© Presse Sports
The end of October marks the beginning of a new sequence with the official announcement of the route of the next edition of the Tour de France.
On Tuesday 19 October precisely, more than 4 000 persons and 500 medias from all over the world will descend on the Palais des Congrès in Paris to discover the detail of the stages of the 2011 Tour, which will take place from 2 to 24 July that year along the roads of France and …
For the moment the certainties concern the programme for the very first days of the race, with a Great Start organized in the Vendée and the final stage that has every chance of being judged on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris. Between the two speculation is rife as to the route through the Alps and the Pyrenees, the way through the intermediate uplands of the country, the format of the key stages of the Tour to come, etc.
At the same time as the spectators at the Palais des Congrès, the impatient impassioned and the curious can follow the presentation ceremony live and on video from 11.30 am on the official website. This summer more than ten million single visitors logged on each day on letour.fr to live the race while hundreds of thousands of bicycle fans kept in touch with their mobile phones. They have a new rendez-vous to find out all the staging towns, the mileages and the sporting innovations of the 98th edition.
© ERAI / Denis Dessus
© ERAI / Denis Dessus
While Expo 2010 Shanghai was busy welcoming its 60 million visitors, the Rhône-Alpes pavilion started its two weeks dedicated to the theme “Sport and Mountain”. The old ties between the region and cycling inspired the people behind the pavilion to call Jean-Etienne Amaury, Christian Prudhomme and Bernard Hinault for a presentation of the Tour de France to the media and to the Chinese public, 8 October last.
Bernard Hinault went to China more than twenty years ago, invited to follow the Tour of Beijing, since disappeared but replaced by a series of races that attest to the progress of the discipline throughout the country (the Tour of Hainan, Tour of Taihu and Tour of Qinghai Lake are all part of the Asia Tour). “Until recently, the Chinese thought that the bicycle was nothing more than a going-to-work tool. But now they have rounded a corner: there is a real interest in competition cycling, the practice is catching on and their champions are sure to come on in leaps and bounds”, said Hinault on his return from Shanghai. The considered opinion of the five-times winner of the Tour thus seconds the view of Christian Prudhomme, long questioned by journalists regarding the various problems of organization of the race: “First I was struck by the appetite of these people, who asked me why the Tour was not given more air time, although CCTV 5 broadcasts live and gives round-ups of all the stages. More than anything else, most of the questions concerned the environmental aspect, since they were touched by the beauty of the French landscapes. And if you think that they still have some way to go on these issues, I rather have the impression that they could very soon catch up with us and even overtake us. Because they too are beginning to rethink the role of the bicycle in society, especially in the city centres.” After a conference for sports students from Shanghai Sports University, an appointment was taken with Chinese cycling, this time on the roads of France. The President of the Chinese Cycling Association, Mr. Jiadong Cai, was invited to follow a stage of the 2011 Tour de France. “I also expect to see, say in the medium term, a Chinese team in the race”, predicts Christian Prudhomme.
This morning the organisers of the Tour de France were informed of the statement issued by the International Cycling Union (UCI), which confirmed that “the Spanish rider Alberto Contador returned an adverse analytical finding following the analysis of a urine sample″.
The UCI indicated that this case required “further scientific investigation” with the scientific support of the World Anti-Doping Agency, “before any conclusion could be drawn”.
Thus the Management of the Tour de France will await the results of this further analysis and the final decision of the UCI.
"The Intellectual" heading towards victory on the Alpe d’Huez in 1984.© Presse Sports
Laurent was also the “Magnificent loser” of the 1989 edition.© Presse Sports
After two years of a tough and humble fight against illness, Laurent Fignon has died at the age of 50 from cancer of the digestive tract. The two times winner of the Tour de France, who followed the last five editions as a consultant for France Télévisions, exits the stage leaving the memory of a demanding and uncompromising observer of cycling. This temperament is also what made him one of the great champions of French sport.
On his arrival in the professional ranks, Fignon already stood out due to his style and past. A Parisian, he was also one of the rare holders of the ‘baccalaureate’ in the pack. What’s more the round glasses he wore quickly earned him the reputation and nickname of ‘the intellectual’. Comments about his long blond hair did not stop him from carving out a place for himself in the Renault team alongside Bernard Hinault, the leading rider at the time. An efficient team-mate, he soon became a rival as well. When Hinault had to forfeit Le Tour in 1983, this also meant that the ambitious would have a say in matters. Fignon took his chance and triumphed on his first participation in the Big Loop, benefitting from the withdrawal of Pascal Simon as well. The following year, he readily took on his status of title holder, showing even greater brashness in his fight with “the Badger” (Hinault’s nickname). After the climb up to Alpe d’Huez, on which the dual was won by the younger of the two, to crown it all, the French champion even declared during an interview, “Hinault really made me laugh when he attacked at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez!”
Dominant in the mountains and time-trials, now bearing the nickname Laurent le Magnificent, Fignon appeared to be heading for the top. His victory in 1984 was, however, his last on the Tour de France. At the end of the Hinault era, he went on to do battle over several episodes with Greg LeMond. The dual on Le Tour in 1989 is still one of the most striking of his career. He lost out on victory on the very last day, on the Champs-Elysées, at the end of a time-trial that he rode with an injury between Versailles and Paris. On the finishing line, he was lacking eight seconds to retain the Yellow Jersey, which went to LeMond. On the podium he wore a visibly and resolutely grim expression: the sincerity of his feelings was also his trade mark.
In 1993, he retired with a prestigious roll of honour to his name, including in particular a Tour of Italy triumph, a victory in the Flèche Wallonne and two Milan-San Remo wins. His commitment to professional cycling continued as he took over the organising of Paris-Nice, which he then sold to A.S.O. in 2002, and the creation of Paris-Corrèze in 2001. In tandem, his free, forthright and sometimes brutal views made him a much sought after pundit by radio stations and television channels. Weakened by the illness that he made public in 2009, Laurent Fignon made a point of following the last two editions of the Le Tour for France Télévisions. In his last public remarks, the former champion looked ahead to his passing away with courage and lucidity: “I’m not scared of dying. If it was to all end soon, I wouldn’t have any regrets. I’ve had a very good life”. Moved by the death of a loyal and unflinching fan of cycling, all those associated with the Tour de France would like to express their commiserations to the family and friends of Laurent Fignon.
Alberto Contador© A.S.O.
For his third Tour de France victory – at the very young age of 27 – Alberto Contador has undergone three weeks of tough confrontation during which he never really reached his 2009 performance level. Andy Schleck who already finished 2nd last year finished the 2010 edition of the Tour 39” behind Contador after having worn the Yellow Jersey for six days and after winning his two first stages. This duel is not just boiling under the surface; it is the real McCoy.
The promising performance of Andy Schleck – who was twice Best Young Rider in the Tour and who finished second behind Contador in 2009 as well was pretty real although it was – for a long time – tainted with a touch of scepticism. The first stages of the 2010 Tour that confirmed – in the Prologue already – the deficiencies of Andy Schleck when racing against the clock nevertheless allowed clarifying – to his advantage – Andy’s position as the sole credible rival for Alberto Contador.
In Morzine: 10 very hopeful seconds...
In the elimination race that took place in week 1 of the Tour, Andy Schleck could have vanished in the depths of the rankings in the slippery slopes of the Stockeu descent that made him fall with many other riders. But Cancellara’s lobbying at the end of the stage in Spa convinced the pack – and Contador himself – of the need to neutralize the race in order to allow the Schleck brothers to catch up and not prematurely lose their chances of racing for victory.
