Stage one: Düsseldorf (14km time trial)
Apart from a quick incursion into the city centre, most of this is alongside the river Rhine, dead flat and dead fast. It is an early chance for the favourites to figure out who is where, and being relatively long for a first-day time trial, stronger time triallists like Chris Froome could gain some useful seconds.
Stage two: Düsseldorf to Liège (203.5km)
After a slog south-west through Germany, this skirts the Ardennes rather than using any of those spectacular, steep hills, so it should end in a bunch sprint on the long Boulevard de la Sauvenière. A first chance for André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and company to rub shoulders with Mark Cavendish.
Stage three: Verviers to Longwy (212.5km)
The first major stress for the main men, with a nasty little third-category climb to the Vauban citadel at the finish. It is not as severe as last year's early hit-out in Cherbourg but someone will lose a damaging amount of time. Often it is down to crashes or punctures as the field fight for position as Richie Porte can testify.
Stage four: Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel (207.5km)
"French flat": the kind of rolling roads that do not look tough but where fatigue builds over the days, particularly when you have a run of stages over 200km. Expect to see the usual first-week flat stage plot unfold: early break, late capture, hectic bunch sprint finish with French sprinters like Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni in the mix.
Stage five: Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles (160.5km)
The first set-piece summit finish on the short, brutal climb to a small ski station in the middle of nowhere where Froome won in 2012. It is a simple equation: if Sky’s leader is on form he will make an early mark here. If he loses even a few seconds, the pressure will be on.
Stage six: Vesoul to Troyes (216km)
Unless there is a strong side wind, this will be another bunch sprint after another day of “French flat”, but with a difference; a pattern will be emerging in the overall battle and whichever team is best placed will play a role in controlling the stage.
Stage seven: Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges (213.5km)
A wine buff's paradise but if there is a breeze from the west it could turn nasty on the exposed roads through the vineyards, if echelons form as they did on the Montpellier stage last year. In that game, Kittel and the Quick-Step team are among the best, but Peter Sagan is the master.
Stage eight: Dole to Station des Rousses (187.5km)
A first dose of mountain work; the 12km first-category climb just before the finish is long enough to burn off any weaker elements and the 10km across a plateau gives them no chance to regain contact. The stage winner should be a climber who gets in the early break such as Cannondale's Pierre Rolland.
Stage nine: Nantua to Chambéry (181.5km)
There are only six hors-catégorie climbs in the Tour – so hard they are unclassifiable – and half of them are in this stage. That makes it critical for the polka-dot climber's jersey. Mountain men will make the break, and a selection of the riders who will win the Tour should emerge on the final climb, Mont du Chat: Froome, Porte, Adam Yates, Fabio Aru, Nairo Quintana and so on.
Stage 10: Périgueux to Bergerac (178km)
Relatively easy with a pancake flat finish, so a return to terrain that suits the sprinters who have made it through the early mountains. Each year has its dominant fastman and with Cavendish missing several months because of glandular fever, the smart money is on Kittel, who has age and experience on his side.
Stage 11: Eymet to Pau (203.5km)
Even flatter than the previous day, with only one fourth-category bump as the Pyrenees looms on the horizon. The big issue in these parts is often the summer sun. So it is another potential sprint finish – where the progress of last year’s discovery Dan McLay will be worth watching – probably after a debilitatingly hot day on the road.
Stage 12: Pau to Peyragudes (214.5km)
The last 80km looks dire, with the first-cat Col de Menté, the hors-catégorie Port de Balès and the Col de Peyresourde at the end. This is the second of only three summit finishes – so it is a vital chance to gain time for any climbers. The long run in to the Menté will favour an early break with a good climber, and France will be rooting for Thomas Voeckler in his last Tour.
Stage 13: Saint-Girons to Foix (101km)
Continuing the trend for short, sharp mountain stages, this has three first-cat climbs in just over 60 miles. That means all bets are off. It is short enough to encourage some serious attacks. The best candidates for this are Quintana’s Movistar, who are experts at shaking up this kind of mountain stage.
Stage 14: Blagnac to Rodez (181.5km)
Out of the frying pan of the mountains into the fiery heat of the plains for a punchy uphill finish which will not suit a conventional sprinter. The Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet won here last time round and, after the spring he has enjoyed, few would bet against him or his fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert.
Stage 15: Laissac-Sévérac l’Église to Le Puy-en-Velay (189.5km)
In normal years this would have Steve Cummings writ large on it, as it is the kind of stage where the Wirral rider has won from a breakaway in the past two Tours. Cummings is on the road back from injury but a similar specialist stage hunter should win. Van Avermaet will be top of the list.
Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère (165km)
A similar stage to this in 2015 went to Greipel but not without a certain amount of pain as the early move was reeled in. It will go to a sprinter but one who can survive the opening hills, going up to 1200m-plus. Greipel, Arnaud Démare and Sagan are the likely names, or maybe the Briton Ben Swift.
Stage 17: La Mure to Serre Chevalier (183km)
Classic Alpine stuff: the Col de la Croix de Fer to soften the contenders up and the Galibier from its hardest side to split them apart. A small selection will fight out for the stage win, and it will probably be the main men such as Froome and company. The fastest of them is Alejandro Valverde if he gets over the Galibier.
Stage 18: Briançon to Col d’Izoard (179.5km)
The innovation of this year’s Tour: a summit finish on one of the most legendary cols in the race, with the Col de Vars beforehand. It is the final chance for any climbers to put time into the time triallists, so if the margin is tight between Froome and the rest they will be desperate to drop him here.
Stage 19: Embrun to Salon-de-Provence (222.5km)
The longest stage of the Tour and the last chance for a breakaway to contest the finish, so a desperate first hour will be on the cards, and it can be watched in full now that every stage is on live TV from the off. The chances are several teams will be short of a stage win; why not a fastman who can make a break such as Sonny Colbrelli?
Stage 20: Marseille (22.5km time trial)
Finishing in the Stade Vélodrome with a quick flip round the Vieux Port, this is the last chance to change the standings but it is relatively short. Expect a battle for the stage win with Tony Martin the likely favourite, and if yellow is close it could be a thriller to match the Giro d'Italia finale.
Stage 21: Montgeron to Paris Champs-Élysées (103km)
The new trend for short evening stages on the last day is to be welcomed, and all those driving from Marseille will say amen to that. The pace will be fast and furious once they reach the Champs and it will end in a sprint on a strongman’s finish that seems to favour Greipel.