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Route surprises to revive TDF?


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Route surprises to revive TDF?
25/10/2006 13:50  - (SA)  

Paris - Tour de France organisers are hoping a few surprises in the 2007 route being unveiled on Thursday will help breathe new life into the race after this year's event was marred by doping scandals.

Starting in London on July 7, next year's Tour is the first conceived by new race director Christian Prudhomme, who replaces Jean-Marie Leblanc.

Prudhomme can only be hoping for a scandal-free Tour after American Floyd Landis tested positive for an excessive amount of the male hormone testosterone on his way to victory this year.

Landis, who remains determined to prove his innocence at an American Arbitration Association hearing early next year, will be stripped of his title and banned for two years if his appeal fails.

Several leading riders were also withdrawn on the eve of the 2006 race after they were linked to an anti-doping investigation in Spain.

One notable change from previous tours was the scrapping of the traditional transfer day taking the riders closer to the mountains at the end of the first week, sources close to the organisers told Reuters.

The first individual time trial would be staged at the end of the second week and there would be no team time trial, the sources added.

The opening 8km prologue will start on Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square, and finish on The Mall.

A day later, the riders will travel out of London through the city's financial district to Kent and finish the stage in the historic cathedral city of Canterbury.

Sections of the Tour are often held outside France and have been staged in Britain before.

After leaving England, the 2007 Tour will pay Belgium a brief visit before heading to Burgundy and then the Alps, where the first rest day will be taken in Tignes.

The riders will then head for the Pyrenees, where a gruelling stage between Foix and Loudenvielle is likely to have a major impact on the overall classification.

The final and potentially decisive time trial will be held on July 28, the penultimate day of the Tour, between Cognac and Angouleme.

The traditional run in to the Champs Elysees will start outside Paris in Marcoussis, home of the national rugby team's training camp, in recognition of the 2007 World Cup being held in France later in the year.








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The route changes are not huge surprises.  The TT are going to be shorter, the first two days are in the UK, the next 3 in Flanders.  The mountain stages do not include Alpe d'huez but do include the Colle del Finestrere (the dirt track from the Giro) and Mont Ventoux.  One of the stages in the Pyrenees finishes in Andorra which always means a bloody steep final summit.  Apparently there are only two Pyrenean stages so there must be something in the Cantal.

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Guess the rumours were far less accurate than in previous years.  No Ventoux, no Andorra, no short TT stages.  All 6 mountain stages look like they could do serious damage.  I like the last mountain stage in the Pyrenees with the finish up the Aubisque.  Worth camping up there for the night (or three) to watch the pro's over the last 5km of switchbacks at 9-10%.

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"After all that happened in 2006 we really believe cycling deserves a second chance," said Patrice Clerc, President of ASO, today at the unveiling of the 2007 Tour de France. At the presentation in Paris, Clerc was alluding to the problems of this past year while delivering a classical and challenging 2007 parcours. "We think that these problems also bring a lot of hope for solving the problem of the doping in cycling. ... 2007 will be a fantastic start in the great capital of London and a great expression for a renewed Tour de France."

Today, Thursday afternoon, La Grand Boucle was revealed to included 3547 kilometres of riding over 20 stages, starting in London and ending in Paris. There will be a total of 11 flat stages, 2 individual time trials and 6 mountain stages, with three being mountain top finishes. There is only the standard two rest days but the riders will note the lack of long transfers, allowing the focus to be on the actual racing.

As referenced to earlier in the day by Cyclingnews, the 2007 route will take the peloton in a clock-wise motion; hitting the alpine stages before the Pyrenees. Here, near Spain, more focus has been given this year, where there are three serious mountainous tests, with a rest day scheduled in Pau before the third. The two hard days, followed by the rest day, will surely produce a stunning shake up when the riders arrive, after 218 km, on the top of the Col d?Aubisque.

Following the Pyrenees, the race will offer the standard weekend finale: Saturday will be a time trail in Cognac and Sunday the flat dash into Paris


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