The youngest of the Schleck brothers owes part of his good performance on cobblestones to his Swiss lieutenant who could not do anything – unfortunately – for Andy’s older brother who fell on the Route d’Arenberg and had to withdraw with a broken shoulder blade. In the meantime, Contador went through most of the race’s difficulties without too much trouble, doing much better than Armstrong who started losing ground where he was supposed to make time and win. The first day in the Alps meant the end for the 7-time Tour de France winner from the US who fell before starting the climb of the Col de la Ramaz, putting him at a very serious disadvantage, making him lose enormous ground in the overall rankings and bringing an end to all his hopes for final victory. The stage in Morzine was also some kind of generational turnover with the first stage victory of Andy Schleck. The Luxemburgish rider managed – for the first time in his life and career – to put some significant distance between himself and Alberto Contador in a mountain stage; his very own 10 seconds of hope.
Torero, yes... but matador no more...
Evans wore the Yellow Jersey on the way to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, but the whole secrecy surrounding his broken left elbow were short lived. In the climb to the top of the Col de la Madeleine, only two riders remained on the radar screens: Andy and Alberto, who embarked upon a bumpy and polite duel. In Mende, Contador’s attack was too short to get him in the Yellow Jersey. On the road to Port de Balès, the attack of Schleck was suddenly stopped by a broken chain that made him lose ground on his opponent who was obviously racing for the Yellow Jersey. The climb of the Tourmalet, at the very end of the Pyrenean stages, showed both riders neck-a-neck with – still – a small advantage for Contador. Each passing day became – for him – a new huge step towards a third Tour victory.
But it was at the end of the Tour that Contador’s weaknesses became harder to hide. The Spaniard has lost his edge in the steepest climbs; a torero he may still be but the matador is gone. If Contador is a convincing and legitimate Tour de France winner in his own right, this year he was nevertheless unable to hit hard enough to kill all the hopes of his contender of the year. As he demonstrated in the Pauillac time-trial stage, he however compensated his lack of performance with the tremendous will-power of his experience. The head and the legs together: here is the perfect definition of a fully-fledged rider.
Mark Cavendish© A.S.O.
In the 2010 Tour de France, French riders showed their top skills by winning a total of six stages, even better than Mark Cavendish who added another 5 stage victories to his overall Tour de France track record.
Red, White and Blue Bouquets
Even if it is not part of the official ranking statistics, we can nevertheless establish a stage victory table as is the case in the Olympic Games. If we were to do so, France would be on top with six stage victories, a performance unseen since the 1997 edition of the Tour for the French. Moreover, this statistical rarity was also accompanied by pretty emotional moments like the two stage victories of Sylvain Chavanel, which also gave him the opportunity of wearing the Yellow Jersey... an honour even sweeter if we know that two months before, a very bad fall had deprived the French rider of almost all hopes of even taking part in the Tour de France. Then, it is in the mountain stages that the intuition and punch of the French was also rewarded: Sandy Casar in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Christophe Riblon in Ax-3-Domaines, Thomas Voeckler and his red-white-and-blue jersey in Luchon, and Pierrick Fédrigo in Pau.
Cavendish, the Sprint Machine
Just behind France in the number of stage victories per country is the UK with a total of five stage victories that are all the fruits of the arms and legs of one tough and prolific rider named Mark Cavendish. The sprinter of HTC-Columbia team started the Tour surrounded by an aura of doubt and a bad boy reputation. We had to wait for the Montargis stage to see him open-up the list of his many victories. “Cav” did it again in Gueugnon the next day, and then in Bourg-lès-Valence. The little setback of seeing his powerful scout Mark Renshaw expelled from the race did not even prevent him from winning in Bordeaux and then in Paris. He becomes the very first rider with a track record of 15 stage victories in only three Tour de France participations.
Petacchi in Green
This being said, Cavendish’s stage victory collection did not take him to the top of the points ranking. Hiding in ambush during week one, Cavendish started with a significant handicap over Alessandro Petacchi and Thor Hushovd, who kept sharing the Green Jersey during most of the Tour. A winner on the cobblestones of the North and more at ease in the mountain to gain the points that the other sprinters were unable to steal from him, the Norwegian was able to keep his hopes high of finishing in Paris with Green Jersey for the third time. But Petacchi – stronger and more explosive in the sprints – was able to slowly but surely catch up and reach – between Bordeaux and Paris – first place in the points classification, which had not seen any Italian victory since Franco Bitossi in 1968.
A Polka-Dot Jersey for Charteau
The collection of trophies continued for the French with Anthony Charteau winning the Polka-Dot Jersey. After spending a long time neck-a-neck with Jérôme Pineau, the Bouygues Télécom rider had to resist the assaults of Christophe Moreau, who would have easily pictured himself across France wearing the Polka-Dot Jersey for his very last Tour. At the end of the Tour, Charteau was the cherry on the cake of the French’s track record of the Tour, the very first Frenchman being 19th in the overall rankings (John Gadret). Moreover, if the French stage victories all went to riders of the 30-year-old generation, a closer look at the raking of the young riders also gives France good reasons to believe in its cycling future. Far behind Andy Schleck – who wins the White Jersey for the third time – and also far behind Robert Gesink and Roman Kreuziger, two more French riders rank 4th and 5th in the youth ranking, i.e. Julien El-Farès and Cyril Gautier.
© Presse Sports
The Basque team Euskaltel Euskadi is aiming for the podium and a stage victory for its tenth consecutive participation on Le Tour. For this anniversary, the orange jersey bedecked riders have their sights firmly set on the Pyrenees.“Le Tour has given us everything...” Miguel Madariaga, Chairman of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team and foundation does not hold back on just how important the Tour de France is for his squad. The Basque team has been building on its efforts for a decade on the Tour. Always well-placed rather than winning, the Basque squad caught everyone’s imagination during its first participation with the victory of Roberto Laiseka on the 14th stage of Le Tour 2001. The stage was won in Luz-Ardiden in the middle of an orange tide of supporters and was followed in 2003, by the triumph of Iban Mayo, at the end of the 8th stage leading to Alpes-d’Huez. Since then, stage victories have been slightly but constantly out of the Basque team’s grasp. Four second placed finishes (Landaluze, on the 7th stage in 2007; Martínez on the 15th and S. Sánchez on the 17th in 2007; Txurruka on the 13th in 2009) have heightened their regrets but displayed the battling nature of a team that never gives up. For the 100th anniversary of Le Tour’s first visit to the Pyrenees, the Euskaltel-Euskadi riders intend to give their followers something to smile about. “We have created a new anthem for the team and have been asked for 30,000 orange t-shirts”, underlines Madariaga, who is not hiding the team’s ambitions: “A place on the podium would be good, or at least very close to it, as well as a stage victory. But we also want to fight for victory in the best climber and team classifications”.
© Presse Sports
The 2010 Tour de France is the third for the US-registered Garmin-Transitions team. In the two previous attempts, the squad managed by Jonathan Vaughters has earned fourth place in the general classification (for Christian Vande Velde in 2008, and Bradley Wiggins in 2009). Although this is reason to be pleased, Vaughters admits that he would like more from this year’s edition.“Winning a stage is a big objective for us,” he said. “We’ve been close plenty of times and with the two new riders this year, it could make all the difference.” Wiggins is now gone and Vande Velde returning from injury and, as he himself acknowledges “riding back into form in the opening days” so the key man for the job is the sprint specialist Tyler Farrar.
