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Liège / Liège

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Collection le coq sportif La Grande Boucle 2012

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Grand Départ in Liège

29.06.2012 Start times for the prologue

Evans Cancellara Martin Wiggo

The official start list of the 99th Tour de France was published earlier today, complete with the race numbers of all riders. Yesterday there was a remote chance that one rider may have been replaced between the team presentation and the start of the prologue as David Millar of the Garmin-Sharp team was suffering an illness. LeTour.fr contacted the directeur sportif of the outfit, Allan Peiper, who confirmed that – although he had been vomiting and was unwell for a couple of days – Millar will in fact take the start.
“He was sick for two days, but it is on the mend,” said Peiper. “The prologue had been a priority for him but I don’t imagine he’ll be in the top 10 any more.”
The race headquarters is a hive of activity today. This morning there was a meeting of team managers and, subsequently, an order for the prologue has been established.
The first rider to start the 2012 Tour de France – which begins with a 6.4km time trial around the streets of Liège will be Tom Veelers of the Argos-Shimano squad. His start time will be 2.00pm. Riders will then depart at one-minute intervals. The final rider to start will be defending champion, Cadel Evans. The Australian’s start time is 5.17pm.
Simon Gerrans (OGE) is the second rider in the order of departure for the prologue. He starts at 2.01pm and, going on a recent short time trial – on the opening day of the Criterium du Dauphiné – he has the potential to be the man who sets the early standard: the Australian champion was sixth in the TT in Grenoble won by Luke Durbridge this June.
Others who performed well in the Dauphiné are also early starters including Andriy Grivko (AST), who was third on the opening day of the one-week stage race this June, is the fourth rider to start this year’s Tour (at 2.03pm).
The suspense will remain high until the end as Evans is one rider who could challenge for the win in the TT. He was second in the most recent time trial of the Tour de France – the penultimate stage of the 2011 race. Although he is the defending champion, he will not wear the yellow jersey as was once the case.
The start times of other specialists are: the world TT champion Tony Martin (OPQ) at 4.58pm, the overall winner of the Dauphiné, Bradley Wiggins (SKY) at 5.07pm, and the rider who won the prologue on a very similar course in Liège back in 2004, Fabian Cancellara (RNT) who leaves the start house at 5.16pm.

Numbers of the Peloton

  • 22 teams
  • 198 riders
  • 31 nations represented at the start
  • 23 riders who are eligible for the youth classification (white jersey)
  • Oldest rider: Jens Voigt (RNT) – 40 years, nine months and 13 days old at the start
  • Youngest rider: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) – 22 years, one month and one day old at the start

29.06.2012 Distributing the daily bread...

The challenge of the Tour de France doesn’t relate solely to the physical challenge imposed on the riders. For three weeks the entourage of over 4,000 people also has to be catered for – all as part of a traveling road show. And there’s always a need for sustenance for the hordes of people who are involved with putting the race on the road each year. That’s where the official supplier of bread for the Tour de France, Banette, plays a part.
The company delivers bread at the ‘Ville Départ’ every morning as well as dropping off supplies at certain points along the route. It’s a task that keeps the bakers of Banette busy each July. A total of 15,000 fresh loaves of bread will be produced and distributed during the 24 days of the tour in 2012.

Some statistics on Banette’s bread supply:

  • 5 quintals of flour is required to make the bread of the Tour de France
  • 17 different locations will be used to create the Tour’s daily bread
  • About 400kg of bread is made daily and delivered to the Tour at midday

28.06.2012 Teams presented: next up – the real start!

Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start! Teams presented: next up – the real start!

