2011 Tour de France Week 1 Parcours Preview
The 98th Tour de France – 3,430.5 kilometres, one team time trial, six mountain stages, four summit finishes and one individual time trial lie in wait on the 2011 Tour de France
The most eagerly anticipated race of the year is here at last. The numbers that the Tour throws up are truly astounding. Some 22 teams will contest the race bringing with them a total of 198 riders. They will ride 21 stages taking a total of 3,430.5 kilometres. The race will be preceded by a 20km long publicity caravan of 160 vehicles that takes over 45 minutes to pass and will give away some 16 million gifts to the spectators by the roadside. The whole thing will be reported on by 2,500 journalists, photographers and cameramen and watched in over 185 countries. Yes, it's time for the world's biggest annual event. It's time for the Tour de France.
The 2011 edition starts with three stages in the Vendee, including a short Team Time Trial, before heading north into the cycling heartland that is Brittany. The peloton face a traverse across the northern reaches of the Breton coast, before the route plunges south on its way to two stages in the Massif-Central before the first rest day.
The second week starts with a couple of transition stages before the first big test for the GC contenders. Three stages in the Pyrenees provide the first opportunity to see who has the climbing legs to tackle the big mountains, with summit finishes at Luz Ardiden and Plateau de Beille. The second week concludes with a flat stage into Montpellier.
But the 2011 Tour is all about the final week. With the race celebrating 100 years of racing in the high Alps, there are four days of racing in the mountain range this year, starting with stage 16 to the town of Gap via the Col de Manse. There follows three tough days of climbing, including two ascents of the Col du Galibier, and a finish on Alpe d'Huez. The race's only individual time trial takes place on the Tour's penultimate day in Grenoble with the race finishing with the traditional closing stage, taking the peloton into Paris for nine laps of the Champs Elysees. There, someone will don the famous maillot jaune, stand atop the final podium and enter cycling history. Welcome to part one of the Daily Peloton's guide to the 2011 Tour de France.
Stage One, Saturday 2nd July: Passage du Gois La Barre de Monts - Mont des Alouettes Les Herniers, 191.5km
No prologue this year, instead the battle for yellow starts with what is quite possibly the longest stage name we've ever had on the Tour - Passage du Gois La Barre de Monts to Mont des Alouettes Les Herniers, it's tiring enough just saying it. The Passage du Gois last featured in 1999 when it caused absolute carnage, with many riders falling off on the seaweed that covered the causeway. This year the riders will be thankful they won't be racing over it as it comes at the ceremonial start of the stage. From the start the route heads south before turning east towards the finish on Mont des Alouettes. It's an uphill finish, classified as a category four climb. At 2.2km long and averaging just under 5%, it should be out of reach for the pure sprinters.
Wikipedia says...that every year the Passage du Gois hosts the Foulées du Gois, a professional road running race that is held once the causeway is submerged - yes that's right, submerged.
Stage Two, Sunday 3rd July: Les Essarts - Les Essarts, 23km TTT
It's only the second day but already we have a stage that could have a real impact on the race, at least until we hit the big mountains. This one may be relatively short but Team Time Trials can throw up time differences that can be pivotal.It's a pan flat route out and back from Les Essarts through the countryside of the Vendee. Expect a big showdown between the strong time trialling teams of Garmin-Cervelo, Sky, HTC-Highroad and Liquigas.
Wikipedia says...that the fastest TTT in Tour de France history was in 2005 when Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team covered the 67.5km stage from Tours to Blois in 1h10'39", an average of 57.324 km/h.
Stage Three, Monday 4th July: Olonne sur Mer to Redon, 198km
As the race leaves the Vendee and heads to Brittany, so the pure sprinters have their first real shot at a stage win. It's a flat profile, with the 66m high St Nazaire bridge that crosses the mouth of the river Loire the highest point of the day. The biggest potential problem for the peloton therefore is the wind which could become a factor in the closing 50km. That said it's virtually nailed on to end in a bunch sprint and that means a first workout for Mark Cavendish and those who want to try to dent his crown as the world's premier sprinter.
Wikipedia says...that professional cyclist Roger Lévêque was born in St Nazaire on 5th December 1920. Lévêque won a stage in the 1951 Tour and wore yellow for six days.
