The full route of the 2008 Tour de France was announced in Paris on Thursday morning. It starts in Brest on July 5th with a non-traditional 195km road stage and features only two individual time trials, totaling just 82km. As usual, it finishes in Paris on the Champs-Élysées on July 27th.
The Tour will travel anti-clockwise around France, with the Pyrenees preceding the Alps in the mountain stakes. The Hautacam is back, featuring in stage 10 on July 14th, and follows a tough stage 9 between Toulouse and Bagnères-de-Bigorre, where the Col de Peyresourde and Col d'Aspin feature near the end.
The Tour will visit Italy on July 20th with a stage between Digne-les-Bains and Prato Nevoso, before returning on July 22nd with a short but difficult 16th stage between Cuneo and Jausiers. In 157km, the riders will have to surmount the Col de la Lombarde and the Col de la Bonnette (also known as the Restefond), the highest pass in Europe at an attitude of 2802m. And the next day, stage 17 will finish on the famous Alpe d'Huez climb, passing via the Galibier and Croix de Fer.
The end of Alps comes with just four days to go in the Tour, which should help keep the interest in the general classification high. Just one chance remains for the GC riders after this: the final time trial between Cérilly and Saint-Amand-Montrond over 53km on Saturday, July 26th. Sunday will see the peloton parade into Paris from a start in Étampes, before racing several laps around the Champs-Élysées, cycling's most spectacular grand finale.
In total, next year's race covers 3,554km with 10 flat stages, five mountain stages, four intermediate stages and two individual time trials.
Time bonuses scrapped
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said his aim, on what will be his second full year in charge, was to shake up the format.
But as the sport continues its fight for credibility following another dope-tainted edition, Prudhomme warned that no teams were guaranteed a start in Brittany next year.
"No teams are guaranteed being at the start line," said Prudhomme, who is a strong supporter of a recent proposal by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to introduce 'biological passports' for the 600-strong professional peloton in time for next year's race.
Spaniard Alberto Contador, formerly of Discovery Channel and now with Astana, won the 2007 edition, which was marked by numerous doping scandals and controversies leading to the expulsion of race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark and former runner-up Alexandre Vinokourov among others.
Organisers have also decided to scrap time bonuses which can be picked up at the end of stages.
"Around 20 teams" will be invited, according to Prudhomme, who is keen to sit will all competing teams to iron out demands concerning the fight against doping.
After being asked whether Vinokourov's former team Astana, who exited the Tour under a cloud in July, would be invited, Prudhomme was adamant: "No team can hold its hand up and say it has its ticket for the Tour."
It leaves the threat of non-invitation or expulsion hanging over all competing teams in the event of suspicion over riders or team practices. "All of the riders at the Tour will have to have complied with the concept of the blood (biological) passports," said Prudhomme.
Stage 1: Saturday, July 5th: Brest - Plumelec, 195 km
Stage 2: Sunday, July 6th: Auray - Saint-Brieuc, 165 km
Stage 3: Monday, July 7th: Saint-Malo - Nantes, 195 km
Stage 4: Tuesday, July 8th: Cholet - Cholet individual time trial, 29 km
Stage 5: Wednesday, July 9th: Cholet - Châteauroux, 230 km
Stage 6: Thursday, July 10th: Aigurande - Super-Besse Sancy, 195 km
Stage 7: Friday, July 11th: Brioude - Aurillac, 158 km
Stage 8: Saturday, July 12th: Figeac - Toulouse, 174 km
Stage 9: Sunday, July 13th: Toulouse - Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 222 km
Stage 10: Monday, July 14th: Pau - Hautacam, 154 km
Rest Day : Tuesday, July 15th: Pau
Stage 11: Wednesday, July 16th: Lannemezan - Foix, 166 km
Stage 12: Thursday, July 17th: Lavelanet - Narbonne, 168 km
Stage 13: Friday, July 18th: Narbonne - Nîmes, 182 km
Stage 14: Saturday, July 19th: Nîmes - Digne-les-Bains, 182 km
Stage 15: Sunday, July 20th: Digne-les-Bains - Prato Nevoso, 216 km
Rest Day : Monday, July 21st: Cuneo
Stage 16: Tuesday, July 22nd: Cuneo - Jausiers, 157 km
Stage 17: Wednesday, July 23rd: Embrun - L'Alpe-d'Huez, 210 km
Stage 18: Thursday, July 24th: Bourg-d'Oisans - Saint-Étienne, 197 km
Stage 19: Friday, July 25th: Roanne - Montluçon, 163 km
Stage 20: Saturday, July 26th: Cérilly - Saint-Amand-Montrond individual time trial, 53 km
Stage 21: Sunday, July 27th: Étampes - Paris Champs-Élysées, 143 km
Stage 6, July 10: Aigurande - Super-Besse, 195 km
Col de la Croix-Morand, 8 km at 5.1%
Super-Besse, 11 km at 4.7%
Stage 7, July 12: Brioude - Aurillac, 158 km
Col d'Entremont, 6.5 km at 4.7%
Col du Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), 7.8 km at 6.2%
Stage 9, July 13: Toulouse-Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 226km
Col des Ares, 6 km at 4,9%
Col de Peyresourde, 13.2 km at a 7.1%
Col d'Aspin, 12.1 km at 6.6%
Stage 10, July 14: Pau-Lourdes/Hautacam, 154km
Col du Tourmalet, 17.7 km at 7.5%
Hautacam, 14.2 km at 7.2%
Stage 15, July 20: Digne-les-Bains-Prato Nevoso, 216km
Col de Larche/Maddalena, 16.1 km at 4%
Col de Pratonevoso, 11.1 km at 7.1%
Stage 16, July 22: Cuneo-Jauziers, 157km
Col de la Lombarde, 21.2 km at a 7%
Col de la Bonnette-Restefond, 26.7 km at a 6.2%
Stage 17, July 23: Embrun-L'Alpe d'Huez, 210km
Col du Galibier, 20.9 km at 5.6%
Col de Croix-de-Fer, 29.2 km at 5.2%
L'Alpe d'Huez, 13.3 km at 8.6%
Stage 18, July 24: Bourg-d'Oisans - Saint-Etienne, 197 km
Col de Parmenie, 5.3 km at 7%
La Croix de Montvieux, 13.7 km at 5.5%
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007