will take athletes to Saint-Germain des Près. On leaving the capital, they will head for Vincennes, in the Val-de-Marne region, a department previously absent from the Olympic system.
The route then takes in the INSEP, the factory of French sporting champions, before returning to Paris via the Bastille. A nod to history: the 32.4 km loop will run alongside the Cipale velodrome, now renamed Jacques Anquetil, used for track events at the 1924 Paris Games.
The OCOG makes no secret of the fact that the time-trial course presents no major difficulties. Flat as the back of your hand. Rolling, that is. “Averages are expected to be very high“, say the organizers.
Now for the road race. Unlike the time trial, it leans west. Above all, it is historically very long. No less than 273 km for the men (photo above), one of the longest courses at the Olympic Games. For the women, the OCOG is proposing a 158 km loop.
In both cases, the start will be on the Pont d’Iena, between the Trocadéro and the Eiffel Tower, for a sort of 5 km warm-up, before a more formal start on rue Gay-Lussac, in the Vème arrondissement.
The rest promises to be solid. On the menu: the Route des Gardes between Meudon and Versailles, a passage in front of the Château de Versailles, a long journey through the Vallée de Chevreuse, “the Mecca of Ile-de-France cycling“, where several climbs will have gradients in excess of 5%.
Back in Paris, the race will visit the Louvre Museum and the Pyramid, before tackling a final 18.4 km loop, which includes a climb up the cobbled hill of the Butte Montmartre. The peloton will swallow the loop twice, before a final lap that takes in the Sacré Coeur basilica, before plunging towards the finish line at the Pont d’Iéna, with a final 230-meter sprint to the Trocadéro.
The organizers have done their sums: the men’s version of the road race will pass through 68 communes. In addition to Paris, it will take runners through Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines and even Essone, another département previously absent from the Games map.