In front of the Palais des Prince-Evêques in Liège (almost) all the riders of the 99th Tour de France appeared before the public in the traditional pre-race team presentation. With the ‘voice of the Tour’ Daniel Mangeas as the master of ceremonies introduced the 22 squads to the crowd that was assembled in Liège with some riders also giving a brief interview on the stage.
It’s a mandatory part of the race but two men were absent today: David Millar (GRM) and Christophe Kern (EUC). The Scotsman has been suffering an illness and his team asked him to sit out the presentation in favour of getting some rest and recuperation in the hope that he will have recovered in time for the prologue in Liège on Saturday. Garmin-Sharp ‘directeur sportif’ Allan Peiper explained that he had been vomiting earlier today and that Heinrich Haussler was ready as a reserve should Millar not be able to take the start. But, after stepping off the stage, his team-mate Robert Hunter was optimistic about the chance of the time trial specialist starting. “He was bad but I saw him before coming to the presentation and he seems to be improving,” said the South African champion about Millar.
Kern was missing for family reasons: his wife gave birth only a couple of hours before he was due to appear on stage alongside his Europcar team-mates. He will, however, be on the bike and ready to race when the prologue starts in two days time.
One of the real stars of the peloton was the form favourite Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky. The British rider – who is already a winner of the titles at Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphiné this year – was the man in demand both on the stage and with the media assembled in the courtyard Palais des Prince-Evêques. He joked with Mangeas on stage and, even if his quirky sense of humour was a little lost on the French host, he put his personality on display and offered some insight into what he expects from the 2012 Tour. “We are in the position of favourite because I have won a lot already this year,” said Wiggins afterwards, “but I don’t feel that much pressure exactly because we have won a lot already this year.”
When asked about his chances in the race, he explained that last year it was all over for him after seven stages and that this year, if he is not in hospital before the first long time trial (stage nine) it “could be good for me”.
The last team to appear on stage was BMC, with the defending champion Cadel Evans. The American-registered squad with an international cast receive arguably the loudest applause... for two reasons: the presence of the Australian who won his Tour title at the age of 34, and the fact that the world’s number-one ranked rider from 2011, Philippe Gilbert, is also in the line-up.
Gilbert was raised near Liège and is a popular crowd favourite. He explained that, when the Tour started here in 2004, he thought that he may have missed the chance to do this race where he grew up... but now that opportunity has been presented again.
After appearing on the stage, the teams returned to the courtyard where official photos were taken. Here they also signed a large mural with caricatures of the some riders were printed. At the top of each team’s panel the riders added their signatures before answering questions of journalists and later retreating to their team buses.
The next time the riders return to the center of Liège it will be for the 6.4km prologue that starts at 2.00pm on Saturday.

28.06.2012 New Orica-GreenEdge jersey to be presented shortly...

New Orica-GreenEdge jersey to be presented shortly...

Over the years we’ve seen some teams decide to use the Tour de France as a platform to debut a new sponsor or a different racing outfit than what has been used for the early phase of the season. Recent examples include Highroad, which became Columbia (in 2008, and then HTC-Columbia in 2009) or the change of color from a predominately black outfit to white for Cervélo TestTeam in 2009.
This year at least three teams will debut a new jersey design for the Tour: Orica-GreenEdge, Garmin-Sharp and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Some have given a glimpse of the new design before the official team presentation but this evening will be the first time we see any riders in the new colors of the Australian team that makes its Tour debut in 2012.
There was a gathering at the team’s hotel earlier today where a representative of the Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Brendon Nelson, gave a brief overview of the expectations for the squad which is to be led by world championship silver medalist Matt Goss. He introduced the team’s benefactor Gerry Ryan and also read a letter to the record Australian contingent of 12 Tour starters from the Australian Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard. “This year, 12 Australians will attempt the Tour – more than ever before, including the new Australian Orica-GreenEdge team,” wrote Ms Gillard. “You are the magnificent dozen, bringing a wealth of talent and determination to the starting line.”
The team’s sporting director Matt White explained that the goal remains the same as stated when the team launched in January this year. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of goals for the Tour de France and one of them is the green jersey with Matt Goss. We’re not hiding our plans – we’re definitely chasing a win in the points classification along with a few other teams – but as you can see from the make up of the team, we’re quite versatile. That said, we’re not going general classification. We want stage wins.”
The new jerseys will revealed at the team presentation at Place Saint-Lambert at 6.30pm.

28.06.2012 The Young Reporters: A Grand Départ

The Young Reporters: A Grand Départ

Three boys and three girls from France, Belgium and Luxembourg will follow the 2012 Tour de France as apprentice journalists. Aged between 14 and 16, they will be responsible for producing a publication on www.letour.fr, www.visionplus.fr, www.sportspress.lu and www.lequipe.fr every second day. The first edition of ‘A Notre Tour’ (Our Tour) is already available (but only in French).

They are in the deep end already, even before the race has begun. The team of ‘Les Jeunes Reporters du Tour’ joined forces on Wednesday morning, 27 June, and they were put to work immediately.
In the meeting before production commenced in the first edition of their daily newsletter the six young journalists – Fiona, Gabrielle, Joy, Louis, Tom and Robin – met up to discuss ideas in the press room near Liège. The idea of the program is to give them a taste of the life of a reporter, something they will do for three weeks this summer.
They have already compiled a range of interviews and, as of Thursday 28 June they will attend the various team press conferences as well as the team presentation in Liège.
The second instalment of their newsletter – issue 01 (as the first version was dubbed 00) will be distributed for the stage from Vise to Tournai. You can, however, download their ‘Prologue’ edition to see the work of this band of young reporters.

