With 3,471 kilometres (2,517 miles) of racing, spread over 21 stages, including two time-trials, along the roads of 34 French departments, with a visit to Italy, the route of the Tour de France, unveiled this morning at the Paris Convention Centre, is akin to a journey through the midst of the country’s cycling heartlands.
After the Grand Start, hosted by the Vendée for the fifth time it its history, the pack will spend time in Brittany, before heading to the Massif Central for a first battle between the climbers at Super Besse. The race’s baptism with the high mountain roads will take place in the Pyrenees, with three tough gradient stages. On completion of this series, all eyes will be on the winner at the Plateau de Beille: to date every rider who has won there has also been triumphant at the end of Le Tour.
For the exploration of the Alps, the organisers insisted on the collaboration of their Italian neighbours who in 2011 will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and who have also given pride of place to the mountains throughout the long history of the Giro. On the return of the pack to France, there will be another anniversary to celebrate: during the 18th stage, the riders will head towards the Galibier pass which Le Tour discovered one hundred years ago, in 1911. This time, the finishing line will be the highest in history, at an altitude of 2,645 metres. However, the following day’s stage will probably be more decisive, with a relentless 109-km battle, taking the riders up the Galibier pass for a second time before climbing up the Alpe d’Huez. Forty-eight hours from the final finishing line, the struggle for the Yellow Jersey could still see some surprises on the sole individual time trial on Le Tour in 2011, in a loop around Grenoble.
CLASSIFICATIONS: INNOVATIONS FOR THE GREEN AND POLKA DOT JERSEYS
Stage victory - Powerbar. Each day, the Tour de France pays tribute to the first rider to cross the finishing line.
Yellow Jersey - LCL. It is awarded to the leader of the general individual classification, made up by adding the times achieved on each stage.
Green Jersey - PMU. It is worn by the leader of the points classification. New in 2011: the flat stages will only include one intermediary sprint with points awarded to the first 15 riders. The aim is to systematically involve the sprinters in the pack, even after the passage of a breakaway.
Polka Dot Jersey - Carrefour. It is worn by the leader of the best climber classification. New for 2011: the points system and number of riders awarded points on each climb has been revised in order to reduce the gaps between the competitors. For example, points will only be doubled for a finishing line at the summit of 2nd, 1st and highest level climbs.
White Jersey - Skoda. The best positioned rider in the general individual classification amongst those below the age of 25 years wears the White Jersey.
Team classification - Digital. It is based on the results of the best three riders in each team on each of the stages. The riders of the leading team wear a yellow number bib.
Most aggressive rider - Brandt. Each day, a jury mainly made up of journalists designates the most deserving rider, rewarded for his attacking temperament, boldness and fair-play. On the following day’s stage, he wears a red number bib. At the end of the race an overall award is also made.
© Presse Sports
The end of October marks the beginning of a new sequence with the official announcement of the route of the next edition of the Tour de France.
On Tuesday 19 October precisely, more than 4 000 persons and 500 medias from all over the world will descend on the Palais des Congrès in Paris to discover the detail of the stages of the 2011 Tour, which will take place from 2 to 24 July that year along the roads of France and …
For the moment the certainties concern the programme for the very first days of the race, with a Great Start organized in the Vendée and the final stage that has every chance of being judged on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris. Between the two speculation is rife as to the route through the Alps and the Pyrenees, the way through the intermediate uplands of the country, the format of the key stages of the Tour to come, etc.
At the same time as the spectators at the Palais des Congrès, the impatient impassioned and the curious can follow the presentation ceremony live and on video from 11.30 am on the official website. This summer more than ten million single visitors logged on each day on letour.fr to live the race while hundreds of thousands of bicycle fans kept in touch with their mobile phones. They have a new rendez-vous to find out all the staging towns, the mileages and the sporting innovations of the 98th edition.
