Some contend that the route of the 2007 Tour de France is easier than usual and certainly easier than the 2006 Tour route.
Some contend that the route of the 2007 Tour de France is easier than usual and certainly easier than the 2006 Tour route. They note that the race lacks a team time trial and has fewer hard climbs than usual. The riders who tackle the 3,547-km course will almost certainly disagree. The 2007 route will feature six mountain stages with three mountaintop finishes, one medium mountain stage, and two individual time trials. The riders will breast 21 ascents that are Category 2 or harder, and they will ride 11 ?easy? flat stages. Anyone who thinks that the 2007 Tour will be easy will not ride it.
For the first time, the Tour will begin in England. The eight-km prologue will be flat and will take the riders through some of the most beautiful buildings in the British capital. Stage 1, a flat, 203-km run from Kent to Canterbury, should end in a bunch sprint. The Tour will cross the English Channel for Stage 2, a 167-km ride from Dunkirk to Gent. This stage and the four that follow it should end in bunch sprints. Stage 3, the longest of the race, will be a 236-km slog from Waregem to Compiegne, while Stage 4 will take the riders 190 km from Villers-Cotteret to Joigny. Stage 5 will be a 184-km run from Chablis to Autun, and Stage 6 will be a 200-km ride from Semur-en-Auxois to Bourg-en-Bresse.
Stage 7 will give the riders their first taste of the mountains. The 197-km ride will take the field over the Cote de Corlier, the Cote des Petits-Bois, and the Cote Peguin before breasting the 16-km-long Col de la Colombiere and plunging downhill to the finish. Stage 8 will be harder. This second Alpine stage will run over the Col du Marais, the Cote du Bouchet-Mont Charvin, the Col de Tamie, the Cormet de Roseland, the Montee de Hauteville, and Le Lac before ending in Tignes. This stage will decide who will not win the Tour. After it, the riders will enjoy a well-earned rest day.
After the Tour?s first rest day, the riders will face their last Alpine stage. The 161-km ride from Val d?Isere to Briancon will take the field over the Col de l?Iseran, the highest point in the 2007 Tour at 2,770 m; the Col du Telegraphe, and the Col du Galibier before plunging 39 km to the finish. Stage 10 will be a rolling, 229-km ride from Tallard to Marseille that might end with a solo or small-group escape. Stage 11, a 180-km ride along the Mediterranean from Marseille to Montpellier, will be affected by the winds off of the sea and might see the field split into groups. Stage 12, which will take the riders 179 km from Montpellier to Castres, could provide a rider with an attack opportunity, but it could also end in a bunch sprint. The Tour?s first long time trial, a rolling, 54-km affair in Albi, will take place in Stage 13.
In Stage 14, the Tour will enter the Pyrenees. The peloton will leave Mazamet and go over the Cote de Sarrail and the Cote de Pailheres before slugging it out on the Tour?s second mountaintop finish at Plateau-de-Beille. Stage 15, a 196-km slog from Foix to Loudenvielle, will see the riders over the Col de Port, the Col de Portet d?Aspet, the Col de Mente, the Port de Bales, and the Col de Peyresourde. The riders will have earned the rest day that follows this stage.
After the rest day, the 2007 Tour?s final mountain stage will take place. The riders will go 218 km from Orthez to Gourette, and they will breast four stiff climbs?the Col de Larraut, the Col de Pierre Saint-Martin, the Col de Marie-Blanque, and the Col d?Aubisque. The stage will be a final chance for the climbing contenders to seize control of the race or to improve their overall positions.
After leaving the Pyrenees, the field will contest two stages before the Tour?s final time trial. Stage 17, a flat, 188-km run from Pau to Castelsarrasin, will favor the sprinters, while Stage 18, a rolling, 210-km ride from Cahors to Angouleme, might be a stage in which an enterprising attacker or group of attackers will shine. Stage 19 will be the second of the Tour?s two long time trials. It will be 55-km long, and it will be a final chance to take the yellow jersey or move up in the overall. Stage 20, a 130-km run from Marcoussis to the Champs Elysees, will be the traditional procession for the winner.
What do those who are close to the race think of the 2007 Tour?s parcours? Bernard Hinault, the last French winner of the race, says, ??this is a balanced Tour. I?ve heard some say that it?s not that hard, but it?s the riders that make the race. The problem is that the riders use less and less the natural resources of the terrain and focus on strategic sectors of the race, which is a mistake.?
Eddy Merckx, who shares with Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, and Miguel Indurain the distinction of being a five-time winner of the Tour, agrees with Hinault. ?It looks [like] a pretty normal Tour,? says The Cannibal, ?not easy but not with too much climbing?.Although there is no Alpe d?Huez and Ventoux, the race still has tough summit finishes at the Plateau de Beille and on the Aubisque.?
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) disagrees. Says the Frenchman, ?The beginning of this Tour is less classic; there are a lot of stages where long breaks can succeed. And there are some tough mountain stages, with climbs that are not well known, which can create some surprises. As for the time trials, it will depend how fresh you are. The first one, just after the Alps, will happen when your legs are tired.?
Chavanel?s countryman Christophe Moreau (Ag2r) gets the last word. He says, ??this Tour has a good balance that should provide a wide open race, which won?t be blocked by the sprinters? or climbers? teams. And two time trials in 10 days, that?s a bit much, but the hard climbs in the Alps will balance them out. As for the start in England, that?s probably a nice promotion for cycling, but otherwise it?s nothing. The Tour is in France, and that?s all.?
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