Download the « Prologue » in pdf

28.06.2012 Karpov moves into top gear

Karpov moves into top gear

Chess players are invited to take part in a game that will start at the same time as the Tour de France, against Anatoly Karpov. Will they manage to maintain the suspense until the day of the finish on the Champs-Elysées?

Even though the race involves physical feats, the favourites for the Tour de France are only focused on strategy. And in terms of tactics, the pretenders to Le Tour’s crown could probably have interesting discussions with Anatoly Karpov, the former chess world champion, even if his visit to the Tour de France is scheduled for 21st July and the time-trial in Bonneval-Chartres, at the very end of the race. The Russian grandmaster will be bringing to a close a game of chess that he will be playing against the “rest of the world” during the entire duration of the Tour de France, via the web site www.europe-echecs.com. On the basis of an all against one match, each day Karpov will make a move, with the response from his collective opponent being the one chosen by the most web users during the previous 24 hours. “Although I’ve never visited the Tour de France before, I reckon I’ve seen it on television in around 70 different countries,” admits the loyal viewer, who is now a member of the Russian parliament, the Duma. “In the end, I can see similarities between our two sports and mainly the fact that we are both involved in disciplines that demand endurance. I remember, for example, a match for the world title against Viktor Korchnoi, which spread over more than two months and 32 games”. Even against tens of thousands of players, the game organised for the Tour de France has little chance of lasting as long.

To register to play in the team against Anatoly Karpov, visit:
http://www.europe-echecs.com/tour_de_france_2012.php

27.06.2012 The Scene is Set

The Scene is Set

The Wednesday before the Tour de France is the day when the race headquarters opens and the anticipation for the ‘Grand Départ’ finally becomes a reality. Since 2010 we have known that the Belgian city of Liège will host the start of the 99th edition and planning commenced to ensure that the opening bouts of the 2012 race are staged to perfection. With the 6.4km prologue only three days away, Planet Tour has arrived in this famous cycling region.

The media accreditation center at Liège’s ‘Country Hall’ is now open and journalists from around the world have started to gather; the ‘Avant Tour’ expo area in Halle des Foires is open to the public; the massive publicity caravan is beginning to assemble; and, importantly, the riders are converging on this city a day before the team presentation which is schedule for 6.30pm on Thursday 28 June at Place Saint-Lambert.

The local airport was abuzz today as the world’s best cyclists arrived on cue just before the big loop around France that starts in Liège on 30 June and ends in Paris on 22 July. All competitors are asked to be in the accommodation arranged by the race organizers as of this evening... and thus the years of preparation for this Grand Départ is all coming together.

Cycling’s great summertime fête is effectively underway and now is the time when the fans can capture the vibe of what the Tour de France is all about.

Be sure to follow the action and catch the atmosphere of the world’s biggest annual sporting event on LeTour.fr as it unfolds in the coming weeks.

27.06.2012 Le Tour: on screens around the world!

Le Tour: on screens around the world!

TV broadcasts in 190 countries through 100 channels, an agreement for 10 years with NBC, 15 million visitors expected daily on the new official site – letour.fr, more than 700,000 fans on the official Facebook page, plus diverse content on various social media platforms... This year's Tour de France will unfold on screens of all kinds all around the world!

TV: 190 countries, an increase in hearing

Television broadcasts of the Tour de France that has already been global for many years, continues to grow both in transmission time and image quality.
In total, 4,300 hours of footage of the Tour de France are scheduled worldwide throughout the 2012 edition, with three territories taking the live images for the first time: Albania (Top Channel), Canada (RDS) and Mongolia (Channel One).
The loyalty of broadcasters is also evidenced by their willingness to sign long term agreements. This is the case with continental networks ESPN South America and TV5 Monde, which have extended their commitments until 2017, and CTV Canada until 2015. An agreement with NBC highlights the long-term vision that exists with race organizers and the U.S. broadcaster, with a new 10 year deal – ensuring coverage in the United States is on that network until 2023 – ensures the Tour de France and other cycling races ASO a wider audience in the U.S., and an optimum quality of program by broadcasters of the Olympic Games and Stanley Cup (NHL) in particular.

Letour.fr facelift

In 2012, fans of the Tour de France will discover a new look when they connect to the official website of the race. Before, during and after each stage, you will find an innovative new display of content that allows readers to directly access all the important information. The use of a sophisticated new system of tools has been designed to give the user the ability to customize their stay on the site.
In the latest version of the tracking application, a mouse movement – or simple finger swipe on a tablet – is enough to rank the various elements according to your desires: the live ‘newsflash’ coverage, the evolution of rankings, or virtual streaming video (available in some countries), can be constructed by the user... or just hidden while you use other elements of the innovative new site.

