Running from Monday May 15th to Saturday May 20th 2017, the Tour of Crete will be concluded in 6 individual stages in consecutive days, covering a total distance of approximately 650 kilometres (400 miles) and total vertical gain of 14,000 metres (46,000 feet).
Starting and finishing point of the sportive is the city of Heraklion, the largest urban center in the grand island of Crete. Riders will visit numerous of Crete’s lively cities, charming towns and picturesque villages, ride along the coastline and climb and descent through the stunning Cretan mountains.
STAGE 1 Monday May 15th: Heraklion – Frangokastello
total vertical gain: 2873m
Stage 1 of The Tour of Crete begins with the riders rolling west of Heraklion, alongside the cosmopolitan Mediterranean coastline of Amoudara area. Just a couple of kilometers after the start, the Tour of Crete 2017 gets straight to the point with its first Stage bringing the peloton into a grade 2 climb up to Doxa, enduring for about 12 kilometers and reaching up to 480 meters of altitude. Then on it’s mainly descending for about 48 kilometers through 16 seemingly untouched-by-time traditional villages leading up to Platanes and the 5km of flat seaside ride into Rethymnon town, where Feedzone 1 is located.
Leaving Rethymnon and going southwestward becomes apparent the dramatic shift into the lush-green scenery of western Crete. Around the 100 kilometer mark and past the village Argiroupolis, riders meet the main challenge of the day: a grade 1 climb lasting for 13,7 kilometers, with average gradient of 4.5% and reaching up to 800 meters. It starts off easy for about 6 kilometers into Asi Gonia village where all riders can refuel at Feedzone 2 before they head out into the latter, harsher part of the climb and its 40 hairpins that stand before them and the top through ecstatic scenery with steep rocky ridge-lines; a stunning view for as far as the eye can see. The Cretan mountains will gladly reward anyone for reaching the peak with a stunning, 45 hairpin descent overlooking the Lybian Sea and which leads down to Frangokastello village and the finish line.
* Frangokastello houses only small scale guest rooms, so participants will have to spend the night in separate establishments according to their specified preference.
STAGE 2 Tuesday May 16th: Frangokastello – Platanias
total vertical gain: 2559m
Stage 2 of the Tour hits the Lefka Ori mountain range from the get go with a challenging but steady grade 1 climb averaging a 4,6% gradient and lasting for 24 kilometers until the elevation reads 810 meters. The climb is challenging enough to be a reward by itself but the scenery surrounding it is jaw-dropping. About 30 hairpins curl together on a cliff-side overlooking a monumental view of the southernmost edge of Chania region meeting the Lybian Sea which touches the horizon. Beyond the peak follows an ideal quick descent into Askyfou plateau and a 5 kilometer flat stretch to spin the legs and recover before the last 2 km climb to exit the plateau and the waving off of the legendary Sfakia region. An enduring 16 km descent will take the peloton through the lush-green Emprosneros village and down to sea level where Feedzone 1 will be waiting for them at Fres’ village square, 46 km in the stage.
Continuing through the undulating terrain of the northern foothills of Lefka Ori, riders will meet three category 3 climbs of about 6 km, 6 km and 9 km respectively, as they pass through numerous traditional villages, olive oil ranges and cypress forests, leading up to Gerolakos vilage and Feedzone 2 at the 72 kilometer mark. Moving on, only a single grade 4 climb stands in the way and then remain the final 24 kilometers of descent and then flatlands towards the finish at the hotel in Platanias, a scenic seaside suburb of Chania town
STAGE 3 Tuesday May 17th: Topolianos Gyros
total vertical gain: 2525m
Stage 3 of the Tour pans out to be possibly the most charming in all of the Tour of Crete visiting more than 40 scenic villages. Specifically it entails what we aptly call “Topolianos Gyros” (≈ around Topolia). A route of 124 kilometers in the westernmost of Crete that conveniently begins and ends at the same hotel. This stage is named after the gorgeous and history-ridden gateway village Topolia and its stunning gorge right by the very side of the road which apart from the natural beauty it has to offer, also boasts a pass trough a rocky tunnel that will leave you impressed.
The initial 11 km up to Kolymvari serve as a good warmup as the peloton rides across the northern seaside roadway of Crete. From there it meets the first climb of the day that may start off easy but gets steeper as it reaches the total distance of 17 km at an altitude of 300 m in Trialonia village. After a sharp 5km descent down to the shores of Tyflos river, begins a grade 2, 16 km climb with steep gradients. This may be the hardest segment of the stage but possibly the prettiest as well. The pleasing villages Topolia and Koutsomatados with all they have to offer will gladly sweeten the deal for you until Feedzone 1 in Kefali village at the 53 km mark is reached.
Going onwards and riding along the westernmost roads of Crete, the peloton will have a chance to gaze upon world-renowned beaches Elafonissos and Falassarna on their left. This road at the 74 km mark, leads up to a tough grade 3 climb lasting for 5 km that may get easier to overcome with the common rearwind of the area. A quick descent later and after a total of 94,5 km, the riders reach the town of Kastelli and Feedzone 2 inside the scenic town square. What’s left is just a moderate climb before looping back to Kolymvari, other than which it’s mostly flat seaside riding back to our headquarters in Platanias.