© ERAI / Denis Dessus
© ERAI / Denis Dessus
While Expo 2010 Shanghai was busy welcoming its 60 million visitors, the Rhône-Alpes pavilion started its two weeks dedicated to the theme “Sport and Mountain”. The old ties between the region and cycling inspired the people behind the pavilion to call Jean-Etienne Amaury, Christian Prudhomme and Bernard Hinault for a presentation of the Tour de France to the media and to the Chinese public, 8 October last.
Bernard Hinault went to China more than twenty years ago, invited to follow the Tour of Beijing, since disappeared but replaced by a series of races that attest to the progress of the discipline throughout the country (the Tour of Hainan, Tour of Taihu and Tour of Qinghai Lake are all part of the Asia Tour). “Until recently, the Chinese thought that the bicycle was nothing more than a going-to-work tool. But now they have rounded a corner: there is a real interest in competition cycling, the practice is catching on and their champions are sure to come on in leaps and bounds”, said Hinault on his return from Shanghai. The considered opinion of the five-times winner of the Tour thus seconds the view of Christian Prudhomme, long questioned by journalists regarding the various problems of organization of the race: “First I was struck by the appetite of these people, who asked me why the Tour was not given more air time, although CCTV 5 broadcasts live and gives round-ups of all the stages. More than anything else, most of the questions concerned the environmental aspect, since they were touched by the beauty of the French landscapes. And if you think that they still have some way to go on these issues, I rather have the impression that they could very soon catch up with us and even overtake us. Because they too are beginning to rethink the role of the bicycle in society, especially in the city centres.” After a conference for sports students from Shanghai Sports University, an appointment was taken with Chinese cycling, this time on the roads of France. The President of the Chinese Cycling Association, Mr. Jiadong Cai, was invited to follow a stage of the 2011 Tour de France. “I also expect to see, say in the medium term, a Chinese team in the race”, predicts Christian Prudhomme.
This morning the organisers of the Tour de France were informed of the statement issued by the International Cycling Union (UCI), which confirmed that “the Spanish rider Alberto Contador returned an adverse analytical finding following the analysis of a urine sample″.
The UCI indicated that this case required “further scientific investigation” with the scientific support of the World Anti-Doping Agency, “before any conclusion could be drawn”.
Thus the Management of the Tour de France will await the results of this further analysis and the final decision of the UCI.
"The Intellectual" heading towards victory on the Alpe d’Huez in 1984© Presse Sports
Laurent was also the “Magnificent loser” of the 1989 edition.© Presse Sports
After two years of a tough and humble fight against illness, Laurent Fignon has died at the age of 50 from cancer of the digestive tract. The two times winner of the Tour de France, who followed the last five editions as a consultant for France Télévisions, exits the stage leaving the memory of a demanding and uncompromising observer of cycling. This temperament is also what made him one of the great champions of French sport.
On his arrival in the professional ranks, Fignon already stood out due to his style and past. A Parisian, he was also one of the rare holders of the ‘baccalaureate’ in the pack. What’s more the round glasses he wore quickly earned him the reputation and nickname of ‘the intellectual’. Comments about his long blond hair did not stop him from carving out a place for himself in the Renault team alongside Bernard Hinault, the leading rider at the time. An efficient team-mate, he soon became a rival as well. When Hinault had to forfeit Le Tour in 1983, this also meant that the ambitious would have a say in matters. Fignon took his chance and triumphed on his first participation in the Big Loop, benefitting from the withdrawal of Pascal Simon as well. The following year, he readily took on his status of title holder, showing even greater brashness in his fight with “the Badger” (Hinault’s nickname). After the climb up to Alpe d’Huez, on which the dual was won by the younger of the two, to crown it all, the French champion even declared during an interview, “Hinault really made me laugh when he attacked at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez!”
