The 3,471-kilometre route of the 2011 Tour, unveiled this morning in Paris, would appear to favour the climbers and includes a vicious sting in its tail with a brutal final week of climbing in the Alps to sort out the wheat from the chaff.There are however enough flat or medium terrain stages – some estimates are as high as nine or ten – to keep Mark Cavendish and his fellow sprinters fully occupied although simply reaching Paris to challenge for the green jersey could still be a major challenge. In a radical innovation there will also now be 20 points available for the intermediate sprints but there will only be one per day, a development which the directeur sportifs are trying to get their heads around. Potentially it could revolutionise the way you approach a ponts classification campaign and the make up of the teams.
The race includes six pure mountain stages including 23 categorised climbs – the same as last year – but crucially four mountain top finishes to maximise the time difference between those who can climb and those who can’t.In addition the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) seems to have really taken against the time triallers – among who you would include Bradley Wiggins – offering them just one solitary 41km individual trial trial in Grenoble on the penultimate day of the 21-day tour.In 2006, for example, there was 116km of individual time trials, followed by 117km the following year and 82km in 2008. The shift in emphasis is not fully explained by race director Christian Prudhomme, and the inclusion of a 23km team time trial this year will not mollify those riders who feel they are being penalised.
The grand départ will be in the Vendée region, as was well signposted, and there will be no prologue with the first stage heading across the famous Passage du Gois before an uphill finish on the Mont des Alouettes in Les Herbières, famous for organising the Chrono des Nations time trial which was won this weekend by David Millar.The 23km team time trial follows, while stage three (Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon) would appear to lend itself to a bunch spint finish.The following day’s challenging terrain to Mur-de Bretagne should suit the classics riders. The Tour will then track northwards from Carhaix to Cap Fréhel, followed by the Tour’s longest stage form Dinan to Lisieux at 226km.
The Massif Central follows next with the first genuine summit finish on July 8 at Super Besse Sancy. There will be three tough days in the Pyrenees before the Tour works its way north eastwards for a brutally hard three days in the Alps which will include two passes of the Galibier with the 18th stage finishing at the top of the Galbier which at 2645 metres will be the highest finish in Tour history.The following day will feature a classic short but horrible Alpe d’Huez finish stage which comes the day before the time trial in Grenoble.”This year we wanted a more balanced route, with three stages in the Pyrenees and three in the Alps during the last week,” said Prudhomme.”We will maintain suspense right up until the end.”Prudhhomme also commented on the doping roblem that continues to dog the sport – neither Alberto Contador or Alessandro Petacchi were attending the launch as they await the outcome of investigations into their alleged doping.
“Suspicion doesn’t mean guilt,” Prudhomme said. “We stick by this position for now and we are hoping we won’t wait too long. With the athletes’s whereabouts system, the targeted controls and out-of-competition testing, cycling is doing more than any other sport in the fight against doping.”When police catch a thief, we clap our hands. But in cycling, when dopers are caught, cycling authorities are being assassinated. We can’t give up, otherwise cheaters will win the fight.” – Telegraph
Tour de France 2011 route
July 2, stage one: Passage du Gois-Mont des Alouettes, 191km
July 3, stage two: Les Essarts, team time trial, 23km
July 4, stage three: Olonne sur Mer-Redon, 198km
July 5, stage four: Lorient-Mur de Bretagne, 172km
July 6, stage five: Carhaix-Cap Frehel, 158km
July 7, stage six: Dinan-Lisieux, 226km
July 8, stage seven: Le Mans-Chateauroux, 215km
July 9, stage eight: Aigurande-Super Besse Sancy, 190km
July 10, stage nine: Issoire-Saint Flour, 208km
July 11, rest day
July 12, stage 10: Aurillac-Carmaux, 161km
July 13, stage 11: Blaye les Mines-Lavaur, 168km
July 14, stage 12: Cugnaux-Luz Ardiden, 209km
July 15, stage 13: Pau-Lourdes, 156km
July 16, stage 14: St Gaudens-Plateau de Beille, 168km
July 17, stage 15: Limoux-Montpellier, 187km
July 18, rest day
July 19, stage 16: St Paul Trois Chateaux-Gap, 163 m
July 20. stage 17: Gap-Pinerolo (Italy), 179km
July 21, stage 18: Pinerolo (Italy)-Galibier Serre Chevalier, 189km
July 22, stage 19: Modane-Alpe d’Huez, 109km
July 23, stage 20: Grenoble, individual time trial, 41km
July 24, stage 21: Creteil-Paris, 160km