The idea box is wide open to find ways of reducing the environmental impact of the race. Within the Tour's teams, everyone is focusing on each area, while trying to act in an organised way: waste sorting, savings in paper, fuel, packaging, etc. And not forgetting the habit which must be banished: discarding water bottles!
Although the bicycle was invented by a genius a long time ago, it has come into its own today within the general context of the concern for the environment. The cleanest method of transport which has ever been created will be much to the fore during the three weeks of the Tour de France. But the event as a whole is also keen to prove that it is equal to the message conveyed by the bicycle. The Tour is involved in a responsible approach and has chosen to clean up its own back yard to improve the management of its environmental impact.
Historically, it was initially the evaluation of environmental risks linked to the presence of the public which made the organisers react. At the turn of the year 2000, the Tour began to study the question of the handling of waste produced by the spectators. The first meeting with the Midi-Pyrénées Regional Agency for the Environment, which then helped all of the employees to make the best choices, can now be considered as the basis of this project. Very quickly, this involvement on the Pyrenean part of the route led to a rapprochement with Eco-Emballages (a company which organises, manages and assists in the recycling of household packaging). As part of a partnership which began in 2007, a major waste sorting and collection operation has been set up in the stopover towns. This year, it has been completed by an agreement that has been signed by another company which specializes in recycling and waste handling, which will be involved in several stages on the route.
A great number of solutions have been considered
At the same time, the questioning of operations, at every level, led the Tour’s teams to reduce the number and the quantity of paper documents published. Thus, after changing to digital versions of the tourist and historic guide for example, the amount of paper which was used decreased by 20%. At the same time, it was decided that the quality of paper used for all the other documents would have to meet the requirements of the Imprim’vert classification.
Then the process of reflection was continued and focused on work methods. To prepare the 2010 edition, a great number of solutions have been considered, for example starting with fuel consumption, both during the race and on the sidelines of the event. The idea of using the high speed train rather than the plane for the "guest" programmes was chosen; a training course was provided for a hundred or so drivers in the race convoy to teach them to drive in an eco-responsible way; a complete review of the needs of the organisation teams succeeded in decreasing the number of vehicles by 5%; the systematic search for carpool or alternative transport solutions for spectators was also successful (a shuttle system in Arenberg and Spa, cable cars in Ax-3 Domaines, chairlifts at the Tourmalet Pass, etc.) With regard to other projects, solutions were rapidly developed: this was the case for the standard of 160g of CO2 / km that the Tour has introduced and already recommends for all the accredited vehicles, or by implementing stricter rules for the packaging of products distributed by the advertising caravan.
The discarding of water bottles: a gesture which has a disastrous impact
The continuous discussions carried out with the sponsors about these problems confirm that a community of values exists within the universe of the Tour. The official haulier, Norbert Dentressangle, is directly concerned by this and has the most economic and modern fleet in Europe: all of the lorries that provide the transport service on the Tour de France meet the Euro 5 standard, that is to say the strictest one in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. For its part, Kleber has evaluated that the level of CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.2 million tons, if the pressure of the tyres of all the vehicles on the French roads was correctly maintained. It will be organising a daily workshop about tyre inflation in the advertising caravan’s car park.
Lastly, although the Tour is aiming to act in a concrete way, the biggest race in the world must also take a stand on symbolic issues. The image of the cyclist conveys the values of aestheticism, mental and physical strength and courage. It is immediately tarnished when, due to negligence or disinterest, the champion in question discards in natural surroundings, his plastic water bottle which he could have kept, or given back to the vehicle of his team. This gesture has a disastrous impact. The Tour de France has already condemned this behaviour and the sports rules and the contract which link ASO to the teams already contain clauses to that effect. Moreover, in conjunction with the UCI (International Cycling Union), it is considering all of the solutions to avoid and to punish this. Because in the peloton like elsewhere, nobody must be indifferent to the harm done to nature.
Thor Hushovd, Green Jersey in 2009, does not go out reconnoitering© Presse Sports
Alberto Contador takes his nearest with him on the ascent to the Tourmalet pass© Presse Sports
Between late April and early July the biggest champions of the Tour de France reconnoitre the parts of the course thought to be the most strategic. For many of them, it’s the time of the Renaissance, … Quite an art!
Ivan Basso took only one day of actual rest between his victory in the Giro d’Italia, on 30th May, and the start of the Tour de France in Rotterdam, on 3rd July. “Despite the voices telling me to enjoy my victory in the Giro and not to ride the Tour, it’s the only thing I can think of”, says the Italian in answer to, among others, former champion Felice Gimondi, who advised him publicly not to run in July. “To become totally a rider again, I must go back to the Tour and give back to the Tour what it has given me, that is, everything, since it’s racing that made me a champion”, he says.
Monday 7th June, midday, after he presented two of his pink jerseys to ministers of his country, a car awaited him in Milan for a day and a half of work in the Alps, with his team-mate Roman Kreuziger, his coach Alberto Volpi and a masseur. “I know these places”, he said, that is, the climb Morzine/Avoriaz and the mountain passes in the next stage (Colombière, Aravis, Les Saisies and la Madeleine), “but I needed the mental exercise that is breathing the air of the Tour de France”.
In fact, four years ago, Basso only raced half of the Critérium du Dauphiné on French soil last year. For Lance Armstrong, who, in late June visited the sites of the Alpine and then Pyrenean stages of the Tour 2010 immediately after his second place in the Tour of Switzerland, it is also a way to “revisit familiar places”.
Armstrong did not invent the pre-Tour reconnaissance, but he has made it popular, with his titanic concatenations of climbs on the Alpe d’Huez, among others. Alberto Contador has also adopted this method. While Basso only takes with him the co-leader of his team Liquigas, the outgoing winner of the Tour keeps in his presence, by his side, his trusty Spanish (Noval, Navarro, Hernandez, …) and Italian companions (Tiralongo) during his preparation in the Pyrenees in late May. Besides a bit of legwork, the acquisition of a pedal-stroke specific to the mountain, the benefits of altitude, the intensity of training in this unforgiving terrain, appreciation of the difficulties of each mountain pass and memorizing the dangers of each descent, “it is perhaps even more important to know the climbs”, says the Spaniard; for him, reconnaissance of the key stages is a collective getting in condition.
However, his right-hand man, Alexander Vinokourov, missed the call with the excuse, valid in all regards, of his commitment at the same time to the Giro d’Italia. But in this race, where he sees more or less final victory, the Kazakh has not checked out the details. “That’s not his thing”, says Astana manager Yvon Sanquer. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s legs and form on the day that count!”, says Vinokourov, who hit the strongest percentages on Italian passages that he took without seeing that they were a bit too stiff for him.
Teams sometimes choose to reconnoitre stages of intermediate difficulty, such as those in the Vosges, seen as training camp by the Française des Jeux last year. This year and right up to the last minute before going to Rotterdam for the Great Start, the protagonists of the Tour rode 13.2 kilometres of the third and final stage. Contador is supported by the expertise of a former winner of the Paris-Roubaix, Peter van Petegem, to learn to ride these roads, on 27th April last, two days after the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “He advised me about what equipment to use, and I learnt a lot in two days”, says the Spaniard, who does not dramatize this stage feared by so many racers. Fear, he says, stops you from achieving.
The sprinters, however, do not have this luxury. The sprinters, in the Sky team for instance, study their adversaries and ends of stages on videos, as in group sports, they dissect tactics and positioning on the ground, reconnaissance is not part of their pre-Tour programme. “Too many roundabouts, pavements and road junction islands can be changed between the time you could study the course in detail and the day of the stage”, explains Thor Hushovd, twice Green Jersey of the Tour de France. The event, because of its size, effectively requires slicing through built-up urban space. Prior study of the courses is truly for time-trial stages. For the rest, as Basso says, reconnaissance is all about “mental exercise”.