The Facebook page passes the 700,000 fans

The official Facebook page of the Tour de France (facebook.com/letour) now has a community of over 700,000 fans who will find daily content produced in partnership with Alcatel One Touch. Here you will find a wide variety of content uploaded from inside the race including video grabs, exclusive photo galleries of the race as it unfolds, and much more!

Google +

The Tour de France has also recently established a page on the Google social media platform. Various unusual and exclusive content will be published daily (including photos, videos, slideshows, and more). Furthermore, several appointments will be scheduled for online conversations (Hangout) between the riders and their supporters...

Complete information about Twitter

In 2012, the Twitter account of the Tour will provide the information that is broadcast live on the official website direct to its 60,000 subscribers... and this number is bound to grow significantly thanks to the interest that the 99th edition is sure to generate on this social media network. You won’t miss anything that happens during each stage... furthermore, inspired Twitterers will be able to offer their commentary simply by using the official hashtag #TDF12.

Mobile applications

Most of the content available on letour.fr has been adapted to suit iPhones, iPads and Android systems thanks to a collaboration with official Tour partners Skoda and Orange. Photos, videos, maps, news, rankings, records and interviews with the riders are available on application to download and play Google Apple Store.

Digital Caravan

For the second consecutive year, a website dedicated to the publicity caravan completes the Online Tour. The site – www.lacaravanepublicitaire.com –is also accompanied by a downloadable mobile application on Google and Apple Store Play. It contains in particular the live track of the trailer, photos, videos, quizzes and interactive games. Every day, the visual environment immerses the user in the heart of a caravan site partners (Kleber, Alcatel One Touch, Belin, Europcar, Digital, Vittel).

The Tour on PC and consoles

Every summer, the Tour de France comes to PC gaming and consoles. With video games Pro Cycling Manager 2012 for PC and Tour de France 2012 for PlayStation ® 3 and Xbox 360 ®, the roads of the Tour also belong to the players. The game is also available on mobile smartphones (App Store, Google Play).

27.06.2012 Festina: 20 years of time-keeping on Le Tour

Festina: 20 years of time-keeping on Le Tour

On the Tour de France, it is always the stopwatch that is the deciding factor after three weeks of racing. The very important duties of official timekeeper have been entrusted for the last 20 years to Festina, who have been the key and impartial witness to historical sporting moments: the 8 seconds totted up for the final classification between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon in 1989 or the closest podium in history in 2007 with only 31 seconds between Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. For the 20th anniversary of their cooperation, history will be giving a nod in the direction of the Andorran brand, whose French headquarters are based in Besançon, the French capital of clock-making, which on 9th July will be playing host to… a time-trial, which could turn out to be decisive. Furthermore, Festina will offer a watch to the winner of this stage as well as to the winner of the time-trial on 21st July between Bonneval and Chartres. However, there is no need to have powerful legs like Tony Martin or Bradley Wiggins to finish Le Tour with a Festina watch on your wrist: the journalists present in the press room will have this opportunity if they shine in the predictions competition organised for them. Those who follow Le Tour from a distance will also have their chance, because a watch will be offered each day to the winner of the quiz competition (in France only) on French radio station RMC, the Facebook page http://fr-fr.facebook.com/Festina and the blog www.festinablog.com.

27.06.2012 Time for the climbers

Samuel Sanchez Johnny Hoogerland David Moncoutié Jelle Vanendert

High-altitude battles are one of the most impressive sights in cycling. In this context, the wearer of the polka-dot jersey can count on the widespread support of roadside and TV viewers. To win the polka-dot jersey, riders need to take the initiative and be consistent... and at the end panache wins the day.

Throughout the week, letour.fr will be listing all the champions expected to lead in the various Tour de France rankings. Episode 3: Going for the polka dots

The favourite: Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel)

Despite his Top 10 spots in the general classification of the Tour de France, Samuel Sánchez did not get much coverage in the international media until he won the Luz-Ardiden stage last year, ten years after Euskaltel's Basque icon Roberto Laiseka put his name on the honour board of the Grande Boucle. The Asturian, the only non-Basque rider in the orange squad, also pulled on the polka-dot jersey after that stage, only to later surrender it to Jérémy Roy and then Jelle Vanendert. Once in the Alps, his fixation with reclaiming the polka dots made him one of the highlights of the Tour de France. He achieved his objective and discovered the delight of climbing onto the podium on the Champs-Elysées. Indeed, the mountains classification is often an objective for great Spanish climbers who do not cut in the time trials or the tricky stages in the early Tour, and are handicapped by a weak team. At the age of 34, Sánchez knows where his limits lie. After bravely finishing the Dauphiné with injured ribs, he would do well to aim for a mountain stage win and then focus on the polka-dot jersey instead of going for the general classification.

