Two legendary capitals, two exceptional cities, two rivals also, on occasions. Could we have dreamt of a finer association, after the bitter battle for the Olympic Games, than a Tour de France linking London to Paris, Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace to the Arc de Triomphe?
We followed the same route in the opposite direction - though much more direct - two years ago, on the occasion of the amateur cycling event organised to celebrate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale. The idea of a start from London was already making headway then. As soon as the English capital’s application was announced we experienced in fact immense pride, charmed by the force and the fervour of such a symbolic capital asserting with humility its desire to host the Tour de France.
When I arrived at Amaury Sport Organisation, I came across traces of a letter relating the outlines of a preliminary project on the banks of the river Thames. This was at the beginning of the 1980s but the venture was left in limbo. The project is today reality: all thanks to Ken Livingstone and Jean-Marie Leblanc. On the 7th of July 2007, the Tour will be launched from London for a Start which will be a landmark event: the influence and the prestige of the British capital along with the enthusiasm and the commitment of our English hosts already makes this a certainty.
After England, we will move to Belgium, where passion for cycling is still as strong and public success is guaranteed. The 94th edition of the event will advance in a clockwise direction. We will plunge towards the Alps via Picardie, the Yonne, the Bourgogne, the Ain. In this way, the riders will attack the mountains from the very first weekend. The Tour will discover Tignes and will return to the Iseran pass, removed from the competition route due to snow and wind - at the very last minute! - in 1996. Marseille, Montpellier and the Tarn will then punctuate our approach to the Pyrenees, with a long time-trial in Albi, exactly two weeks after the opening prologue.
The difficulties will rapidly multiply in the Pyrenees to maintain the suspense. The crossing of the massif will be impressive and tough. The champions will face the steep slopes of the passes of the Ariège, the Hautes-Pyrénées and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, including the superb Plateau de Beille, the never before climbed Port de Balès and the fearsome Port de Larrau.
The trilogy of the Pyrenees will terminate in a flourish with a finish at the summit of the Aubisque, overlooking the ski resort of Gourette - a striking confirmation of our determination to always advance where sport guides us. The time trial in Angoulême will then separate the favourites before the finish in Paris.
In 2007 the Tour de France will be long awaited, closely watched, observed. The events of the summer have left their mark. Indeed, not all of them have been resolved. But if the spirit present in Strasbourg at the end of June is indeed the expression of a staunch and shared commitment to fight against doping, then not only do we have nothing to fear in the future, but everything to hope for.
Director of Tour de France