89th TOUR DE FRANCE - 2002
France, July 6-28, 2002
Stages & Difficulties
The organisers of the Tour de France have finally realised that the other major Tours have been presenting far more interesting racing parcours and this year have devised a route that should hold the public's imagination until the penultimate day and produce a winner who is capable of riding over 3 solid weeks.
Billed as the "shortest Tour in history" at 3282 kms (although in reality both the 1903 and 1904 editions were shorter) the race is a move away from tradition. The mountain stages continue until stage 18 (with the last category one climb being the Col de Richemont) and the penultimate stage is a 52.5 km time trial where even a lead of minutes could be lost. The shorter stages should lead to more attacking racing and the parcours will make it difficult for the yellow jersey team to control the race.
Race Organiser Jean-Marie LEBLANC made the following points at the race presentation.
1) Restored Image - The 2001 Tour de France was the first one of the new Century and for the first time since 1998, the Tour was full of freshness and serenity.
2) A Successful Tour de France - In 2001, we saw combative and fair riders, impressive crowds on the roadsides and committed fans: with such results, it's so good to be one of the Tour's organizers.
3) An Easier Tour - The 2002 is short and human: you will note that no more than three stages will exceed 200 kilometers.
4) The fight against drugs - last year, the Tour de France invested a lot in the fight against drugs and, as the results recently given by the UCI experts show major improvements, we won't stop the battle. A wide range of tests will once again be carried out in 2002.
5) Security - With the creation of a second itinerary in 2001, the risks on the Tour's roads substantially decreased. This strong measure will be renewed this year. As for the departure and arrival sites, our aim is to preserve a safe Tour, where everyone will be allowed to work under the best conditions.
Lance Armstrong, of course, enters the race as the biggest favourite since Miguel Indurain in 1996. Those who consider this year's race a foregone conclusion beware! Indurain was expected to cruise to a sixth successive victory but unexpected cold weather and a dominant Bjarne Riis took their toll on the Spainish champion who eventually finished 11th and retired later that year.
The race breaks down into the following stages -
10 "flat" stages
1 stage in "medium" mountains
6 stages in the "high" mountains
2 individual time trials = total 108 kms
1 team time trial = 68 kms
5 arrivals at the top of a mountain
21 cols of 2nd, 1st or Hors Cat.
Stage by Stage
05.07 - Team Presentation - "Being welcomed by Luxembourg, from where the 1989 edition was launched, is for us a guarantee of efficiency and a deep satisfaction," was how Jean Marie Leblanc introduced the race to the public. Indeed, the town has thrown itself into organising an event which should be a celebration of life and cycling. The team presentation will take place in the National Sports Centre on Friday 05/07 - and a host of other events will keep the fans happy as they wait for the race to begin.
Among the highlights of the programme will be two concerts by German soft-rocker Scorpions – an unplugged set at the new National Sports Centre (now called the Coque by locals) on Friday 5 July - and an open-air concert on the Place Guillaume with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra the following day. There is more music on Friday evening on the Place Guillaume with Guarana do Brazil and Fascination and it continues on Sunday, when the Place Guillaume plays host to the Rock am Knuedler festival, the annual showcase for local bands which this year will have Fury in the Slaughterhouse as its headline act.
The Coque plays host to the presentation of the teams at 6 p.m. on the Friday evening, with local actress Desirée Nosbusch – a star in Germany – the compère. Other sideshow events during the weekend include a special Fashion Genius show on the place d’Armes at which designer Fernando Guzman will present his Tour-de-France inspired creations. There will also be various cycle performers on the Grand Rue on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon – shops will open especially on Sunday and after the professional cyclists have set off on the second stage to France, the acrobatic motorcycle team of the Garde Républicaine will perform stunts on the Glacis. There will also be an exhibition on Luxembourg and the Tour de France in the Victor Hugo halls in Limpertsberg from 27 June to 8 July.
As always, expect last minute team changes and at least one rider being carried away by it all and making a statement to the press which owes more to optimism than reality.
"Grand Boucle" - literally the big loop - the Boucle also means belt - so it is a favourite expression to describe the race which circles France.
06/07 - Prologue - Luxembourg ITT, 7.2 km
Capital of the Luxembourg Grand Duchy, seat of the European parliament since 1957, this picturesque fortified town of 75,000 inhabitants, erected on a headland where the Alzette and the Pétrusse rivers converge, is the birthplace of modern Europe. A highly important financial centre, it is also the headquarters of RTL.
The short 7.2 kilometre route should establish an early pecking order - although the parcours is not that easy. The great Luxembourg cyclist and former Tour winner Charly Gaul describes the course as "extremely difficult, technical and hard to race - particularly if it rains." It is far from a flat route and the short but nasty climb to the finish on the Cote de la Rue de Prague will determine the winner.
The favourites may not wish to take the victory and so put early pressure on their team. The course may allow the Australian duo from Francaise des Jeux - Baden Cooke and Bradley McGee - to power their way round to early success as seen in this year's Dauphiné Libéré - although British fans will be hoping that David Millar has regained enough form since his early season illness to continue the tradition of Chris Boardman who won three tour prologues in the 1990’s.
As ever it will be a time of high excitement for the fans and nervousness for the riders. Chris Boardman ended his chances of tour glory by crashing in the 1995 prologue and ended his race before it began. Erik Breukink won the prologue here in 1989, possibly helped by the fact that Pedro Delgado was enjoying the cheers of the crowd as the previous year's winner so much he forgot to start and lost over three minutes!
Such is the drama of the Grand Boucle; it is almost certain some sort of surprise (be it crash, puncture or act of God) will give the fans plenty to talk about by the end of the day!
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
A Commonwealth battle between Millar, Cooke and McGee and a major challenge by in-form Frenchman Christophe Moreau (out to prove an early point) will see the Cofidis flying Scotsman Millar first past the post and the early yellow jersey holder.
Previous winners in Luxembourg:
Stage town in 1947 (Stage winner: Ronconi), 1989 (Stage winner: Da Silva - a Portuguese living in Luxembourg,) and 1992 (Stage winner: Indurain). Start of the Tour de France in 1989 (Prologue, Stage winner: Breukink).
François Faber: Tour winner in 1909, he won 19 stages and participated in nine Tours.
Nicolas Frantz: Tour winner in 1927 and 1928, he won 20 stages and participated in seven Tours.
Charly Gaul: Tour winner in 1958, he won 10 stages and participated in ten Tours.
Jean Majerus: He won 2 stages and wore twice the yellow jersey in 1937 and 1938.
Arsène Mersch: He won 1 stage and wore the yellow jersey in 1936.
Jean Goldschmit: He won 2 stages in 1949 and 1950 and wore the yellow jersey in 1950.
Jean (Bim) Diederich: He won 2 stages in 1950, 1951 and 1952 and wore the yellow jersey in 1951.
"Contre-la-montre" - literally against the clock - the time trial - which is usually abbreviated in results to CLM.
Last years results:
1 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Festina 9.20 (52.714 km/h)
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 0.03
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 0.04
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom 0.07
5 Florent Brard (Fra) Festina
6 Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca 0.10
7 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 0.13
8 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 0.14
10 Antonio Tauler (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
With thanks to the official Tour site, and Luxembourg News.