McEwen in Montargis, 2005© Presse Sports
Absent of the last Tour de France due to an injury, Robbie McEwen is back on the three-week event at 38 years of age. The prolific Australian sprinter (13 stage victories on the Tour) will be on known terrain on the 2010 course. He has indeed won in four cities that will host stage finishes this year.
Can one say that this Tour is going to be your home Tour?
Well kind of. There's a stage finish in Brussels, a city where I've one 4 Paris-Brussels races. And then there are Reims, Montargis, Pau and Paris where I’ve won on the Tour. Stages that I remember like the back of my hand... I've actually looked at footage of my victories to remember the finishes. That could prove to be an advantage.
Is there one stage that you're keen on winning?
Well stage 1 is on my mind but it'll depend on the wind going through Zeeland in the Netherlands. But I'm very motivated to sprint for victory in Brussels. It's only 60kilometres away from my home so my family will be there and certainly quite a few supporters. My parents are also coming from Australia. But it's nice to win anywhere on the Tour.
How did you prepare for this Tour?
I planned my season around the Tour. I had a decent start to the season at the Tour Down Under. After my accident last year, I knew that I needed a year to be competitive again, to be in good condition. I've had my ups and downs but now I feel strong.
What are your objectives for this Tour?
It's going to be my 12th Tour. I've finished ten out of them. My aim is to win a stage. If I manage to do so I'll see, but the goal is to win one. I won't to add to my tally of wins... After the first week, I'll see how things go to start considering fighting for the green jersey. I feel I've still got the power. Otherwise I would'nt go for it. I'll be trying to use some of my team mates but unlike teams like HTC-Columbia, Garmin or Quick Step, we don't have a train in the Katusha squad. We have more riders for climbs and breakaways...
Will it by your last Tour?
I plan to ride another season so obviously I hope to do another Tour but you never know what can happen and if I'm selected. So for the moment, nothing is concrete.
© Bas Czerwinski
For several weeks now, the city of Rotterdam has been dressed in the colours of the Tour de France.
Urban developments have been dedicated to cycling, and quotations by French or Dutch riders have been displayed in large lettering on the buildings of the business district or the docks of Europe’s biggest port.
As from Wednesday, the followers of Le Tour will arrive in the city, just like the teams of riders who will make up the pack for the 97th edition of the Tour de France. After a series of press conferences at the Ahoy concert and exhibition centre, there will be a prestigious meeting at the Erasmus Bridge on Thursday, between 6 pm and 7.30 pm, for the presentation of the teams.
Jean-Paul Rey, Marc Lebreton© Pierre Dufour
Two cyclists have relived the Luchon-Bayonne stage, just like one hundred years ago, to pay tribute to the riders who, on 21st July 1910, were flung into the “killer stage” by the organisers of the Tour de France.
Once he had completed the last page of his manuscript for “L’étape assassine, Luchon-Bayonne 1910” (The Killer Stage, Luchon-Bayonne 1910, a work totalling 207 pages, with many often new illustrations, priced 18 euros and published by Editions Cairn), the writer and journalist from Tarbes Jean-Paul Rey had the idea and desire to “relive what the champions of another era experienced”. In Marc Lebreton, a collector and restorer or classic bicycles, he found an attentive ear and legs ready to accompany him on this odyssey.
That is how, on Saturday 12th June 2010, the two friends found themselves setting out from Luchon, at 3.30 in the morning, at the same time and same place. They started by climbing up the Col de Peyresourde pass in the black of night, only lit from time to time by the “Films de la Castagne” film crew from Toulouse, who were shooting a documentary to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Tour de France’s first visit to the Pyrenees. They then tackled the descent on their bicycles from another epoch, despite their antique brakes: single pad brake at the front and calliper brakes in cork at the rear.
At the foot of the descent, Jean-Paul Rey had the unpleasant surprise of snapping his saddle bar. He reached Arreau without a saddle, climbed the Col d’Aspin pass before descending, still unable to rest his behind. The most astonishing part of the episode was that the repairs he made, in front of a curious and bemused crowd, took place in Sainte-Marie de Campan, the same place where, in 1913, Eugène Christophe sanded down the fork he broke during the descent of the Tourmalet pass!
The climb up the Tourmalet pass was obviously on of the high points of this adventure. Marc Lebreton, a much more experienced cyclist than Jean-Paul Rey, sped off in his beautiful wine red Automoto team jersey, on a bicycle from the same brand, weighing 12.100 kilos and with a single 478 x 24 gear! His companion took it more slowly, weighed down by 20 additional years of age and 900 extra grams, because his Martel weighed 13 kilos, with, for the gears, a 44 at the front and rear, a 24 for climbs and a 20 for the rest, after having turned the wheel.
On leaving Pierrefitte-Nestalas, first of all they came across World Champion Cadel Evans, on a reconnoitring mission of the Tourmalet. Then they came face to face with former champions Jean Bobet (author of the foreword to “The Killer Stage”) and André Darrigade, who had come specially to encourage them on the way up to the summit of the Col du Soulor pass. Climbing this pass, underneath sunny skies that were starting to heat up and on a generously gravelled road, was a piece of cake for Marc Lebreton, but much less so for Jean-Paul Rey, who had to draw on all his energy reserves to avoid stopping and dismounting.
Finally, Jean-Paul Rey and Marc Lebreton reached the port of Bayonne after 326 kilometres on the roads, at 3.15 am on Sunday, 23 hours and 45 minutes after their departure from Luchon! The Martel family, the descendants of the Tarbes-based bicycle maker who, at the beginning of the last century, made the machine ridden by J-P Rey, had managed to identify the exact location of the finishing line used in 1910 and had drawn a large white line that the two companions crossed arm in arm.
The passes climbed by the pack during the Tour de France in 1910 on the Luchon-Bayonne stage (326 km)
Col de Peyresourde
Col du Tourmalet
Col du Soulor
Malika Ménard, Miss France 2010© Brandt
Above all, the riders enjoy competing and displaying showmanship. Those who will catch the eye of the jury of the Brandt Most Aggressive Rider Red Bib Prize know how to take risks and are committed to challenges.
This ability will be rewarded on a daily basis, because on the Tour, the riders’ character is just as important as their skill. To congratulate and support the champions of the Most Aggressive Rider Red Bib Prize, Brandt has asked girls who are like them to pay the riders a visit: at each stage of the race, Miss France regional candidates chosen by the Miss France Committee will come to the start Village. The Miss France regional candidates are used to competing and the high standards that are involved. They also stand out because of their personality and their determination. They will definitely find a suitable person to talk to among the winners of the Brandt Most Aggressive Rider Red Bib Prize.
The Miss France regional candidates will be expected when the peloton arrives in France on July 6th and will leave the spotlight to their most titled representative on July 14th, the day of the French national holiday. Indeed, it will be Malika Ménard, Miss France 2010, who will hand over the Brandt Most Aggressive Rider Red Bib Prize on that day, at the finish of the Chambéry – Gap stage, accompanied by Laura and Emmanuelle.
Bradley Wiggins pins his hopes on the Giro because of a weight problem. Did he make the right choice?© Presse Sports
Claiming victory in the Tour de France demands careful preparation. A rider who wants to make a good result in the overall classification, let alone take the Yellow Jersey, must organize his season around the Tour, setting his targets, choosing an adapted programme and recovering as best he can before the big event in July. So what must he do to adapt his peak form to his objectives?