Stage Four, Tuesday 5th July: Lorient to Mur de Bretagne, 172.5km
Starting from the coastal town of Lorient, stage four runs inland over roads that contain barely a stretch of flat tarmac. Whilst the terrain is mostly rolling the good news is that there are only two classified climbs on the route. Unfortunately for the sprinters amongst the peloton, one of them comes right at the end. The 2km climb to the finish at Mur de Bretagne averages 6.9% and will ensure that this is a stage that will not end in a mass sprint. Instead the Classics specialists should be licking their lips and flexing their legs. And who's the best Classics rider at the moment? Yes, that's right..today has Phillippe Gilbert's name writ large all over it.
Wikipedia says...that every August Lorient hosts the Festival Interceltique de Lorient which this year celebrates its 40th year. The festival features classical, folk, jazz and rock musicians, dancers, singers, painters, sculptors and writers.
Stage Five, Wednesday 6th July: Carhaix - Cap Frehel, 164.5km
Another lumpy day but one that should suit the sprinters. Starting from Carhaix the route runs north-east, via the category four Côte de Gurunhuel (2.3km at an average of 5.1%) and the town of Guingamp, towards the northern coast of Brittany. The final 80km or so skirt the cliffs of France's northern seaboard en route to the isolated Cap Frehel. Once again wind could play a major part here and the overall race favourites, as well as the sprinters, will need to remain vigilent to ensure they are not the wrong side of any break in the bunch, as any opportunity to grab a few seconds will be gleefully taken by a rival contender.
Wikipedia says...that every year in Guingamp there is an annual ‘pardon’ when pilgrims come to the town to pay homage to the ‘Black Virgin’ in the Basilica of Notre Dame de Bon Secours.
Stage Six, Thursday 7th July: Dinan - Lisieux, 226.5km
Another undulating day with a final kick up to the finish. Starting from Dinan, the peloton is taken due east to the finish in Lisieux. Three classified climbs lie in wait: the Côte de Saint-Michel de Montjoie (2.4 km @ 5.9 %), the Côte du Bourg d'Ouilly (2.7 km @ 5.6 %) and the Côte du Billot (1.3 km @ 6.5 %), before the uphill finish. It's the longest stage of this year's race and is a day that should suit a breakaway and one that should once again bring Classics specialists like Phillippe Gilbert to the fore.
Wikipedia says...that in 1432 Pierre Cauchon, who was the supreme judge during the trial of Joan of Arc, became the bishop of Lisieux. Cauchon ordered the building of a side chapel for the town's cathedral where he is now buried.
Stage Seven, Friday 8th July: Le Mans - Chateauroux, 218km
The flatest stage of the race and a chance for the main contenders to take it easy, relatively speaking. Today is all about the sprinters and they will be busy marshalling their teams from the off to make sure the obligatory breakaway is controlled and then brought back in time to guarantee a bunch sprint. Interestingly the stage's only intermediate sprint is tantalisingly placed just 25km from the finish. This year, with more points on offer for first over the line of an intermediate sprint, those with eyes on the green jersey may have to alter their tactics and go after intermediate sprint points more intently. Today that raises the intriguing possibility of two mass sprints being actively contested within just 25km of each other.
Wikipedia says...that the Jardin des Plantes du Mans is situated in the town of Le Mans. It was created by Jean-Charles Alphand who also designed the Parc Monceau in Paris. the garden took three years to complete, opening in 1870.
Stage Eight, Saturday 9th July: Aigurande - Super-Besse Sancy, 189km
Stage eight takes the riders into the Massif-Central and to the first real climbing of the 2011 Tour. The route gradually rises right from the off, taking the peloton through rolling countryside via a couple of category four climbs before hitting the category two Col de la Croix Saint-Robert after 164km.
The Saint-Robert is 6km long and averages 6.2%. Not hard enough to put any decent climbers into difficulty but difficult enough to whittle down the peloton. Following the descent there is the final drag up to the finish at Super-Besse Sancy. The final kilometres include 5km of climbing (some stretches as steep as 10%), a couple of kilometres of descending and some flat, making it hard to get any sort of rhythm going. A tricky day no doubt but ultimately not one that is likely to prove decisive in the overall classification.
Wikipedia says...that the name of Aigurande comes from the Gallic word "Equoranda", meaning a river or stream separating two Gallic tribes. In Aigurande's case the two tribes being the Pictons of Poitou and the Bituriges of the Berry.
