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PARIS - The Tour de France's co-director Christian Prudhomme was given the honour of presenting the Tour route for the first time in Paris this morning. Although still co-director of the race for one more season with long-time boss Jean-Marie Leblanc, Prudhomme outlined the details of a race that has some innovations but plenty of references back to the past.
The former journalist explained that the early days of the Tour would be structured to avoid a clash with the finale of the World Cup in Germany. "The Strasbourg prologue will take place on the Saturday afternoon rather than in the evening to avoid a clash with the first semi-final of the World Cup," he said, before adding that the following day's stage would feature "about 30 kilometres of riding in Germany".
Stage two, he said, will include four climbs on the road into Luxembourg, while stage three would be a mini-conglomeration of roads used in both Lige-Bastogne-Lige and the Amstel Gold Race. The finish, he added, would be near the Cauberg, where the Dutch Amstel Classic finishes.
Of the Pla de Beret climb, where stage 11 concludes, Prudhomme said "it is 13km long and gets harder and harder the nearer you get to the top". Stage 14, he said, was not a full-on mountain stage but is, nevertheless, extremely tricky. The viewer-friendly hairpins on the Col de Perty rise to 1300 metres, while the Sentinelle climb above Gap gives the chance for some late attacks before the drop into the finish.
Etape du Tour de France lovers will no doubt be pleased to learn that stage 15's route from Gap to Alpe d'Huez will be their challenge next season. The Izoard and Lauteret are both 2000 metres plus, while Alpe d'Huez is long-established as one of the ultimate summit finishes in the sport.
Prudhomme seemed particularly pleased with the route for stage 16. "The descent of the Col du Mollard is very technical (as procycling will testify having come down it just last month), and the average gradient for the final climb to La Toussuire is about six per cent. This climb is new to the Tour but has been used before in the Dauphin Libr," he explained.
Prudhomme also stressed that an ethical approach will be paramount and that cycling needed to become more credible in the face of regular doping scandals. He added that the sport should stop shunning those who talk about doping, as has been the case with the likes of Christophe Bassons, Jesus Manzano and many others even since the Festina affair of 1998.
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