Everyone agrees that the 2005 Tour route is a good one, but are there too many mountains or not enouPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Lance Armstrong may have been absent, but there were still plenty of interested observers in Paris and beyond eager for a first viewing of the 2005 Tour de France route. Ivan Basso (CSC), 3rd in 2004: "I'm very pleased with the route, and the Tour continues to be my number one goal. Every year is different, but the Tour is always extremely tough, and next year will be no exception. It suits me fine that there are fewer time trial kilometres on the route, because even though I've improved in that discipline, it's still the one area where I might lose some time. I'm looking forward to getting home and studying the route in detail, so I can get a clear picture of what to expect next year." Basso once again denied rumours of a move to the Discovery Channel team. Thomas Voeckler (BLB), long-time yellow jersey and 18th this year: "Taking into account there will be two weeks without a time trial, there will be quite a lot of scrapping on some nervy stages. This route should bring a smile to the face of attacking riders. I played that role last year and having succeeded once will try to do the same again. But I am not going to focus totally on the month of July, I don't have the qualities needed to enable me to do so. The Grand Ballon stage inspires me though." Carlos Sastre (CSC), 8th this year: "It's a slightly different route from what we're used to, and I see that as an exciting challenge. There's only one long time trial, which means the race will be decided in the mountains. It will probably be quite dramatic. I think the Alps will be very tough, and it looks like there'll be lots of opportunities for attacks in the Pyrenees, where there are varied climbs and narrow roads. The last five days it'll be very hard to maintain control for the team with the yellow jersey, and I think there will be a lot of dangerous attacks at that point. The route is good for us, and no doubt it will be an exciting race to follow." Manolo Saiz, Liberty Seguros team manager: "I like the route, it is good for my team. It's a surprise that they have taken out the mid-race time trial, but by doing so it should make the race more open. There aren't many summit finishes, but it is still tough. There are plenty of mountains. It is good for the Spanish riders that the main mountain stage is in the Pyrenees because they will get a lot of support." Jos Miguel Echavarri, Illes Balears team manager: "It seems that there are less mountains, but when you look more closely you realise that the race goes over the Galibier, the Aubisque, that it goes up to Mende, that it passes through the Vosges. There is less time trialling, but it's got mountains, plenty of them." Julian Gorospe, Euskaltel directeur sportif: "The most important factor is that they have taken out a long time trial, and that's good for the climbers. It is a balanced route, perhaps lacking in mountains, but the Tour is always hard. No one stage stands out, but the toughest section is in the Pyrenees." Kim Andersen, CSC directeur sportif: "It's a really good route for us. The fact that it starts with a 19-kilometre time trial is a clear advantage for us, because we'll definitely try for the yellow jersey again. At this point I predict Jens Voigt as the guy who's able to go for the jersey in the first week, where the team time trial will be a big goal for us also. We'll have the same ambitions as this year as far as results go. This means we'll be going for both stage wins as well as the overall victory. Basso has gained a lot of experience this year, and I'm sure, he's very keen to get even further up the podium." Richard Virenque, seven-time King of the Mountains and now TV commentator: "It's a good route, with one time trial less than usual, which is a good thing. The Alps are going to be hard and the Pyrenees truly fearsome." Laurent Jalabert, former points and King of the Mountains winner and now TV commentator: "It's a route for complete riders which should suit a man such as Alexandre Vinokourov, who goes well on all terrain. It will give a lot of opportunities to aggressive riders." Eddy Merckx, five-time Tour winner: "The 2004 route was harder. There is less time trialling and the mountains don't seem as hard. That should mean it is a more open Tour. That said, if Lance Armstrong is in the same condition as this year I can't see anyone stopping him from winning." Laurent Fignon, two-time Tour winner: "There are some good mountain stages. But this Tour will be dominated by Armstrong again if his rivals ride as they usually do. It will require imagination and daring to reverse this tendency."