STAGE 4 Thursday May 18th: Therisso Gorge
total vertical gain: 1073m
Stage 4 of the Tour of Crete leads further inland into the prefecture of Chania. The distance may seem short at a total of 52 kilometers, but the scenic diversity, the gorgeous albeit challenging climb of Zourvas and the passing through the tall and narrow Therisso Gorge, will leave you surprised in how all this can be distiled in so few kilometers. This is one of the many marvelous attributes that Crete has to offer to you.
The stage could be described as having a single long grade 1 climb that stars off easy and steadily ramps up to steep gradients. The initial 10 km into the plains of Alikianos are pretty much flat and packed with lemon, orange and olive trees. Past Alikianos it’s a steady climb up the gully of Keritis river up to Meskla village where the scenery changes into a dense foliage of sycamore trees. Just past the sightly village church begins the climb of Zourvas. The following kilometers offer multiple turns, ever-increasing gradients and striking landscapes leading up to the intense final 9 km with 522 m of climb into an elevation of 706 meters above sea level. Past that point it’s pretty much descending for the next 10 km with a passing through the thrilling Therisso gorge. After having visited numerous villages and 13 additional kilometers later, the riders return to spend their last day in Platanias.
STAGE 5 Friday May 19th: Platanias – Rethymnon
total vertical gain: 1682m
Today we will be cycling towards the eastern part of the island and will end up in Rethimnon, having though to cross one of the most outstanding greenest districts of Chania region, Apokoronas.
Leaving behind cosmopolitan Platanias and the historical town of Chania, we cycle as a group until the 15th km where Mournies village marks the start of the first climb of the route. The length of the climb is 10kms and the elevation reads 400 meters. On the hilltop, slightly before Malaxa village (461m), the view pays us off, as from this point we can gaze the Souda Gulf and its coastline, Akrotiri cape and the seaside villages of Apokoronas.
From Malaxa village starts the stiff descent of 16 kms until the seaside village of Kalives. The scenery has already turned from rocky, sparse greenery to fully dense with tall impressive trees and gurgling rivers.
The next 8kms are uphill until Agioi Pantes village (49th km, 149 m).
The scenery is altering once again to cypress forest, and the route becomes fairly decent and leads us to Argiroupolis (62nd km, 1,5 m), to the feed zone of the day.
The next 22 kms lead us to the inland of Chania and Retimnon districts making our way through picturesque traditional communities with continuous alters of gradient sign of the terrain until Fratzeskiana (84th km, 258 m).
Here we witness another side of the diverse scenery with the dry stone sided narrow streets which is the last part of our route. After crossing through Gerani and then Violi Charaki, we almost reach Rethimnon for the final 5kms until we reach our finishing point for this stage
STAGE 6 Saturday May 20th: Rethymnon – Skinakas – Heraklion
total vertical gain: 3296m
The last day of the Tour is probably the most demanding and is worthily entitled as ‘King Stage’. Since the starting point, Tsesmes village until the highest asphalt point in whole Crete, Skinakas peak, will be time trial . Skinakas has an altitude of 1750m and leads to Psiloritis Mountain, where Skinakas Observatory and shelter are.
Peloton begins from the hotel, grouping up for the first 4kms until Tsesmes village. There will be the kick start of the ‘Skinakas Challenge 2017’ race. The coming 87kms with total ascent of 1,734m will challenge our courage, resistance and strength of the athletes that have taken part in this racing aspect of the tour.
The breakdown of the route is as followed:
1st part: Tsesmes – Arkadi Monastery (525, 7m)
An uphill distance of 16kms with total ascent of 478m. A bench mark of this part is the historical Arkadi Monastery.
2nd part: Arkadi Monastery (525,7m) – Pasalites (185,1m)
The total length of this part is 22 kms. It is mainly downhill, with a smooth uphill sections and a total descent of 340m. A breathtaking route as the crossing through the picturesque villages like Eleftherna, Ancient Eleftherna, Kinigianna, Pigougianna.
3rd part: Pasalites (185,1 m) – Zoniana (658,1m)
An uphill part of 21kms and total ascent of 473m whose main characteristic is the wildness and the plentiness of its villages as well as the downhill sections in multiple spots.
In Agios Mamas village (51st km) we will reach the first feed zone.
4th part: Zoniana (658,1m) – Anogia (798,9m)
One fourth of this small part of 5 kms is downhill and the rest uphill with a total descent of 140,6 m. In the midpoint of Anogia village we find the second feed zone, which marks the beginning of the ‘King’ ascent towards Skinakas peak.
5th part: Anogia (798,9 m) – Skinakas (1,750 m)
The last 20 kms of this epic race. 20 KMS of nonstop uphill, in an alpic scenery and a total ascent of 951m with up to 23% gradient. By the time we reach the Peak will be the end of the time trial and we will be at the third feed zone.
6th part: Skinakas (1,750m) – Heraklion (5m)
The moment of the greatest descent towards the city of Heraklion and the end of the Tour. These final 49km of a relaxed pace will counteract the days’ effort and will lead us to the finish line.