Dominant in the mountains and time-trials, now bearing the nickname Laurent le Magnificent, Fignon appeared to be heading for the top. His victory in 1984 was, however, his last on the Tour de France. At the end of the Hinault era, he went on to do battle over several episodes with Greg LeMond. The dual on Le Tour in 1989 is still one of the most striking of his career. He lost out on victory on the very last day, on the Champs-Elysées, at the end of a time-trial that he rode with an injury between Versailles and Paris. On the finishing line, he was lacking eight seconds to retain the Yellow Jersey, which went to LeMond. On the podium he wore a visibly and resolutely grim expression: the sincerity of his feelings was also his trade mark.
In 1993, he retired with a prestigious roll of honour to his name, including in particular a Tour of Italy triumph, a victory in the Flèche Wallonne and two Milan-San Remo wins. His commitment to professional cycling continued as he took over the organising of Paris-Nice, which he then sold to A.S.O. in 2002, and the creation of Paris-Corrèze in 2001. In tandem, his free, forthright and sometimes brutal views made him a much sought after pundit by radio stations and television channels. Weakened by the illness that he made public in 2009, Laurent Fignon made a point of following the last two editions of the Le Tour for France Télévisions. In his last public remarks, the former champion looked ahead to his passing away with courage and lucidity: “I’m not scared of dying. If it was to all end soon, I wouldn’t have any regrets. I’ve had a very good life”. Moved by the death of a loyal and unflinching fan of cycling, all those associated with the Tour de France would like to express their commiserations to the family and friends of Laurent Fignon.
For his third Tour de France victory – at the very young age of 27 – Alberto Contador has undergone three weeks of tough confrontation during which he never really reached his 2009 performance level. Andy Schleck who already finished 2nd last year finished the 2010 edition of the Tour 39” behind Contador after having worn the Yellow Jersey for six days and after winning his two first stages. This duel is not just boiling under the surface; it is the real McCoy.
The promising performance of Andy Schleck – who was twice Best Young Rider in the Tour and who finished second behind Contador in 2009 as well was pretty real although it was – for a long time – tainted with a touch of scepticism. The first stages of the 2010 Tour that confirmed – in the Prologue already – the deficiencies of Andy Schleck when racing against the clock nevertheless allowed clarifying – to his advantage – Andy’s position as the sole credible rival for Alberto Contador.
In Morzine: 10 very hopeful seconds...
In the elimination race that took place in week 1 of the Tour, Andy Schleck could have vanished in the depths of the rankings in the slippery slopes of the Stockeu descent that made him fall with many other riders. But Cancellara’s lobbying at the end of the stage in Spa convinced the pack – and Contador himself – of the need to neutralize the race in order to allow the Schleck brothers to catch up and not prematurely lose their chances of racing for victory.
The youngest of the Schleck brothers owes part of his good performance on cobblestones to his Swiss lieutenant who could not do anything – unfortunately – for Andy’s older brother who fell on the Route d’Arenberg and had to withdraw with a broken shoulder blade. In the meantime, Contador went through most of the race’s difficulties without too much trouble, doing much better than Armstrong who started losing ground where he was supposed to make time and win. The first day in the Alps meant the end for the 7-time Tour de France winner from the US who fell before starting the climb of the Col de la Ramaz, putting him at a very serious disadvantage, making him lose enormous ground in the overall rankings and bringing an end to all his hopes for final victory. The stage in Morzine was also some kind of generational turnover with the first stage victory of Andy Schleck. The Luxemburgish rider managed – for the first time in his life and career – to put some significant distance between himself and Alberto Contador in a mountain stage; his very own 10 seconds of hope.
Torero, yes... but matador no more...
Evans wore the Yellow Jersey on the way to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, but the whole secrecy surrounding his broken left elbow were short lived. In the climb to the top of the Col de la Madeleine, only two riders remained on the radar screens: Andy and Alberto, who embarked upon a bumpy and polite duel. In Mende, Contador’s attack was too short to get him in the Yellow Jersey. On the road to Port de Balès, the attack of Schleck was suddenly stopped by a broken chain that made him lose ground on his opponent who was obviously racing for the Yellow Jersey. The climb of the Tourmalet, at the very end of the Pyrenean stages, showed both riders neck-a-neck with – still – a small advantage for Contador. Each passing day became – for him – a new huge step towards a third Tour victory.