Setting their sights on victory

Dan Martin (Garmin-Barracuda) is set to discover the Tour, but he already knows his stomping ground, the mountains. He probably lacks consistency to challenge for the general classification, which is more suited to his teammates Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson, but his ability to turn on the gas on the climbs makes him an obvious bet for the polka-dot jersey.

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) shot to fame by wearing the polka-dot jersey for five days last year. The Belgian climber now has the chance to go for the mountains classification as his main objective, as long as it does not stop him from helping his leader Jurgen Van den Broeck.

Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) went on a quest for the polka-dot jersey in the Central Massif in 2011. He captured the jersey, but an encounter with a barbed-wire fence left him with 34 stitches and put paid to his hopes in the Pyrenees. Now he is back in the Tour and has nailed his colours to the mast: red like in the polka dots!

David Moncoutié (Cofidis) is no stranger to the polka dots, but at the Vuelta they are blue, not red! He has won the mountains classification in the last four editions of the Spanish Grand Tour and is back to the Grande Boucle after a break. If he has still got something left in the tank after helping Rein Taaramäe, he has the potential to challenge for the polka dots.

A few names that could take us by surprise

Mikaël Chérel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) will be making his Tour debut but has the necessary punch to hunt for points at the beginning of the Grande Boucle and then defend the jersey. Indefatigable attacker Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is a textbook example of a polka-dot chaser. The popularity of this jersey would fit him like a glove! Matt Lloyd (Lampre-ISD), the best climber in the 2010 Giro will aim for the polka-dot jersey of the 2012 Tour... unless his leader Michele Scarponi beats him to the punch. Rémy Di Gregorio (Cofidis) was hailed as the new Virenque when he first started in the Tour five years ago. It is a case of better late than never for him. Cadel Evans (BMC) never spares any efforts and could go for the mountains classification if he decides Bradley Wiggins is too strong for him in the time trials. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) inaugurated his career with a win in the best climber classification of the 2010 Tour de Romandie. He has since confirmed his potential and could be the next big thing among French climbers!

27.06.2012 Welcome to 2012!

Edition 1997 Edition 1999 Edition 2006 Edition 2011

The official site of the Tour de France has been overhauled and redesigned for the 99th edition of the race. The 15 million visitors expected every day will find a more intuitive, user-friendly and simplified site providing direct access to the key details.

As a test bed for information technology, including the press, radio and television, it is only natural that the Tour de France has had a Web presence for 15 years. In 1997, the race set up its first official website, where visitors could get live race updates as well as the rankings and interviews after each stage. The layout was basic but effective, on par with the standards of the time. The first leap forward came in 1999, when letour.fr rolled out a more comprehensive browsing experience which enticed visitors to discover its various sections. The layout was constrained by the sizes of the screens of the time and hinted that there might be a future for austerity...

Then came an explosion of new formats (videos, gap tracking applications, etc.) and increased bandwidth capacity which allowed the site to make full use of the width of screens. From 2004 onwards, and even more so in the 2007 Tour version, this evolution featured content distributed in slots. Over the last five years, the site has served its purpose well and seen the number of visitors skyrocket (from 5 million in 2007 to almost 15 million in 2011), but it will now retire to the archive and make way for a new environment with new functionalities. The system used for maps and the overhaul of the live update interface gives fans the opportunity to customise their experience on letour.fr. Bon voyage to everyone.

25.06.2012 When the lights are green, we race to the finishing line!

Mark Cavendish © Presse Sports Matt Goss © Presse Sports Andre Greipel © Presse Sports Marcel Kittel © Presse Sports Peter Sagan © Presse Sports

Like in athletics, people are fascinated to know the name of the world’s fastest man. When it comes to cycling, the fastest speeds are judged according to the more or less massive sprints, for which points are awarded. While this field has been dominated by Mark Cavendish for several seasons, the struggle for the green jersey is especially rewarding for those who perform the most consistently throughout the race. The new intermediate sprint rules adopted last year also add a strategic dimension to the debate.

Throughout the week, letour.fr will be listing all the champions expected to lead in the various Tour de France rankings. Episode 2: Winning the Green Jersey.

