Tour de France organizers unveil climb-heavy 2011 route

Tour de France organizers unveiled a climb-heavy 98th edition of the world’s biggest bike race in 2011 as defending champion Alberto Contador’s absence weighed heavily on the presentation in Paris Tuesday.

It will be a climbers' paradise in 2011.

It will be a climbers' paradise in 2011.

Contador, a three-time winner of the coveted yellow jersey, is currently provisionally suspended after testing positive for trace amounts of the banned substance clenbuterol.

As the Spaniard awaits a decision regarding a possible sanction, race organizers gave a spectacular show of just what he could be missing next year.

A total of six stages will be held in the high mountains, four of which will finish on the summits so beloved of the thousands of fans who line the route in July.

Although there are 10 “flat” stages, the opportunities for mass sprints, of which five of this year’s were won by British sprint king Mark Cavendish, will be limited in 2011. The race will also feature an interesting twist for the green points jersey, with a reduction in the number of intermediate sprints and a significant increase in the points awarded at those marks.

Time trial specialists were also left down in the mouth at the lack of victory opportunities. Breaking with tradition, there will be no time trial prologue to start the event, a team time trial of 23km on stage two and only one long individual time trial, a 43km race against the clock, on the penultimate stage 20.

Frank Schleck, the older brother of Andy and with whom he will start next year’s race on a new, Luxembourg-based team, said he was pleased with the route for 2011.

“It’s a real climber’s course,” he said.

July’s 97th edition was one of the most spectacular in recent history with an authentic duel between Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck and Spanish ace Contador, who won the race in 2007 and 2009 having won the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España in 2008.

Contador eventually finished with a 39-second lead on Schleck, who, in the event Contador is given a ban, will line up as one of the main favorites for the yellow jersey.

He will find a worthy rival, however, in Italian Ivan Basso, the 2010 Giro d’Italia winner who is set to focus mainly on the Tour de France next year.

The 2011 Tour de France

July 2
1st stage: Passage du Gois-Mont des Alouettes (191km)
July 3
2nd stage: Les Essarts-Les Essarts, (23km team time trial)
July 4
3rd stage: Olonne-sur-Mer – Redon (198km)
July 5
4th stage: Lorient – Mur-de-Bretagne (172km)
July 6
5th stage: Carhaix – Cap Frehel (158km)
July 7
6th stage: Dinan – Lisieux (226km)
July 8
7th stage: Le Mans – Chateauroux (215km)
July 9
8th stage: Aigurande – Super-Besse Sancy (190km)
July 10
9th stage: Issoire – Saint-Flour (208km)
July 11
Rest day
July 12
10th stage: Aurillac – Carmaux (161km)
July 13
11th stage: Blaye-les-Mines – Lavaur (168km)
July 14
12th stage: Cugnaux – Luz-Ardiden (209km)
July 15
13th stage: Pau – Lourdes (156km)
July 16
14th stage: Saint-Gaudens – Plateau de Beille (168km)
July 17
15th stage: Limoux – Montpellier (187km)
July 18
Rest day
July 19
16th stage: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Gap (163km)
July 20
17th stage: Gap – Pinerolo, Italy (179km)
July 21
18th stage: Pinerolo – Galibier Serre-Chevalier (189km)
July 22
19th stage: Modane – L’Alpe d’Huez (109km)
July 23
20th stage: Grenoble – Grenoble (41km individual time trial)
July 24
21st stage: Creteil – Paris (160km)

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  • bshizzle
    Does anyone know if Andy's raced up d'Huez? Obviously he'll recon, but I didn't know if he'd been challenged on this one. If not, I will be on the edge of my sofa watching him and Basso go to toes. My money's on Andy - talent and young intelligence are on his side. I don't think Basso will have it in him that far in to the race.
  • jackorion
    Yeah you don't remember a couple years back when Sastre won? Everyone was very impressed with Andy's seemingly effortless climb that day. The Alpe may just be the perfect climb for him.
  • Careful, saying 'ban' and 'Contador' in the same sentence may get you sued by his lawyers! You are, after all, 'speculating.'
  • scottro2
    I wonder what the correlation between climbing heavy grand tours and doping is?
  • jackorion
    Ha! Finally they are addressing the (in my mind) problem with the green jersey. This competition may prove to be as interesting as the overall.

    Poor Alberto he must be having a tough one today.
  • davejesq
    The changes should make things interesting for Garmin-Cervelo. Thor can chase the intermediate points and the green jersey while still supporting Tyler for the stage wins. If the true sprinters like Cav are going to go for the green, their teams will have to work their butts off to keep the peloton together to the intermediate sprints.
  • RATM711
    What happened to the days of a prolouge, 3 Individual Time Trials, including a mountain ITT, and a Team Time Trial? It's a climbers/sprinters tour.

