The route features 90km of time trials, as well as the 6.1km opening prologue in Liege, favouring riders who are strong against the clock as well as in the mountains.
The peloton will tackle 25 second, first and HC climbs, two more than this year’s race, but with only three summit finishes, one less than 2011.
“There are more time trials and less summit finishes, but you really can’t predict who is going to win it,” said race director Christian Prudhomme.
Three-time winner Alberto Contador, Briton Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans will start among the favourites, but pure climbers will have the opportunity to gain time on a series of previously unraced climbs.
Prudhomme added: ”There are new climbs featuring very steep parts with very high gradients. It should make for a thrilling race. Those who will want to attack far from the finish will be able to do so.”
Liege is the only city to have hosted the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia, and the prologue, on Saturday June 30, will follow the same course that saw Fabian Cancellara claim victory ahead of eventual champion Lance Armstrong in 2004.
Two road stages then follow in the Belgian provence, the first using the roads of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and set to suit a puncheur in the mould of Philippe Gilbert. Mark Cavendish is likely to get his first shot at a stage victory a day later with Prudhomme predicting a bunch sprint in Tournai.
The race enters the Jura Mountains on stage seven, with the first summit finish to La Planche des Belle Filles, a new 5.9km climb at an average gradient of 8.5 per cent, with a section at more that 20 per cent. Stage eight finishes in Porrentruy, Switzerland, while stage nine is a 38km time trial.
A final day in the Jura features the tough climb of the Grand Colombier – 17.4km at 7.1 per cent - before two days in the Alps begin on stage 11, featuring the ascents of the Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon, Col de La Croix de Fer, Col du Mollard and the final ascent to La Toussuire.
After three transition stages, the Pyrenees beckon, with stage 17 featuring the final summit finish to Peyragudes. Stage 19, a 52km time trial, will provide the final general classification shake-up before the race arrives in Paris.
In total, there are nine flat stages, four medium mountain stages (one summit finish on stage seven in the Jura Mountains), five high mountain stages (two summit finishes on stage 11 in the Alps and stage 17 in the Pyrenees).
2012 Tour de France route
P Prologue Sat 30 June Liège-Liège 6.1 km
1 Road stage Sun 1 July Liège-Seraing 198 km
2 Road stage Mon 2 July Visé-Tournai 207 km
3 Road stage Tues 3 July Orchies-Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km
4 Road stage Weds 4 July Abbeville-Rouen 214 km
5 Road stage Thurs 5 July Rouen-Saint-Quentin 197 km
6 Road stage Fri 6 July Épernay-Metz 210 km
7 Road stage Sat 7 July Tomblain-La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km
8 Road stage Sun 8 July Belfort-Porrentruy 154 km
9 Time trial Mon 9 July Arc et Senans-Besançon 38 km
10 Road stage Weds 11 July Mâcon-Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194 km
11 Mountains Thurs 12 July Albertville-La Toussuire – Les Sybelles 140 km
12 Mountains Fri 13 July Saint Jean de Maurienne-Annonay 220 km
13 Road stage Sat 14 July Saint Paul Trois Châteaux-Le Cap d’Agde 215 km
14 Road stage Sun 15 July Limoux-Foix 192 km
15 Road stage Mon 16 July Samatan-Pau 160 km
16 Mountains Weds 18 July Pau-Bagnères de Luchon 197 km
17 Mountains Thurs 19 July Bagnères de Luchon-Peyragudes 144 km
18 Road stage Fri 20 July Blagnac-Brive la Gaillarde 215 km
19 Time trial Sat 21 July Bonneval-Chartres 52 km
20 Road stage Sun 22 July Rambouillet- Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km