The 2006 Tour de France will be the first Tour of the post-Armstrong era.
The 2006 Tour de France will be the first Tour of the post-Armstrong era. The king, however, will have a worthy successor. The team trial will not be in the race, but La Grande Boucle, which will be 3,600 km long, will have 116 km of individual time trialing. In addition, the riders will tackle five mountain stages with three mountaintop finishes, nine flat stages, and four medium mountain stages. The race will include 22 Category 1, 2, and hors categorie climbs. The new king will be no pretender.
The Tour will begin with a seven-km prologue in Strasbourg, which is on the Franco-German border, on July 7. Stage 2 will be a 183-km road race in and around Strasbourg before the Tour traverses Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium, and northern France. Given the terrain over which Stages 2 to 4 will be ridden, they will have the feel of classics, with Stage 2 going from Obernai to Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg; Stage 3 running from Esch-sur-Alzette to Valkenburg, the Netherlands; and Stage 4 starting in Huy, Belgium, crossing the French border, and ending in St-Quentin.Stage 5, which will run from Beauvais to Caen, will be the first true sprinters? stage. Stage 6, a 184-km run from Lisieux to Vitre, will be another sprinters? stage, and Stage 7 will be a flat, 52-km time trial from St-Gregoire to Rennes. Stage 8 will be a sprinters? run from St-Meen-le-Grand to Lorient. The day after Stage 8 will be the Tour?s first rest day, with the riders being transferred by air from Lorient to Bordeaux.
During the second week of the Tour, the riders will climb the Pyrenees, and they will approach the Alps. Stage 9 will be a flat, 170-km ride from Bordeaux to Dax that figures to be won by a sprinter. Stage 10, the first Pyrenean stage, will be a 193-km run from Cambo-les-Bains to Pau that will take the riders over the Cols d?Osquich, du Soulet, and de Marie Blanque. Stage 11, a 204-km slog from Tarbes to Val d?Aran/Pla-de-Beret in Spain, will go over the Cols du Tourmalet, d?Aspin, de Peyresourde, and du Pourtillon before ending with the race?s first mountaintop finish. Stage 12 will take place on Bastille Day, with a Frenchman attempting to win the 211-km ride from Luchon to Carcassonne. Stage 13 will be a flat, 231-km run from Beziers to Montelimar, and Stage 14 will extend 181 km from Montelimar to Gap. The second rest day will take place on Monday, July 17.
The riders will tackle the Tour?s first Alpine stage on Tuesday, July 18. On Stage 15, the field will start in Gap and will breast the Cols d?Izoard and de Lautaret before fighting for the day?s honors atop L?Alpe d?Huez. Stage 16 will take the riders from Bourg d?Oisans over the Cols du Galibier, du Telegraphe, du Glandon, de la Croix-de-Fer, and du Mollard to the finishing climb to La Toussuire. Stage 17, the 2006 Tour?s last mountain stage, will see the field over the Col des Saisies, des Aravis, de la Colombiere, the Cote de Chatillon and the Col de Joux-Plane. From the top of the Joux-Plane, the riders will plunge 12 km to the finish.
Stage 8 will be a 193-km run from Morzine to Macon, and Stage 19 will be a rolling, 56-km time trial from Le Creusot to Montceau-les-Mines. Stage 20, which will be a 152-km run from Antony (Parc de Sceaux) to Paris, will be a procession for the winner.
What do the riders and the team directors think of the first post-Armstrong Tour?s parcours? Ivan Basso (CSC), a man who could be king, says the following: ?Well, with the course for the 2006 Tour de France, it?s clear that I?ll have to improve in my time trailing and go faster on the climbs to win it.? Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), who finished seventh in 2005, declares, ?I could certainly do with a few more mountains in it! It seems to be relatively easy; of course, nothing at the Tour is easy, but as far as the mountains go, the 2006 Tour isn?t too demanding.? Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), who won an Alpine stage of last year?s Tour before abandoning, muses, ?Next year will be a very open Tour and very different from previous Tours when Armstrong was clearly the best.? Floyd Landis (Phonak), who finished ninth in 2005, says, ?I like the Tour route. It pleases me that I can show my time trialing skills twice, and I?m looking forward to the difficult last week in the Alps. I?m particularly looking forward to the 15th stage from Gap to L?Alpe d?Huez. This classic mountaintop finish is always a special experience.? Hans Michael Holczer, Gerolsteiner?s team manager, says the following: ?This is certainly not a Tour for pure climbers. With two long time trials, I think it is an advantage to a time trialist who comes well over the mountains.?
The consensus is that an all-rounder will win the 2006 Tour de France. Who will turn the trick? You?re your thoughts in our forums and stay with Roadcycling.com during the run-up to the 2006 Tour to learn about Tour contenders and to obtain other cycling news!