Stage Nine, Sunday 10th July: Issoire - Saint-Flour, 208km
The most important stage of the opening week brings the Tour's initial skirmishes to an end. Stage nine is undoubtedly the toughest of the opening week's stages and one where the GC favourites will have to come to the fore. Starting in Issoire, the route takes the peloton to Saint Flour via no less than eight classified climbs. In fact today the riders will generally either be heading up or diving down hills, with little or no flat on offer at all. The day's climbing starts after just 40km with the climb of the category three Côte de Massiac (3.4 km @ 6.2 %). There follow two second cat climbs in succession, the Col du Pas de Peyrol (Le Puy Mary), which tops out at 1589 m and the Col du Perthus.
Then come the Col de Cère (2.9 km @ 6.3 %) and the Côte de la Chevade (3km @ 7.9 %) before the day's toughest climb, the Col de Prat de Bouc, which lasts for 8 km and has an average gradient of 6.1%, maxing at around 10%. The stage finishes with a couple of category four climbs, the Côte du Château d'Alleuze (2.0 km @ 4.9 %) and the climb to the finish - the Montée des Orgues (1.6 km @ 6.1 %). Whilst none of these climbs are particularly long or steep, the attritional nature of the stage could prove decisive, particularly coming at the end of nine days of racing. It's a stage tailormade for a successful escape and the GC contenders will need to watch each other carefully. The Tour probably won't be lost here, but lose concentration or have a bad day, and it could become that much harder to win.
Wikipedia says...that the diocese of Saint-Flour was established by the Avignon pope, John XXII, in August 1317.
Be sure to check back soon for part two of the Daily Peloton's guide to the 98th Tour de France.
Provisional Start List for the 2011 Tour de France
SAXO BANK SUNGARD (SBS)
Sporting Manager : MAUDUIT Philippe
*HAEDO Juan Jose
NOVAL GONZALEZ Benjamin
HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ Jesus
TEAM LEOPARD-TREK (LEO)
Sporting Manager : ANDERSEN Kim
EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI (EUS)
Sporting Manager : GERRIKAGOITIA Gorka
*FERNANDEZ DE LARREA Koldo
*CASTROVIEJO NICOLAS Jonathan
URTASUN PEREZ Pablo
PEREZ MORENO Ruben
PEREZ LEZAUN Alan
IZAGIRRE INSAUSTI Gorka
OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO (OLO)
Sporting Manager : FRISON Herman
VAN DE WALLE Jurgen
VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (RAB)
Sporting Manager : BREUKINK Erik
TEN DAM Laurens
GARATE Juan Manuel
TEAM GARMIN - CERVELO (GRM)
Sporting Manager : FERNANDEZ Bingen
*LANCASTER Brett Daniel
VANDE VELDE Christian
VAN SUMMEREN Johan
PRO TEAM ASTANA (AST)
Sporting Manager : SEDOUN Dmitri
DI GREGORIO Rémy
TEAM RADIOSHACK (RSH)
Sporting Manager : DEMOL Dirk
MOVISTAR TEAM (MOV)
Sporting Manager : ARRIETA Jose Luis
*HERRADA LOPEZ Jesus
SOLER HERNANDEZ Juan Mauricio
ROJAS Jose Joaquin
GUTIERREZ José Ivan
FARIA DA COSTA Rui Alberto
Sporting Manager : MARIUZZO Dario
*DA DALTO Mauro
LONGO BORGHINI Paolo
AG2R LA MONDIALE (ALM)
Sporting Manager : LAVENU Vincent
SKY PROCYCLING (SKY)
Sporting Manager : DE JONGH Steven
HAGEN Edvald Boasson
FLECHA GIANNONI Juan Antonio
QUICK STEP CYCLING TEAM (QST)
Sporting Manager : PEETERS Wilfried
*DE MAAR Marc
DE WEERT Kevin
Sporting Manager : BRICAUD Thierry
BMC RACING TEAM (BMC)
Sporting Manager : LELANGUE John
COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE (COF)
Sporting Manager : DELOEUIL Alain
*EL FARES Julien
LAMPRE - ISD (LAM)
Sporting Manager : LERICI Sandro
HTC - HIGHROAD (THR)
Sporting Manager : HOLM Brian
VAN GARDEREN Tejay
GOSS Matthew Harley
TEAM EUROPCAR (EUC)
Sporting Manager : ARNOULD Dominique
KATUSHA TEAM (KAT)
Sporting Manager : KONYSHEV Dmitry
Sporting Manager : CORNELISSE Michel
DE GENDT Thomas
Sporting Manager : GUILLE Nicolas
*MARINO Jean Marc
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