The favourite: Mark Cavendish (Team Sky)

As winner of last year’s Tour de France points ranking, it is only logical that Mark Cavendish should be a contender for a second green jersey in Paris. His clutch of stage victories – which amount to twenty from his last four events – promises another points victory. The British rider is easily the world’s fastest. For him, the crucial part of the event will be played out over three days, between Rouen and Metz, after a first meeting with the other pure sprinters in Tournai (2nd stage). But Cavendish cannot expect to be handed victory on a plate. Mainly because of stiff competition from two young winners: Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel. This Slovak gets everywhere! Cavendish’s other handicap is the presence of his teammate Bradley Wiggins in Team Sky, who has also set his sights on the overall ranking. The two teammates are expected to give priority to mobilising the team from the end of the first week, in other words from the moment when those battling for the green jersey are likely to stumble on the intermediate sprints. Sky will not annihilate all the stragglers if it means compromising priority objectives, Cavendish’s main goal being to prepare for the London Olympics!

Setting their sights on victory

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) is a major contender for the green jersey as he can win all kinds of sprints: on the flat and especially on the slopes (he should enjoy Seraing and Boulogne-sur-Mer!). He also knows how to make his mark in the intermediate sprints and has enough stamina for anything – even over three weeks!

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) has already chalked up an impressive track record, by the middle of his second pro season. That of a real winner. In mid-June, the German beat Cavendish twice in the sprint. He should not therefore rule out any hopes of a Tour victory and especially not that of winning the green jersey in Paris… even if this is only a medium-term goal.

Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) carries on his shoulders the sole objective announced by the promoters of new Australian team Green Edge, when it was first created - that of winning the green jersey. The word “green” is even part of its name! The world’s runner-up champion has only notched up one victory this year, a stage in the Giro, but it points towards further successes.

José Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) won the green shirt last year before passing it to Mark Cavendish, but he remains a serious candidate as he was (almost) placed in the massive sprints and has been consistent in his performance on different terrains. However, the return of his team and training partner, Alejandro Valverde, reduces his room for manoeuvre.

André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), world No.1 in terms of victories (13) before the national championships, is a sprinter of such quality that the green jersey is definitely within his reach. But he only succeeded in beating Cavendish once during the 2011 Tour, whose flair reduces his self-confidence. But if the road ahead is clear…

A few names that could take us by surprise

Tyler Farrar, winner of the third stage in Redon last year, won against the clock as part of his team with Garmin-Barracuda, but failed to win any sprints before this year’s Tour de France! Yauheni Hutarovitch, who has also yet to win a sprint, unlike the young riders from FDJ-BigMat (Démare, Bouhanni), hopes to come out of his shell… Oscar Freire (Katusha), green jersey winner in 2008, is preparing for the Olympics. Retirement beckons. He might well make the most of this last opportunity! Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), winner of the points ranking in 2010, snapped up the Giro, which makes him more likely to win the Tour despite being 38. Mark Renshaw has left the Cavendish camp, with the aim of making a name for himself by sprinting for Rabobank, which expects more than a single victory (fourth stage of the Tour of Turkey). Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) gained a taste for the green jersey on the Dauphiné, but was beat to the finishing line by Cadel Evans. A great all-rounder and incisive, he is able to pick up points almost everywhere!

22.06.2012 All eyes on the Yellow Jersey

© Presse Sports

At the end of the day, only one rider will go down in history. The supreme goal on the Tour de France is the Yellow Jersey awarded to the leader of the final general individual classification. Cyclists worldwide dream about it, but only a handful will be concerned by this battle at the summit of the sport over three weeks of racing. Here, we take a look at the pretenders for the title on the 99th edition.

Throughout the week, letour.fr will be taking stock of the riders likely to play a leading role in the different classifications on the Tour de France. Episode 1: the battle for the Yellow Jersey.

The favourite

Cadel Evans owes his status as favourite to being the current title holder. A duel with Bradley Wiggins is looking likely. The Englishman is virtually unbeaten (like the Australian last year) on the stage races he has taken part in this year. He won Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandy and the Critérium du Dauphiné. If the time-trials are to be the crucial point, then the Team Sky leader has the edge. However, Evans has the advantage of already having won Le Tour and being a better all-round rider: probably a better climber, especially in the sequence of difficulties on the programme in two mountain stages (the 11th, in the Alps, and the 16th, in the Pyrenees), undoubtedly a better puncher, with a capacity to pick up seconds through short, intense bursts of effort (at the finishes in Seraing, Boulogne-sur-Mer, la Planche des Belles Filles, and Bellegarde-sur-Valserine), and certainly a better downhill racer!

The ambitious

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) holds the role of official challenger. Fifty years after the first Englishman in yellow (Tom Simpson in Saint-Gaudens) has the time come for an Englishman to wear yellow in Paris… five days before the Olympics Games start in London? It is a question of time: this Tour gives time-trials, his speciality, pride of place.