    As another poster noted, these climb heavy stages will be boring until the last 3 km. The climbers will just do track stands. I think Theo Bos and Sir Chris Hoy have a good chance this year
  • davejesq
    I absolutely agree. The grand tours are becoming pure climbers races. With the exception of the freak, random stages like the cobbles in last year's TDF and the strade bianche in the Giro, all the differences are made at the summits. The climbers just have to stay together, then attack in the final 2k of the last mountain on each stage. True all rounders are being squeezed out of the picture. Why not make the climbers have to attack farther out by including a couple of long ITTs so that the climbers need to make up more time and/or build a bigger cushion?
  • edgardo_c
    I do agree with much of what you say but I guess organizers don't want to go back tom the Indurain era where he would make tons of time in the TT and ride defensively in the mountains.

    I guess as it is becoming customary the Giro will be the best and most interesting route.
  • SlowBikeRacer
    TTs are BORING...
    That is what happened...
  • DaftPunkd
    For TV yes; Live viewing no.

    If you've been to the tour, you realize that TTs are the one chance to plant your picnic blanket and watch the race all day long. You can stroll up and down the course for good photo vantage points and gat good shots of all your favorites as they roll through. The day builds to a crescendo as the top GC riders approach with their larger moto and helicopter entourages.
  • davejesq
    TTs aren't always boring. Lemond/Fignon in 1989? Armstrong and Ullrich in the '90s? Sastre desperately trying to hang onto yellow in '08? Menchov in the '09 Giro? Even when TTs are boring, they can make the rest of the race interesting. For example, because Indurain was so dominant in the TTs, the pure climbers had to attack much farther out, making the mountain stages much more dramatic and interesting. These climbers' tours make the mountain stages almost as boring and formulaic as the flat stages. The big guns all wait until the bottom of the last climb, then someone's team rides hard to shake the pretenders, after which everyone rides together until the final k or 2, when the attacks start and someone gets between 15sec and a minute. A grand tour champion should have to excel in more than one discipline, ala Merckx, Moser, Hinault, LeMond, Indurain, Armstrong etc. Setting up the parcours so that one trick ponies like Andy Schleck have a distinct advantage cheapens what it means to be a grand tour champion.
  • "Contador eventually finished with a 39-second lead on Schleck, who, in the event Contador is given a ban, will line up as one of the main favorites for the yellow jersey."

    Andy Schleck will line up as one of the main favorites regardless of Contador's presence.
  • jesusnieto
    I hope this Tour does not turn into a boring one man/team show. With more ITTs earlier in the Tour there would be a chance for a more all-rounder, or a TT specialist to take time on the climbers and force them to catch up as the days go by.

    Now the script seems set for the strongest teams to control the race until the last 3k of hilltop finishes, or until the sprinters teams start pulling to catch the break du jour.
    This ITT might be good for one guy or two moving up one spot on GC, but it won't be one of those things where everyone is waiting for the TT to see who is on form and who is not.

    Now, if this Tour is raced as last year's Giro, with the big guys showing their cards early, and with constant changes of leadership among the big hitters, then I will be more than happy.

    I hope we have a good show. Andy and Frank must be licking their whiskers...
  • Radsport
    Only 1 TT for a 3 week stage race? What a joke.
  • i dare say that the man with the strongest team will win this one. i feel sorry for riders like Evans and Van Der Broek, with no support and endless mountains. Basso could be the darkhorse with a strong team.
  • socon89363
    here we go again,
  • Every year they claim the TdF is a climber heavy route but it always has less climbing and less mountain top finishes (as welll as more flat stages) than either the Giro or Vuelta! The TdF organizers are more concerned with featuring historic and tourist ridden towns than with the overall race route when compared to the Giro or Vuelta who's main objective is the actual race route.
  • Billy-goat Gruff
    Yep, you nailed it. That is what the Tour de France is about. France. Always has been. Always will be. Seems to be doing OK.

    The Giro and the Vuelta...well, the location is incidental to the courses they select. One could also argue that the Giro and the Vuelta have to make their courses more difficult in order to bring them enough "global" attention to compare to the TdF.

    But let's not pretend the TdF is a cakewalk. Seemingly easier courses do not always make for easier racing (or winning).
  • Veloracer
    The Tour de France is not a cake walk, it is the hardest race in the world. I don't care if there are less/easier climbs than other races, the Tour attracts the best field of any other race. Not only do the best racers attend, but they attend in top form, focusing their entire seasons around it.

    As long as the Tour maintains its current presige as the ultimate race a rider can win, it will be the hardest.
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