We are far from the days of Anquetil, Merckx and - more recently - Hinault, who had the task of shining on the Primavera, in Roubaix or Liège, before climbing the passes of the Alps and the Pyrenees in search of the Yellow Jersey and compete again at the end of the season. If, for some fifteen years, the hopefuls of victory in the Tour can allow themselves some objectives apart from the Tour, such as Paris-Nice or the Ardennes classics, more adapted to their profiles, the Tour is still the centre of their ambitions, their daily life.
For Philippe Mauduit, sports director with Cervelo, “everyone has his own way of preparing for the Tour. However, you have to keep some energy to be capable of reaching your top form. You need sufficient condition if you don’t want to feel the pain. Many contenders will choose to do a big race in June before taking a whole week of rest and recuperation”.
On the Criterium du Dauphiné, Alain Gallopin, sports director with Radio Shack, rather minimizes the final victory of his runner Janez Brajkovic, saying that Alberto Contador, his former protégé and twice winner of the Tour, was only “80%”. Enough all the same to come in second in the race. “The main thing is to arrive as fresh as you can, especially psychologically”, says Mauduit. “The physical capacities are sometimes unsuspected, so it’s all about what the head can do. The limits are more psychological”.
“For me, preparation for the Tour begins six weeks before the big start”, says Chris Horner (RSH), 15th in the Tour in 2007 and team mate of Lance Armstrong this year. “When the race is coming up you stop certain things. You stop going out and you stop spending time with your children. You go out on longer runs. For me, the ideal programme would have been to take a break after the Ardennes classics to arrive fresh on the Dauphiné and then gather my strength. Unfortunately I had to go to the Tour of California”.
Besides the importance of avoiding injury and falls that could seriously delay your preparation, you also have to put the miles behind you to reach your racing weight. “Bradley Wiggins, 4th in the Tour 2009, chose to run the Giro among things to lose weight while working on his power”, says Sean Yates, his sports director at Sky. Today everything is a question of the weight-power ratio, watts to kilos. The aim is to reach the best weight and be able to push the lactic acid rate as far as possible”.
Like Wiggins before him, Cadel Evans also took the Giro option, but without drawing too much on his reserves. But after such an effort of three weeks, you just have to rest up. According to Yates “Doing nothing for a week. It’s better to take a real break without jumping on the bike before getting back to work”. In any case, the real work for the British man begins this week, scouting out the Pyrenees.
The question remains as to whether you have to be 100% from the start of the Tour or work up to your peak for the mountain. “I don’t hold with that philosophy”, says Horner. “It’s too hard to manage. You have to be 100% from the word go”. Sean Yates: “Some say you have to be at your best for the third week, but it’s very difficult to work physically for that, but it does require a serious psychological effort. The body is a machine up to a certain point. Then it’s the head that takes over! ”.
The Tour Village, where the riders and fans gather together every morning, has been revamped and is increasing the number of allusions made to the race’s outstanding champions.
Visitors take the time to sit down, read the daily newspapers while drinking a coffee, allow themselves to be tempted by a tasting of regional products or get lost in enthusiastic discussions about the possibilities of the stage to come. A day on the Tour de France begins for many people in the Village, the meeting place where the followers, riders and guests of the host town rub shoulders. The area has existed for more than twenty years and has become an institution. The customs which have been created and continue there also add to the atmosphere of the Tour. This year, the decoration and the layout have been rethought: the desire to preserve the landmarks of those who are accustomed to moving around in the Village has been coupled with the need to revamp its design.
Those who are sensitive to the universe of the Tour can identify with its legend. The Allée des Héros (Path of Heroes) has been created based on this principle. The entrance to the Village is now via a prestigious path which pays to tribute to the riders who have written the most important pages of the history of the Tour de France. Visitors will pause to admire the portraits of the greatest riders from Bobet to Hinault, to Coppi to Merckx and Indurain. Throughout the stroll, visitors will also have the opportunity to rediscover the famous winners of the Tour, whose names are featured on the carpet. The tributes which are scattered throughout the village also emphasise the rightful importance given to their opponents, to riders who have been slightly less successful or even to their team members who have managed to achieve some recognition. Two totems will remind some of the visitors or allow others to discover a few of the anecdotes which have been created in the heart of the pelotons of the Tour.
The legend has been created by the champions and also owes a great deal to its scenery. Although links exist between the generations, it is undeniably the language of the routes which brings together the riders of the past and the current day. Over the years, the ascent to L’Alpe du Huez, the Tourmalet Pass or the summit of Mont Ventoux have become the backdrop for spectacular endeavours and courage which are part of collective memory. These places which generate emotion are also very much to the fore on the giant screen of the Village, which showcases a collection of images amassed on the Tour since 1903. The evocative names such as the Izoard or the Galibier also blend perfectly with the new range of colours that the most attentive visitors will notice on the barriers and structures used to set up the Village.
The black and yellow colours which dominate the Tour’s surroundings are present on the podium which has pride of place in the heart of the Village, like a bandstand which welcomes brass bands in the local square. Those in the village will be able to enjoy the market around this public stage, or be entertained by stilt walkers, or by the illustration of the day, a sketch created by a regional artist. Afterwards there will be time to get back to the main attraction. When the gates of the village close, the legend goes on.
Unipublic announce the teams that have been selected to participate in Vuelta a España 2010that will take place from 28th August to 19th September and begin in Seville with a night teamtime trial.The list includes 16 teams that signed the agreement between the International Cycling Union
The organisers of the Tour de France, that will take place from 3rd to 25th July 2010, have selected the 22 teams that will start the race in Rotterdam on Saturday 3rd July.
The 16 teams hereunder have been selected in compliance with the agreement passed with the International Cycling Union (UCI) in September 2008:
Omega Pharma – Lotto
Team Saxo Bank
Euskaltel – Euskadi
Footon – Servetto
AG2R La Mondiale
BBox Bouygues Telecom
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne
Française des Jeux
Lampre – Farnese
Liquigas - Doimo
6 other teams have been invited by the organisers in order to compete on the 97th Tour de France:
Garmin - Transitions
BMC Racing Team
Cervélo Test Team
From 2011 on, in compliance with the agreement passed between the organisers of the main Tours and the International Cycling Union (UCI), the first 17 teams of the world ranking established at the end of 2010, according to the sporting results of the teams, will be automatically selected. The other teams will receive wild cards from the organisers.
One hundred days before the prologue for the Tour 2010, Rotterdam is organising another day dedicated to the Big Loop. The majestic Erasme Bridge was illuminated in the Tour’s colours for the evening, for an audience of cycling enthusiasts and former winners.
The day started with a journey unlike any other for three former winners of the Tour de France, two Frenchmen and a Dutchman. Bernard Hinault and Bernard Thévenet, accompanied by Joop Zoetemelk, took their seats at Paris’ Gare du Nord station in a train boasting two carriages specially rigged out in yellow. After their journey the champions took part along with Christian Prudhomme in a press conference in the centre of Rotterdam. More importantly, they were expected for a “Yellow Jersey gala dinner” that they shared with the many sprinters, climbers and all-rounders who have contributed to the history of cycling in Holland. Thirty or so former riders, including Jan Janssen, Steven Rooks, Hennie Kuiper, Willy Teirlinck and Michael Boogerd, were been invited to give their verdicts on how the forthcoming Tour will unfold and their opinions about the event under preparation in Rotterdam for the start of the July. In the meantime, whilst we wait for the first turns of the pedals, a fireworks display has been organised to illuminate the Erasme Bridge which the riders will cross in both directions during the prologue. One colour has been given pride of place: yellow.