Denis Menchov (Katusha), after the most discrete start to a season of his career, is making is comeback on Le Tour. On his last participation (2010), on the podium in Paris he stood next to the two major absentees of this year thanks to a major feat in the final time-trial. Already a winner of the Vuelta and the Giro, he will be waiting for the opportunity to spring an ambush…

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) will be flying the flag for Italy’s hopes and the new generation against the thirty-somethings. Having won the Tirreno-Adriatico race, he is focusing his 2012 season on Le Tour. His experience of victory on the Vuelta (in 2010) and the assistance of Ivan Basso can also be added to his status as a fine overall rider with plenty of stamina.

Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is growing in stature. Third on the Tour of Switzerland, a place he also occupied on the podium on the Tour de France in 2007, the American does not see his age of 38 years as a handicap. The time-trials could put him in a position from which only a fall (to which he is rather prone) could knock him off.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) is a different man since he won the Tour of Italy. Following in the footsteps of Cadel Evans, previously a mountain biker who has been a latecomer to road racing, the Canadian has all the qualities and now the confidence in his abilities to transform his 7th place on Le Tour in 2010 into a podium finish.

Riders who could spring a surprise

Chris Froome and Richie Porte are the two emerging riders in Team Sky, able to take on the baton from Bradley Wiggins in case of problems, like in 2011 (when the Englishman withdrew after breaking his collar bone following a fall). Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) does not intend to content himself with his victory on the Tour of Oman. Janez Brajkovic (Astana) in recently winning the Tour of Slovenia may have taken a step on the way to greater things… Bauke Mollema is an alternative, in the Rabobank team, to leader Robert Gesink, who promises much but does not always deliver. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) is reaching riding maturity to take up the reins from Thomas Voeckler, who is suffering with knee problems. Chris Horner, now a tricky forty-something, pulled out of the hat by RadioShack-Nissan, is capable of superseding Fränk Schleck as a replacement for the latter’s injured younger brother Andy.

21.06.2012 The programme in Liège

© Province de Liège © Province de Liège

The Grand Start of the Tour de France has traditionally been the time when the last tweaks are made and the first emotive and convivial moments take place. Liège will provide the backdrop for a series of events over next week, ranging from the opening of the Avant-Tour to the team presentation.

Once the final countdown has crept down into the single figures, the Tour de France takes shape. And nowhere is the approach of the big day as conspicuous as in the city hosting the Grand Start. The citizens of Liège have already been involved in the preparations for several months and now they are about to see the atmosphere get increasingly electric over next week, culminating in the first two days of racing: the prologue on Saturday, June 30 and stage 1 on Sunday, July 1.

The Tour de France is officially opening its doors in the Province of Liège on June 27, with the inauguration of the organisation’s reception point and the press centre in Liège's Country Hall (Bois Saint-Jean complex). Those who live there will see things getting eclectic, while in the meantime the party begins in the Halle des Foires. There, visitors to the Avant-Tour get the opportunity to get riders' autographs, discover the vehicles of the advertising caravan before anyone else, and enjoy the activities organised by the race sponsors, all for free. There is also a third place where the presence of the Tour will be felt in a more indirect way when Bernard Hinault, Bernard Thévenet and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle inaugurate the Village Gaulois (Gallic Village), which celebrates French culture and cuisine every summer on Liège's Place Saint-Paul.

Before focusing on the sport proper, the pre-race events will continue on Thursday, June 28 with the team presentation ceremony against the stately backdrop of the Place Saint-Lambert, in front of the Prince-Bishops' Palace. Musician Pierre Theunis and his colleagues will provide the music with melodic references to the Tour de France's previous visits to Belgium. By then, the 198 starters in the 99th Tour de France will have just one day left to relax and/or psych up before charging through the streets of Liège.

The highlights of the Grand Start in the Province of Liège

  • Wednesday, June 27: Opening of the reception point and press centre in Bois Saint-Jean (Liège's Country Hall) - Allée du Bol d'Air, 13 in 4031 Liège (Angleur); opening of the Avant-Tour in the Halle des Foires de Liège.
  • Thursday, June 28: from 6:30 pm, official team presentation on Liège's Place Saint-Lambert.
  • Saturday, June 30: from 2:00 pm, individual time trial with start and finish in the Parc d'Avroy
  • Sunday, July 1: Stage 1, Liège–Seraing (198 km)
  • Monday, July 2: Stage 2, Visé–Tournai (207.5 km)

21.06.2012 Get the programme

When it comes to a three-week competition like the Tour, viewers also have to do their homework.

