Mark Cavendish has described next year’s Tour de France route as possibly the hardest he’s ever seen.

The course for the 2024 Grand Tour was revealed at the official presentation in the Palais des Congrès in Paris on Wednesday.

The 111th edition of Le Tour will start in Italy for the very first time when the Grand Depart takes place in Florence on Saturday, June 29.

In another first, the Tour will end on Sunday, July 21 with an individual time trial to Nice in order to avoid a clash with the Paris Olympic Games which begin the following week. Therefore, the race will not finish with the iconic stage on the Champs-Élysées where Cav has enjoyed so much success previously.

Speaking after the route was revealed earlier this week, the Manx Missile told the assembled media: ‘It’s so hard. I am actually in a bit of shock. It might be the hardest route I’ve ever seen at the Tour de France.’

Organisers have indicated that there are eight flat stages for potential sprint finishes which would suit Cav in his quest for a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage win, but they are not clear-cut.

‘There’s a few, but you’ve got to get to them, that’s the problem,’ continued the Manxman. ‘I think Turin should offer the chance for sprinters. This is perhaps the toughest course I have ever seen during a Tour de France.

‘The start in Italy is super nice. It is only a few kilometres away [from where he trains regularly] so I know the first kilometres really well, but it makes no difference because it starts hard, finishes hard and is all hard.

‘It will be beautiful in Italy, the Giro is always an incredible race and I know the Tuscan people just love cycling. It is really quite special.’

Having initially announced his intentions to retire at the end of this season, Cav unfortunately crashed out of this year’s Le Tour with a broken collarbone, prompting speculation that he would postpone his retirement. And the Manxman signed a one-year extension earlier this month to continue his illustrious career as he aims to be the most successful stage winner in the history of cycling’s biggest race.

His Astana Qazaqstan team has been busy adding to its roster ahead of the new campaign with the inclusion of experienced leadout man Michael Mørkøv - with whom Cav enjoyed memorable success at his previous team – plus the likes of Davide Ballerini, Max Kanter and Rüdiger Selig.

Speaking about the additions, Cav said: ‘It’s kind of still in the process, we know roughly what we are doing next year. It’s a good group, I’ve seen a lot of the new guys.’