Invited by the FNSEA to the Salon International de l’Agriculture (International Agricultural Exhibition), Christian Prudhomme awarded the prizes for the countryside contest organised for the 2009 Tour de France.
At the Tour de France, we chase jerseys. The helicopter following the pack had a prime view of the creations designed by French farmers to decorate the route of last year’s Tour de France. In partnership with the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d’Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA – French Farmers’ Union), the Tour had invited the farming world to create a display at each stage showcasing the agricultural heritage of France's regions. The verdict was pronounced at the International Agricultural Exhibition by Jean-Michel Le Métayer, President of the FNSEA, and by Christian Prudhomme, accompanied by Bernard Hinault and Jean-Paul Olivier (France Télévisions). The Drôme region took first prize, awarded in the presence of its local councillor, Didier Guillaume. The contest organisers took advantage of this gathering to announce the theme selected for the 2010 Tour. The challenge this year is to decorate the fields in a hexagonal shape, representing the outline of France on a map. Each regional federation also needs to come up with a sentence, slogan or motto for their display.
Results of the 2009 contest
1. Drôme federation
2. Vosges federation
3. Seine-et-Marne federation / Indre federation
Sometimes it’s easy to recognise a silhouette, a posture or an attitude. On the Paris-Roubaix, it can happen that behind a mask of mud and underneath a grimy jersey, observers can spot a rider thanks to the way he cycles and the power he exudes on the trickiest parts of the route.Franco Ballerini, who died last Sunday whilst taking part as a co-pilot in a motor rally, was indeed this type of champion. During his career, he was able to a tame the Queen of the classics by dint of perseverance and hard work, becoming one of the most deserving custodians of the “spirit of the cobbles”. Before winning Paris-Roubaix, Ballerini had to suffer for his art on this race, with defeat at the hands of Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle at the cycling arena in 1993. However, he turned the despair he felt at this setback into a driving force. Two years later, in spite of a shoulder injured on the Gand-Wevelgem race, he pulled off a superb solo number as the “dancer on the cobbles” over the last 30 kilometres of the event, finally achieving victory. In 1998, it was with a lead of more than four minutes that he beat his nearest pursuer, Andrea Tafi, picking up his second title in Roubaix. Finally, in 2001, it was on the scene of his finest achievements that Franco Ballerini drew his career to a close, dressed in a jersey on which he had taken the time to write “Thank you Roubaix”. This sign of recognition, worthy of the greatest and most courageous riders, is a fitting way of paying tribute to him now it is time to say farewell. “Thank you Ballerini” is an expression that will today be in all the minds of Paris-Roubaix fans and cycling enthusiasts. The race organisers, who held a minute’s silence accompanied by the pack competing in the Tour of Qatar, would like to express its sincere commiserations to his family and all his friends.
The show in three acts under preparation in southern Corsica on 27th and 28th March is starting to take greater shape with the announcement of the route conjured up for the three stages of the Critérium International.
The relief of the island, with its mountains that drop straight into the sea, is perfectly suited to an eventful mountain stage. This outstanding terrain gave the organisers the idea of changing the usual schedule. The stage on Saturday, following the start in Porto-Vecchio, will instantly give the riders vertigo with the climb up the Col de Parmentile, then later on towards the Col de Bacinu. More importantly, the summit of the ascent to the Col de l’Ospedale will host the finishing line for this first stage, where a climber could put in a good shout for overall victory. However, the following morning, the looped stage starting and finishing in Porto-Vecchio will be an opportunity for lively and robust attackers. Over a distance of 75 km, a well-organised breakaway group could lay a trap for even the best riders: just a slight hesitation would be enough. Afterwards, all that remains for hopeful victors to turn the tide is the very technical 7.7 km individual time-trial in Porto-Vecchio. When it comes to the crunch, at the forefront we could well see Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans or Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez, who have already enrolled for this Corsican adventure. As for the French contingent, David Moncoutié, Thomas Voeckler, Pierrick Fedrigo and Clément Lhôtellerie have also thrown their hats into the ring.
The European season of road cycling stage races traditionally kicks off with Paris-Nice. In 2010, the top riders of 22 teams will compete on the race, starting on 7 March in Montfort-l’Amaury.
The best riders of the moment will confront each other on a prologue and seven stages on the race between French department of Yvelynes and Nice’s Promenade des Anglais. Alberto Contador, who won the Tour de France in 2009, will also try to make up for one of his few failures on a stage race when he suffered a hunger knock on the way to Faïence. The Astana leader will also have to keep an eye on Frank Schleck, who finished second on the Tour, if he wishes to win Paris-Nice again, the race where his virtuous cycle started in 2007. French rider Sylvain Chavanel, who finished third on the French Riviera last year and won the Green Jersey, could also perform well on a race the suits him better every year.
22 TEAMS HAVE BEEN INVITED TO PARIS-NICE
Omega Pharma-Lotto (OLO)
Quick Step (QST)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX)
Caisse d’Epargne (GCE)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS)
Team HTC-Columbia (THR)
Team Radio Shack (RSH)
Team Sky (SKY)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM)
Bbox Bouygues Telecom (BBO)
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne (COF)
Française des Jeux (FDJ)
Lampre-Farnese Vini (LAM)
Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team (VAC)
Katusha Team (KAT)
Cervelo Test Team (CTT)
Christian Prudhomme and Philippe de Villiers© CG Vendée
Philippe de Villiers, President of the Vendée General Council, and Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, this morning officially unveiled a foretaste of the Tour 2011 Grand Start, which will take place in the Vendée for the fifth time in the event’s history.
Following on from Saint-Jean-de-Monts (1976), Le Puy du Fou (1993, 1999) and Fromentine (2005), this time the Passage du Gois will witness the start of the July adventure for the world cycling elite, on Saturday 2nd July to be precise. For many fans of the race, they will be renewing acquaintance with a site that already left its mark on the Tour’s history in 1999. On this unusual and most mysterious of roads, submerged twice daily by the ocean, the pack left, “definitely one of the most exciting images, in fact probably the finest that I have ever seen on a flat stage,” according to Christian Prudhomme.
After the 180-km stage between the Passage du Gois and the Mont des Alouettes, a 23-kilometre team time trial has been planned around the town of Les Essarts, on 3rd July. Then the start of the third stage, during which the riders will leave the Vendée to tackle the roads in the rest of France, will take place in Olonne-sur-Mer.
After 9 years in Charleville Mézières and around theArdennes, the Criterium International will settle its caravan in Porto-Vecchio in
Above all A.S.O., organiser of the race, warmly wantsto thank the General Council of the Ardennes and the city of
© Presse Sports
From the 28th of August to the 19th of September, the 2010 Vuelta will take the World elite riders from Sevilla to Madrid, going through the hilly roads of Andalusia, the Pyrenees and Cantabria. The show promises to be intense during the three weeks of the race.
In 1935, fifty riders had taken off for the first edition of the Vuelta a Espana, a 14 stage race with 3425 kilometres to be covered. Seventy-five year later, the program will be set on 21 stages and reach a similar distance of 3352 kilometres. The race course was unveiled this morning by Javier Guillen, director of the Tour of Spain during a ceremony organised in Sevilla in the presence of Bernard Hinault, two-time winner of the event (1978, 1983), and the last two champions, Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador, as well as Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France and Yann Le Moenner, general director of A.S.O.
