2016 Tour de France to visit Utah Beach
The 2016 Tour de France will start at the Mont-Saint-Michel, one of the country's most famous tourist attractions, and visit a Normandy beach where Allied forces landed on D-Day during World War II.
The race will start at the foot of the gothic-style abbey on July 2 with a 188-kilometer (116.8-mile) stage to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, one of the landing beaches in 1944.
The second stage will take the peloton from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-Octeville, a 182-kilometer (113-mile) ride.
With next year's race set to start in the Dutch city of Utrecht, cycling's biggest event will be returning home for its ''Grand Depart'' in 2016 after starting in England in 2014.
''The Manche is a very beautiful department with breathtaking scenery. It offers varied terrain that will favor the sprinters at Utah Beach and allow the punchers their chance to standout in the hills above Cherbourg-Octeville,'' race director Christian Prudhomme said.
''Let us not forget the Mont-Saint-Michel that will majestically enhance the very first pedal strokes of the riders of the peloton, three years after it was the backdrop for the 100th Tour de France.''
The Manche, in northwestern France, has welcomed the Tour 23 times from 1911 to 2013, when an individual time trial was held between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel, which is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites and attracts 3.5 millions of visitors each year.
There will be no prologue in 2016. Riders will be thrust into the fray on roads exposed to wind, where breakaway riders could use the conditions to their advantage, although the first stage, with its flat profile, seems to be tailor-made for sprinters.
Team leaders will have to be on their guard in Stage Two, which features a three-kilometer ascent with a 14 percent grade section to the summit of the Cote de la Glacerie in the finale. The third stage will start from the seaside resort of Granville.
The remainder of the route is to be announced in October 2015 at the official race presentation.
The 2015 Tour starts July 4 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a 14-kilometer (8 1/2-mile) time trial.