The race offers a generous and varied menu, with many protagonists, numerous challenges and sometimes complex strategies. This is why, both before and during the competition, the Official Programme is THE guide you need to see the course of each stage in detail, check the timetable or look up the gradient of a climb. Readers of this comprehensive guide will not just find all the technical details of the Tour, but also the Bernard Hinault’s analyses and interviews with the big favourites. This year too, the Official Programme has been tailored to all the viewers of the Tour, with a total of eleven versions printed by partner newspapers from all over the world.

The 11 versions of the Official Tour Programme: Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Taiwan

Province of Liège

Wednesday, June 27th

13.30 Inauguration and opening of the Village Avant Tour at the Foire Internationale de Liège (FIL), quai de Wallonie
14.00-20.00 Opening hours of the reception point at Country Hall, Sports and Events Complex, Bois Saint-Jean
14.00-21.00 Opening hours of the press centre at Country Hall, Sports and Events Complex, Bois Saint-Jean

Thursday, June 28th

09.00- 20.00 Opening hours of the reception point
09.00- 22.00 Opening hours of the press centre
17.30 General team briefing (directeurs sportifs and riders) in the reception rooms of the Palais Provincial. Held in private
18.30 Presentation of teams taking part in the Tour de France 2012 in front of the Palais Provincial, place Saint-Lambert

Friday, June 29th

9.00-20.00 Opening hours of the reception point
9.00-22.00 Opening hours of the press centre
10.30 Meeting for the directeurs sportifs / Tour de France / Jury Commissioners at the Country Hall
11.30 Meeting for the directeurs sportifs and France Televisions at Country Hall
13.30 Start and Finish zone event meeting (partners and general commission) at FIL
14.00 Road safety meeting for drivers authorized to drive on the Tour de France route at the Country Hall
14.30 Meeting for the advertising Caravan managers at the FIL
16.30 Tour de France Advertising Caravan meeting at the FIL
17.00 Meeting for the race organiser’s drivers and motorcyclists with the Jury Commissioners at Country Hall
18.00 Meeting for media motorbikes (riders, photographers, cameramen, radio,...) in the presence of the Jury Commissioners at the Country Hall

Saturday, June 30th

9.00-23.00 Opening hours of the reception point and the press centre
12.00 Advertising Caravan crosses the Prologue start line
12.30 Inauguration and opening of Tour de France Village
14.00 Departure of the first competitor in the Prologue

The official teams presentation

The Palais Provincial

On Thursday, June 28th from 18.30 the official presentation of the 198 riders representing 22 teams participating in the 2012 Tour de France will take place.

Following the general briefing to be held at 17.30 in the reception rooms of the Palais Provincial, Place Saint-Lambert, the teams will take to the stage in front of the Palace to be presented in turn to the public.

Having left the podium, the teams, accompanied by the advertising Caravan will lead off on a circuit around the place Saint-Lambert.

In 1919, the year of the creation of the yellow jersey, Firmin Lambot (seen here on the left) was the first to triumph in Paris, wearing the famous jersey. He is one of ten Belgian winners of the Tour de France.

All the roads lead to the Pre-Tour

On 27th, 28th and 29th June, the Pre-Tour will be the main meeting point for the players on Le Tour and its spectators. Tourists, amateur riders, journalists or simply passers-by will have an opportunity in Liege to savour the atmosphere of the race.

In July, the Tour de France will be on the road every day. Before reaching its cruising speed, it will set up camp for several days in the city that is hosting the Grand Start. It will be a time of re-acquaintances, final preparations, predictions and intimidations. The time Le Tour will spend in Liege this year will especially be an opportunity to bring together all lovers of cycling, whether they will be setting off on the Big Loop or not. And for the second consecutive year, cycling enthusiasts are invited to come together in a setting designed for exchanges and interaction: the Pre-Tour.

With free admission to spectators over a three day period, the Pre-Tour will be at the crossroads of everyone involved in Le Tour as the clock ticks down to the first movements of the pack. Whilst the sponsor’s fine-tune their recently prepared parade vehicles, the riders will be in attendance for autograph-signing sessions, radio stations and television channels will be setting up their studios to broadcast from the heart of the event and 80 exhibitors in total will take possession of the Halle des Foires in Liege. As for the spectators, exhibition stands will be devoted to advice on how to maintain and repair bicycles, whilst children will be able to take part in an introduction to BMX riding on a 600 m² track. Everything will be in place for a genuine taste of Le Tour’s atmosphere, with interaction and enthusiasm as the watchwords.

The Pre-Tour

Halle des Foires, Liege

  • Wednesday 27th June: 1.30 PM – 9 PM
  • Thursday 28th June: 10 AM – 9 PM
  • Friday 29th June: 10 AM – 6 PM

Jersey wearers after the prologue

Classifications after the prologue

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