For the fifth time in its rich history, Sevilla will host the start of the Tour of Spain. The 16.5 km team time-trial competed in night conditions on the streets of the Andalusia capital will however be a Grande Premiere. In the following days, the battle for the red jersey that will distinguish the leader of the 2010 Vuelta will take place on the mountainous contours of the Spanish territory. The first clash between the climbers could unfold as soon as stage 3 where the riders will face a Cat. 1 climb on the way to the Col de Leon, or again before the finish of stage 8 where five climbs will be on the program before the final battle all the way up to Xorret del Cati. However, one will maybe have to wait until the Pyrenees to witness the attacks of the very best mountain specialists: the altitude finish in Andorra Vallnord could indeed be a springboard for the most ambitious.
Whatever the hierarchy at the summit, the Cantabria triptyque could reveal or condemn some. At the Lagos de Covadonga (st.15), or on the final climb up to Cotobello (st.16), the riders will start digging deep into their energy stocks. After the efforts of the individual time-trial at Penafiel (st.17, 46 km), one will still have to give everything for a possible final explanation on the roads heading up to the Bola del Mundo. The red jersey that will await the winner in Madrid after an expected sprint finish will have the value of gold!
Find the course map and the stage details on the official race website: www.lavuelta.com
Christian Prudhomme, with Ahmed Aboutaleb, Joop Zoetemelk, Jan Janssen and Leontien Van Moorsel© Corvos
At Rotterdam and Tokyo, the Tour de France was honoured during nearly simultaneous presentations of the 2010 edition, which now promise to be followed particularly closely in Holland and Japan.
«It will be phenomenal, no doubt one of the biggest followings the Tour de France has ever known”, says Christian Prudhomme enthusiastically in sensing the atmosphere that already reigns in Rotterdam, seven months prior to the start. Welcomed by Rotterdam mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Tour Director then took part in the inauguration of the first series of markers with the Tour logo that will mark the route of the prologue. Christian Prudhomme was accompanied by Tour winners, Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk, as well as four-time Olympic champion Leontien Van Moorsel at the foot of the gigantic Erasme Bridge.
A few thousand kilometres away, Bernard Hinault was the centre of attention from both the public and media. Since 1985, the year when a widely seen report depicted the career of the “Badger”, several generations of riders have grown up worshiping the French champion. One such rider is Daisuke Imanaka, a pioneer who tried his luck on the French roads in 1996 another was Fumiyuki Beppu, the first Japanese finisher on the Tour de France last year and then there is Asada Akira, one of Japan’s busiest cycling promoters. All three remember how influential Hinault was in creating their enthusiasm for cycling. During a press conference where more than 70 media outlets attended, then during a presentation in front of 500people, the five-time French Tour champion was able to recount his experiences and share his love for cycling.
© Presse Sports
The USJSF-LCL price for the best sports photography of the year was awarded to Stéphane Mantey, of daily newspaper L’Equipe, for a picture taken during the Tour de France’s stage between Andorre-la-Vieille and Saint-Girons on the 11th of July.
After 97 editions, the event continues to stimulate the creativity of the best photographers. For this picture, a special lens was used to transform the riders in little lead toy-type figures.
The city of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, Eddy Merckx and Dirk De Pauw have agreed to organise a new road cycling event, from 14 to 19 February 2010.
The technical organisation has been entrusted to Amaury Sport Organisation, organisers of the Tour de France.
Technical and sporting details of the first Tour of Oman will be outlined during a press conference in Paris in January 2010.
The awards for the decoration competition for cities and villages, organised in partnership with Doublet, were handed out during the Mayors of France Congress. Vatan and the Indre Department were rewarded.
Followers of the Tour can testify: being a gracious host is a quality found throughout France. Each year, the Tour de France passes through nearly 600 communities. Hamlets, villages, towns and cities get into the spirit of the event by decorating roundabouts, squares, balconies as well as churches. Sometime it is discreet but always underlines the link between the Tour de France and the large number of bicycle enthusiasts.
For the 2009 Tour, the jury presided over by Bernard Hinault paid particular attention to the decorations that adorned the route. And it was the village of Vatan, situated in the Indre Department that stood out head and shoulders above the rest. The tiny commune that hosted the start of stage 11 was rewarded during the Mayor’s Congress, where Christian Prudhomme was on hand along with Bernard Hinault on Wednesday morning. The Indre Department, which was also traversed during stage10 was particularly inventive and convincing, because three of its communes swept the podium for the 2009 Tour.
The classifications of the 2009 Tour Decoration Competition
1. Vatan (Indre)
2. Saint-Aout (Indre)
3. Issoudun (Indre)
4. Junay (Yonne)
5. Brignoles (Var)
© Presse Sports
The centenary of the first appearance of high mountains on the program of the Tour de France will be celebrated during the passage in the Pyrenees. The riders will be climbing twice the famous Col du Tourmalet.
Over 4,000 spectators were present this morning at the official presentation of the 97th edition of the Tour de France that will be held from the 3rd to the 25th of July 2010. In the presence of the Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, and the two former Dutch winners of the Tour, Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk, Christian Prudhomme firstly rejoiced with anticipation at the welcome the peloton will receive in the Netherlands, land of cycling. The fifth Dutch Grand Départ in history, that naturally invites to a visit to Belgium before heading to the French territory, allowed to design a dense program as soon as the first days for the race favourites who will immediately have to be careful. “In just forty-eight hours, we will have a mini Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a mini Paris-Roubaix”, enthusiastically explained the director of the Tour in reference to the two stages that will partly take place on the roads of the great spring classics.
For several years now, the Tour de France is careful at exploring all kind of mountains, by focusing on the contours of medium mountains. Indeed, the Alpine part, marked by two prestigious stages ending at Morzine-Avoriaz and at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, will be preceded by a excursion in the Jura mountains heading to the resort of Les Rousses, and followed by a stop in the Massif Central, where the demanding climb of Mende should offer a spectacular explanation.
But the teams of the Tour de France were mainly inspired by the centenary of the first high mountain stage. In 1910, a decisive turning point occurred in the history of cycling, when riders were sent off to climb the Pyrenees roads heading up to the Col de Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. All that in a same stage designed between Luchon and Bayonne, with 326 kilometres of effort to be covered. For the 16th stage of the 2010 Tour, the distance will be reduced with a finish decided at Pau, but as a tribute to Octave Lapize, Gustave Garrigou or Eugène Christophe, the climbs will be done in the same order: a feast for climbers. After a rest day, a last altitude finish will take place at the Col du Tourmalet, where only Jean-Pierre Danguillaume had the honour of lifting his arms in triumph, back in 1974. The battle for the yellow jersey could witness a final episode in the Bordeaux vineyards on the occasion of an individual time-trial of 51 kilometres between Bordeaux and Pauillac, on the eve of the finish in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées.
At the heart of A.S.O’s activities, cycling mobilises the energies all along the year with 18 races organised in 2010. While the Tour de France is the main event, efforts also go to all the categories of cyclists.
Ladies first, for the opening of the season of A.S.O’s cycling events, 2010 indeed starts with a ladies’ competition that will kick off the long week of races in Qatar with the 2nd edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar, followed by the men’s Tour of Qatar, ninth edition. The specialists of stage races will then gather at the start of Paris-Nice. Then the Classics’ season will witness two strong moments with Paris-Roubaix for the cobbled-stone specialists and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, for enduring punchers.