But it was at the end of the Tour that Contador’s weaknesses became harder to hide. The Spaniard has lost his edge in the steepest climbs; a torero he may still be but the matador is gone. If Contador is a convincing and legitimate Tour de France winner in his own right, this year he was nevertheless unable to hit hard enough to kill all the hopes of his contender of the year. As he demonstrated in the Pauillac time-trial stage, he however compensated his lack of performance with the tremendous will-power of his experience. The head and the legs together: here is the perfect definition of a fully-fledged rider.
In the 2010 Tour de France, French riders showed their top skills by winning a total of six stages, even better than Mark Cavendish who added another 5 stage victories to his overall Tour de France track record.
Red, White and Blue Bouquets
Even if it is not part of the official ranking statistics, we can nevertheless establish a stage victory table as is the case in the Olympic Games. If we were to do so, France would be on top with six stage victories, a performance unseen since the 1997 edition of the Tour for the French. Moreover, this statistical rarity was also accompanied by pretty emotional moments like the two stage victories of Sylvain Chavanel, which also gave him the opportunity of wearing the Yellow Jersey... an honour even sweeter if we know that two months before, a very bad fall had deprived the French rider of almost all hopes of even taking part in the Tour de France. Then, it is in the mountain stages that the intuition and punch of the French was also rewarded: Sandy Casar in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Christophe Riblon in Ax-3-Domaines, Thomas Voeckler and his red-white-and-blue jersey in Luchon, and Pierrick Fédrigo in Pau.
Cavendish, the Sprint Machine
Just behind France in the number of stage victories per country is the UK with a total of five stage victories that are all the fruits of the arms and legs of one tough and prolific rider named Mark Cavendish. The sprinter of HTC-Columbia team started the Tour surrounded by an aura of doubt and a bad boy reputation. We had to wait for the Montargis stage to see him open-up the list of his many victories. “Cav” did it again in Gueugnon the next day, and then in Bourg-lès-Valence. The little setback of seeing his powerful scout Mark Renshaw expelled from the race did not even prevent him from winning in Bordeaux and then in Paris. He becomes the very first rider with a track record of 15 stage victories in only three Tour de France participations.
Petacchi in Green
This being said, Cavendish’s stage victory collection did not take him to the top of the points ranking. Hiding in ambush during week one, Cavendish started with a significant handicap over Alessandro Petacchi and Thor Hushovd, who kept sharing the Green Jersey during most of the Tour. A winner on the cobblestones of the North and more at ease in the mountain to gain the points that the other sprinters were unable to steal from him, the Norwegian was able to keep his hopes high of finishing in Paris with Green Jersey for the third time. But Petacchi – stronger and more explosive in the sprints – was able to slowly but surely catch up and reach – between Bordeaux and Paris – first place in the points classification, which had not seen any Italian victory since Franco Bitossi in 1968.
A Polka-Dot Jersey for Charteau
The collection of trophies continued for the French with Anthony Charteau winning the Polka-Dot Jersey. After spending a long time neck-a-neck with Jérôme Pineau, the Bouygues Télécom rider had to resist the assaults of Christophe Moreau, who would have easily pictured himself across France wearing the Polka-Dot Jersey for his very last Tour. At the end of the Tour, Charteau was the cherry on the cake of the French’s track record of the Tour, the very first Frenchman being 19th in the overall rankings (John Gadret). Moreover, if the French stage victories all went to riders of the 30-year-old generation, a closer look at the raking of the young riders also gives France good reasons to believe in its cycling future. Far behind Andy Schleck – who wins the White Jersey for the third time – and also far behind Robert Gesink and Roman Kreuziger, two more French riders rank 4th and 5th in the youth ranking, i.e. Julien El-Farès and Cyril Gautier.