The Week That Was...
Last week, at a presentation in
, the ASO officially released the 2006 Tour de France route. The one major shake-up was the exclusion of the Team Time Trial stage, an event won for the past three years by the American US Postal/Discovery Channel squad. Paris
The Team Time Trial stage has proven to be the launching pad for Lance Armstrong?s victory against his closest rivals in recent years. Favouring the more complete ?super? teams, this stage would often see some of the specialist climbers in serious trouble after just a handful of days on the race.
While there were some surprises for those in attendance at the route announcement, it was without doubt the open criticism of former winner, Lance Armstrong, which caught out many. In a joint mission statement, Amaury Sport Organisations's deputy managing director Jean-Marie LeBlanc and director of cycling Christian Prudhomme, said, "On the 24th of July we turned the page on a long, very long chapter in the history of the Tour de France. And one month later, current events made it clear to us that it was just as well that this was so."
"Does this justify closing the entire book and erasing all the emotions that, for so many years, the Tour and its champions have provided us with??
"Taken as a whole, judged on its lifelong worth - like an artist or a poet - and in particular on its future productions, we want to believe that the Tour de France deserves a better fate. The dream that it embodies, the values that it is capable of generating mean that it has a duty to be able to hold its head up in pride."
It is quite remarkable how short a memory those within the ASO must have. While nobody likes doping allegations surrounding their events, a certain American has done more for that race in terms of taking it to a new level of worldwide public interest, which the ASO were never able to do on their own. Their immediate acceptance of the current allegations speaks volumes for the management within the Tour de France and ASO.
The stages for the 2006 Tour de France are:
Prologue - July 1: Strasbourg ITT, 7 km
Stage 1 - July 2: Strasbourg - Strasbourg, 183 km
Stage 2 - July 3: Obernai - Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg), 223 km
Stage 3 - July 4: Esch-sur-Alzette - Valkenburg (Netherlands), 216 km
Stage 4 - July 5: Huy (Belgium) - Saint-Quentin, 215 km
Stage 5 - July 6: Beauvais - Caen, 219 km
Stage 6 - July 7: Lisieux - Vitr?, 184 km
Stage 7 - July 8: Saint-Gr?goire - Rennes ITT, 52 km
Stage 8 - July 9: Saint-M?en-le-Grand - Lorient, 177 km
Rest Day - July 10: Bordeaux
Stage 9 - July 11: Bordeaux - Dax, 170 km
Stage 10 - July 12: Cambo-les-Bains - Pau, 193 km
Stage 11 - July 13: Tarbes - Val d'Aran/Pla-de-Beret (Spain), 208 km
Stage 12 - July 14: Luchon - Carcassonne, 211 km
Stage 13 - July 15: B?ziers - Mont?limar, 231 km
Stage 14 - July 16: Mont?limar - Gap, 181 km
Rest Day - July 17: Gap
Stage 15 - July 18: Gap - L'Alpe-d'Huez, 187 km
Stage 16 - July 19: Le Bourg-d'Oisans - La Toussuire, 182 km
Stage 17 - July 20: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Morzine, 199 km
Stage 18 - July 21: Morzine - M?con, 193 km
Stage 19 - July 22: Le Creusot - Montceau-les-Mines ITT, 56 km
Stage 20 - July 23: Antony (Parc de Sceaux) - Paris Champs-Elys?es, 152 km
Following his initial disappointment at the collapse of Giancarlo Ferretti?s proposed SonyEricsson team, Aussie Stuart O?Grady has found a new home with Bjarne Riis at Team CSC. The 32-year old will come in to boost the team?s Classics aspirations.
In a CSC press release, Riis commented that, "Stuart is a fantastic rider who is very all-round, and of course we consider him a big reinforcement. I think he'll be very useful in the classics, but also during other parts of the season due to his sprinting skills. At the same time, we're dealing with a rider who has a big personality and a lot of experience. I look forward to working with Stuart.?
"The deal has not taken long to close, but I've sensed an interest in our team from Stuart before. Now the opportunity was there and I'm very pleased to be able to sign with a rider of his calibre."
The difficulty for Riis will be how best to utilise the skills of Stuey come the Tour. It would be a waste of his abilities to see the roadman sprinter used as littler more than a water-carrier in support of Ivan Basso and his challenge for the Maillot Jaune.
Danish newspaper Politiken last week suggested that the Danish team were in fact considering letting leader Basso miss the Giro, a race that he successfully competed in earlier this year. He would instead focus solely on the Tour de France and over-all victory in
Speaking of the Giro, Riis commented to the newspaper that, "We don't necessarily have to show up with a rider that is aiming to win the GC. A lot of other teams show up with other targets and it's also likely we will do that. The American Vande Velde has said he would like to go for the GC. But in this case it won't be the podium we are talking about, but maybe top 10."
After ending the 2006 season as the most successful team on the US Domestic calendar, the Health Net Pro Cycling Team have announced an extended contract, guaranteeing them further two-seasons of backing, with an option for a third.
manufacturer Maxxis, will continue on as presenting sponsor. Tyre
"It's a big sign of commitment from a sponsor that's been good to cycling the last few years, and in particular, to the team's riders,? said Team leader, Mike Sayers.
Until next week,