2011 Tour de France Route Announced in Paris
The 2011 Tour de France route will perfectly suit climbers such as Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador although it remains unclear whether the three-time champion will be allowed to take part.
The 2011 Tour de France route - the route of cycling's greatest race - was unveiled in Paris earlier today, but Contador may not grace it as he remains provisionally suspended and awaiting further investigation after testing positive for clenbuterol during this year's race.
However, should the 2007, 2009 and 2010 champion take part next year the route could not be better suited for him.
There are four mountaintop finishes - two in the Pyrenees, two in the Alps - for 2011 with a prestigious mountain finale on the Alpe d'Huez two days before the Champs Elysees parade.
"We wanted a balanced route. We tried to keep the suspense for the Alps but also to have a big battle as early as the Pyrenees," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told a few selected reporters before the official unveiling ceremony.
The Tour will start on July 2 in Brittany, the heartland of French cycling and Prudhomme is hoping the opening week will be filled with action.
"That is why we have this finish at Mur de Bretagne," known as the Alpe d'Huez of Brittany.
The peloton will then head south through the Pyrenees, where the riders will tackle the testing Col du Tourmalet and also the Col d'Aubisque.
Organisers said they wanted to celebrate the centenary of the Alps in the Tour, with the punishing Col du Galibier section twice on the menu.
The loss of Contador though would be hugely disappointing for organisers.
The Spaniard has claimed that the banned anabolic agent found in his test came from contaminated meat and the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are investigating the case further before making a final decision.
Contador was not seen at Tuesday's ceremony at the Palais des Congres in Paris.
"Suspicion does not mean guilt. We are waiting for the conclusions of the UCI and WADA's investigation," said Prudhomme.
"We strongly hope that we won't have to wait too long."
Prudhomme said the Tour de France would not be harmed if Contador fails to take part.
"We still have 250 cities who applied to host a stage, 50 of them being foreign cities. Barcelona, Salzburg, Krakow were candidates," he said.
"Last week I was in Shanghai and I was amazed by the Chinese's knowledge of the Tour de France, by their passion for the race.
"The Tour is huge. It is broadcast in 137 countries. In France, it is viewed twice more than Roland Garros (French Open tennis Grand Slam), for example."
Prudhomme, who took over the running of the race in 2006, believes the fight against doping is bearing fruits. "Pierre Bordry, the former head of the French Anti-Doping Agency, said himself that he thought the vast majority of the peloton is clean," he said.
"Cycling is doing more than any other sport in the fight against doping. If EPO, CERA are being detected, it is because cycling is a pioneer in the fight against doping."
Commenting on the 2011 Tour de France route and more specifically on the 2011 Tour de France team time trial Team Sky captain Bradley Wiggins told Roadcycling.com "That stage is definitely the main source of excitement for us given our track background and experience we've built up in those types of events this season."
"It's going to be a really important day for us in terms of our team selection and preparation," Wiggins added and concluded "There's obviously more chance of losing time on that opening stage than there would be in a prologue, but if all goes well there then stage two represents a great chance for us to win the stage and get someone in the yellow jersey."
Commenting on the 2011 Tour de France route Tour de France veteran and Team BMC Racing rider George Hincapie told Roadcycling.com "All those flat stages to start things off are going to make make it more stressful than normal. It's always stressful at the start, and with so many guys with chances, that's going to be a hard way to start the race. I was surprised the team time trial is so short but I think it will be so high speed, the distance won't be such a factor."
Today's 2011 Tour de France route introduction ceremony began with a video tribute to former Tour champion Laurent Fignon, who died of cancer earlier this year, with the 4,000 spectators applauding after being shown highlights of the Frenchman's career.