During the Tour de France, while the attention mainly focuses on the battle for the yellow jersey, the amateurs from around the world will also have their day of glory: with the Etape du Tour Mondovélo, over 9000 amateur cyclists will take on one of the mountain stages designed for the champions. Affection for the historical heritage of cycling drove to a recent implication in the organisation of the Vuelta a España. At the same time, A.S.O wishes to support major races in the youth calendar like the Tour de l’Avenir, but also Paris-Tours et Paris-Roubaix Under-23 (in partnership with the VC Roubaix), the Classique des Alpes Juniors or the Kilomètre de Paris-Tours.
The 2010 calendar of A.S.O cycling races.
Palais des Congrès, Paris© Presse Sports
There are more and more cycling fanatics following the Tour on the official website during the month of July. From 4.8 million unique visitors in 2007, the live coverage registered an audience of 6.3 million users in 2008 before reaching 11.6 in 2009.
Since last year, the web users now have the possibility to see the official presentation of the course, broadcasted live on the www.letour.fr website, from the Palais des Congrès of Paris. The course of the 2010 edition will be unveiled on Thursday the 14th of October. Between Rotterdam, host city of the Grand Départ, and Paris where the finish will be staged on the Champs-Élysées, the riders will have the possibility to celebrate the one-hundred years of the first stage finishes at the top of mountains, in the Pyrenees.
In order to allow all to discover in detail the stages at the same time as the 2,500 guests present at the Palais des Congrès, the ceremony will be completely broadcasted in video streaming, in French and in English, as of 11:00 AM.
Raymond Juan, Bernard Hinault© Cesqar Vidal
Bernard Hinault received in the name of the Tour de France, an award given by the professionals of tourism in Andorra.
The passage of the 2009 Tour in Andorra will forever leave intense memories to Brice Feillu who managed an impressive solo performance that gave him his first professional success at the top of the climb up to the Arcalis resort. On the day of stage 7, the footage of that audacious victory spread on the TV screens around the world, as well as the mountainous Andorran landscape. With the start set the following day in Andorre-la-Vieille for a stage heading to St-Girons, the principality was once again at the heart of the sporting event of the moment. The association of tourism professionals (club Skal), impressed by the spotlights set on their area, chose to give its annual trophy to the Tour de France. Bernard Hinault therefore returned to the Pyrenees on the 27th of September to receive that award during the world tourism day in Andorra.
A. Schleck - A. Contador - L. Armstrong© Presse sports
At 26 From the very beginning of the 96th Tour de France, Alberto Contador demonstrated that he is the leader of a new generation of cycling.
He may have missed out on the opportunity to defend his title last year after the omission of his Astana team but the Spaniard who won both the yellow and white jerseys in 2007 started the 2009 race in fine style. He was beaten in the opening time trial by Fabian Cancellara, a master of the discipline, but by the end of the race the 27-year-old proved that he has all the ingredients to be a champion for many years to come. “He’s strong,” said his Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong, who finished third in his comeback Tour. He’s a complete rider who can climb, who can time trial… I think there are some weaknesses but I’m not going to talk about them. I’ll keep that to myself and maybe we can explore them another time.” The Texan proved that his return to the Tour was one full of intent. But he finished third overall, five minutes and 24 seconds behind the Spaniard.
Both men have had to overcome life-threatening issues before their first victory in the world’s biggest bike race. Armstrong beat cancer and Contador survived a brain hemorrhage that knocked him down during the Vuelta a Asturias in 2004. He returned to racing at the Tour Down Under in Australia in January the next year and won a stage. It heralded the beginning of phase two of what has become a remarkable career.
Contador won his first title at the age of 24. Under the guidance of Johan Bruyneel – the mastermind behind Armstrong’s seven successes – he won a mountain stage and swapped his white jersey for the yellow a day after the final major climb of the 2007 edition.
In 2009 he was even more dominant. Instead of winning by just 23 seconds, as he did two years earlier, he dominated the race. Second on the opening day, victory in the team time trial, and into third place overall. Cancellara would lead for a week; Contador would attack all his rivals – including Armstrong – on the road to Arcalis in stage seven but the yellow jersey would have to wait. It wasn’t until his first solo stage win since 2007 that he could once again get the taste of leadership in the Tour. His victory at the top of a mountain in Verbier put him in the yellow jersey and the win in the time trial around Lake Annecy ensured that he would retain it all the way to Mont Ventoux when the final assault came from Andy Schleck.
The young Luxembourger tried with all his might to pull back the four minutes he lagged behind after 19 stages but Contador was able to respond to every attack. With his fourth place atop the Giant of Provence, victory was assured; all he had to do was finish. On the final day, he accepted the accolades from virtually everyone in the peloton and crossed the finish line of the 3,459.5km race with an advantage of over four minutes. Schleck was second, Armstrong third. Things are expected to be a lot different next year, but for now it’s time to hail the 26-year-old King of the Tour.
A. Contador - L. Armstrong - A. Schleck© Presse sports
The opening time trial in Monaco provided a setting for the favorites for the general classification of the 96th Tour de France to show their form. And they didn’t disappoint.
Alberto Contador was back in the race after a year’s absence and he rocketed up the first climb and demonstrated that he was fast… but not as fast as Fabian Cancellara in the closing kilometers. The ‘Swiss Spartacus’ claimed the first yellow jersey of the 2009 edition and he would retain it all the way to the first mountain top finish.
The resurgent Lance Armstrong came to within 0.22 seconds of the overall lead after a three-year absence after his Astana troops demolished all challengers in the team time trial in Montpellier. This proved to be a critical stage as all riders in the top nine overall at the end of the race were from teams that finished in the top four of stage four – only the best Frenchman, Christophe Le Mevel of the Francaise des Jeux team, was able to find a remedy for lost time in the TTT. He finished 10th overall, in a year when the defending champion and two-time runner-up wouldn’t figure in the top order of the general classification.
Carlos Sastre started strong but never managed to find the legs to challenge the likes of Contador, former team-mate Andy Schleck or Armstrong. He finished 17th while his Australian rival from 2008, Cadel Evans also suffered a severe blow in Montpellier. Down the rankings after day four, he tried to attack the other GC hopes but one bad day in the Alps put him out of contention. He rolled into Paris ranked 30th.
By the time the crucial stages for the general classification rolled around, Contador had to contend with only a few rivals: the fabulous Schleck brothers and his team-mate Armstrong who was intent on finishing on the Parisian podium. Before the critical stage to Mont Ventoux, Armstrong had already announced that he would form a new team in 2010 and that a split from Astana was imminent.
Throughout the race the polemics within the team managed by Johan Bruyneel provided fodder for the media but the riders at the centre of it all remained focused on their job: trying to win the Tour. Contador went one better than Cancellara in the long individual time trial around Lance Annecy, winning his second stage and increasing the overall lead he took after claiming the mountain stage to Verbier, Switzerland.
Rinaldo Nocentini led the race from Andorrra to Switzerland and his AG2R La Mondiale team helped break the monotony of an all-Astana head of the peloton when sprints weren’t the likely conclusion of a stage. But really it was two teams that dominated the race from Monaco, east to Spain, north to Andorra and across France, into Swiss territory and onward to Paris.
Columbia-HTC had a taste of what it was like to lead the Tour 12 months earlier but this year the squad was committed to the cause of one man. Mark Cavendish. How can he be ignored? He is fast, very fast! Although the 2005 points classification champion eclipsed the Brit’s tally of points in the race for the green jersey, no rider was capable of beating ‘Cav’ in a sprint. He won a total of six stages and proved his ego wasn’t exploding last year when he declared himself to be “the fastest man in the world”. Indeed that is what he is, but the most complete rider is Alberto Contador.