A 2012 Tour de France Sneak Peek
The A.S.O. accidentally released the route for the 2012 Tour de France and Roadcycling.com weighs in on the details.
Posting stuff to the Internet is a tricky thing. One wrong tap of the "enter" button and you might accidentally upload photos to Facebook from a bachelor party or in the case of the A.S.O., the route to the 2012 Tour de France. Merde!
The webmaster did remove the article, but not before Dutch journalist Sander Slanger posted the link on his Twitter account, which was then picked up and reposted by numerous cycling sites like velopeloton.com. And like a virus the route has now been spread throughout the web. Naturally the ASO hasn't confirmed the authenticity of the leaked route, but I think it's safe to assume that this is the legitimate loop.
After taking a look at the leaked course and checking out the terrain (thanks Google Earth) the skinny climber-types may have to spend time in the wind tunnel this off-season to perfect their time trial positions. But before the skinsuits and aero-wheels are deployed, the beginning of 2012 route looks fairly standard. Other than the prologue to sort out the general classification, we have a week of stages for the sprinters so look for Sky's Mark Cavendish racking up Green Jersey points before the road tilts upward on stage 7.
The finishing town for stage 7 is the ski resort of La Planche des Belles Filles and the race's first summit finish. The area boasts a 5.5 kilometer climb of 9.5% with steeper sections at 14%. According to the Wikipedia entry for La Planche des Belles Filles, the last kilometer is a 7% gradient - this will be the first sign of who is riding well. The next day the Tour de France peloton enters the French speaking part of Switzerland, so it's not too hard to imagine that this is another hilly day. Stage 9 is the next tester of the Grande Boucle.
Including the prologue there are 96 kilometers of racing against the clock. The first real time trial is stage 9, Arc-et-Senans to Besançon - a 38 kilometer route that will tackle the undulating terrain of the area. At first look I'm liking Tony Martin for the stage win and slipping on the Yellow Jersey. Sure there's consistent time trial favorite Fabian Cancellara, but I suspect we'll hear more later about the on-going take over of RadioShack and how it ruined the squad's morale. Pro cyclists are as skittish as thoroughbred horses. I can already hear the reports of how the off-season was a management disaster for the RadioShack-Nissan squad and how the riders never came together as one group. If Alberto Contador isn't sitting on the sidelines for two years I also think he's a strong contender as well. My gut feeling is the Spaniard is going to be in France. I'm also convinced that the UCI wants this ongoing controversy to go away and a suspension with the blow back being Contador's previous results are nullified is not the type of publicity the sport needs now.
After the time trial of stage 7 there's a much needed rest day followed by the customary "transitional" stage that takes the peloton to the home of the 1992 Winter Olympics, Albertville. From there they ride to La Toussuire - the next mountain top finish. In fact the town has entered into a sponsorship with AG2R, so look for that French team to be gunning for the stage win like it was Bastille Day. This pretty much wraps up the Alps for the 2012 Tour de France.
Speaking of Bastille Day, this national French holiday falls during a sprinter's stage - Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Le Cap d'Agde. This seaside tourist town will be packed with fans rooting for a French rider (AKA Thomas Voeckler) who will launch a doomed attack, ultimately chased down with five kilometers to go followed by a Cavendish stage win. After his victory Cav exits stage left for England and prepares for the London Olympics.
Up next are the Pyrenees and the next summit finish. Stage 17 finishes in Peyragudes which is a ski resort, so you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to know this is another summit finish. The blog Inrng did a comparison of the 2011 Tour versus the 2012 route and noted that there were 25 Hors Category, Category 1 and Category 2 climbs in the leaked route in comparison to the 23 in the 2011 edition, but less total climbing.
Finally the penultimate stage is 52 kilometer effort. I'm a fan of this type of stage near the conclusion of a tour as it can be a cliffhanger if the general classification is tight. Vuelta a Espana organizers take note! Let's not have another snoozer like we did this year.
So with the 2012 Tour de France just a mere nine months away the favorite is someone who is a time trial expert and capable climber - no big surprise there. My immediate favorite is Contador who has proven he can race against the clock and ascend with the best in both disciplines. Of course defending champion Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing) makes my short list and he has the team to back him up. Initially I wrote that Bradley Wiggins could be on the top step in Paris, but you know what, I just don't think he'll do it. I feel like he's going to lose time in the final week. However his teammate Chris Froome I like as an outside chance. Another outside chance for a podium is Chris Horner. If he can get back into the form he looked to have in 2011, the 40 year old could be a spoiler in the mountains. Next week the ASO will make this route official and put all this speculation to rest.