2012 Tour de France route unveiled, time trialists have opportunity, climbers forced to attack
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2012 Tour de France route unveiled, time trialists have opportunity, climbers forced to attack

by Shane Stokes at 7:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Evans happy with next year’s route, Schlecks will rue one less summit finish

Tour de FranceUnveiling a course identical to that first leaked last week, Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme has provided further details about a route which he believes will produce some very exciting racing in 2012. Starting in Liège in Belgium and covering 3,479 kilometres over 20 stages, it will feature a range of challenges, but three separate time trials appear to suit all rounders more than pure climbers.

The race will begin in Saturday June 30th with a 6.1 kilometre prologue in Liège, repeating a similar start in 2004. Time trials will also feature on stage nine from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon, where 38 kilometres will be covered, and then on the penultimate day from Bonneval to Chartres. The 52 kilometres there give a total of 96.1 kilometres against the clock, something which will appeal to defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) and, if he succeeds in his CAS appeal next month and can take part, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank SunGard).

Those who will be less happy will be this year’s podium finishes, Andy and Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek), who are known for losing time against the clock. Prudhomme says that riders who don’t relish time trials will simply have to attack more to make up for it.

“There will be 25 mountain tops, three more than last year,” said Prudhomme, in summing up the route. “There will be three summit finishes, one less. The amount of time trial kilometres will be more than doubled, the longest distances since 2007. The champion who is afraid of time trials will have to make the difference in the mountains.”

The Schlecks and others who fall into that category will look to summit finishes at La Planche des Belles Filles, Les Sybelles and Peyragudes to try to make up time. Other stages offer climbs close to the finish, but descents between the last peak and the line may enable others to limit their losses or perhaps even return to those out front.

Prudhomme emphasised drama, saying that the formula from last year for short, sharp climbs had been repeated. “The first week will entertain the race. There are a series of short climbs - I believe in medium mountain stages,” he said.

“There are six climbs appearing for the first time, with four of those situated in in medium mountain stages. We have systematically introduced new mountains in recent years, one or two each edition, but this time there are even more. We really are keen on searching the out, without forgetting the traditional climbs.”

On that note, it is worth considering that the famous finishes at Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux are missing from this year’s edition. While they tend not to appear in the same race, either one or other has featured in many recent Tours; both are absent this time round. So too other famous finishes, although the race will cross climbs such as the Tourmalet, the Col de la Madelaine, the Col du Glandon, the Col d’Aubisque, the Col d’Aspin, the Col de Peyresourde, the Col d'Izoard and others en route to other finish locations.

It means the route is a little more familiar than that announced last week, although the Schlecks and others would certainly prefer more famous summit finishes to be in the race.

Defending champion Cadel Evans was certainly pleased, beaming broadly when the extent of the time trialing was confirmed. “The first ten days are very important, with the prologue and the little hills. You need to be a rider for all types of stages,” he said, referring perhaps to his future team-mate Philippe Gilbert. “The second part, including the time trials, is more for me.”

Gilbert will line out as one of the biggest names; he’s the current Belgian champion, has enjoyed the best year of his career, wore yellow and won a stage in the 2011 Tour and is current world number one. He has a chance to perform strongly on home soil in the first three stages and said that he welcomed the chance.

“I am very proud to start from Liège,” he said. “In 2004 I was probably a bit too young to compete in my first Tour. I will have the honour of competing in tour at home on the same team as the title holder Cadel. Looking at the BMC team, we will have a lot of work ahead.”

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) gladdened French hearts this year with his courageous defence of the yellow jersey. He kept it for ten days and finished fourth overall in Paris; he’ll be one of the big favourites next year with those watching by the roadsides or on French TV. He seemed pleased with what he saw, although he may have preferred more mountains and less time trials.

“It is a very hilly course, a mountainous course with a lot of suspense,” he said. “Christian Prudhomme designed a course to be very entertaining, especially with the last time trial.”

(More detailed analysis piece to follow, plus reactions)

2012 Tour de France:

P, Prologue : Sat 30 June, Liège - Liège 6.1 km
1, Road stage: Sun 1 July, Liège - Seraing 198 km; flat
2, Road stage: Mon 2 July, Visé - Tournai 207 km; flat
3, Road stage: Tues 3 July, Orchies - Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km; medium mountains
4, Road stage: Weds 4 July, Abbeville - Rouen 214 km; flat
5, Road stage: Thurs 5 July, Rouen - Saint-Quentin 197 km; flat
6, Road stage: Fri 6 July, Épernay - Metz 210 km; flat
7, Road stage: Sat 7 July, Tomblaine - La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km; medium mountains
8, Road stage: Sun 8 July, Belfort - Porrentruy 154 km; medium mountains
9, Time trial: Mon 9 July, Arc-et-Senans - Besançon 38 km; individual time trial
10, Mountains: Weds 11 July, Mâcon - Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194 km; high mountains
11, Mountains : Thurs 12 July, Albertville - La Toussuire – Les Sybelles 140 km; high mountains
12, Mountains : Fri 13 July, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Annonay 220 km; medium mountains
13, Road stage: Sat 14 July, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Le Cap d’Agde 215 km; flat
14, Road stage: Sun 15 July, Limoux - Foix 192 km; high mountains
15, Road stage: Mon 16 July, Samatan - Pau 160 km; flat
16, Mountains: Weds 18 July, Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon 197 km; high mountains
17, Mountains: Thurs 19 July, Bagnères-de-Luchon - Peyragudes 144 km; high mountains
18, Road stage: Fri 20 July, Blagnac - Brive-la-Gaillarde 215 km; flat
19, Time trial: Sat 21 July, Bonneval - Chartres 52 km; time trial
20, Road stage: Sun 22 July, Rambouillet - Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km; flat


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