Paris, 18 October 2012: Route of the 2012 Tour de France revealed (officially) with a course to please the time trialists and put the climbers to work.
Race Director Christian Prudhomme opened proceedings at the Palais de Congres in Paris with a wry smile, and a joking reference to his organisations accidental revelation of the route the previous week, "we may have showed you the route but we didn't show you everything", before (re-)revealing a route heavy on novelty, and firmly aimed at forcing the race to work hard earlier in the stage.
His boss, ASO president Jean-Etienne Amaury, had just noted that the 2011 edition was acknowledged by most to be the most exciting for two decades. The challenge then was to recreate the outcome, differnently. On paper the 2012 route does just that with a half-dozen brand new climbs, nearly 100kms of individual time trials, alongside a clutch of old faithfuls. The Pyrenees see some classics including the Col'Aspin and the Tourmalet, but the Alpine stretch sees some notable absences, L'Alpe d'Huez and the Galibier to name two.
The race starts with a prologue in Liege on July 30th before following an elongated clockwise route covering 3479km, across Belgium and Northern France to Rouen, then back East, with a stretch along the Route de Champagne to Metz. It's then due South into the Jura. Stage 7 sees a finish on one of the brand new climbs, La Planche des Belles Filles (1035m, 5.9km at an average of 8.5%). Stage 8, from Belfort to Porrentruy, is one long roller coaster comprising six climbs, most averaging 8% or more.
The time triallists have their opportunity to clarify the standings with a 38km ITT from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon on stage 9.
Another newbie climb features on stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, the Col du Grand Columbier, a monster that climbs for 17.4km at 7.1%. It's stats beg the question, why hasn't it featured before? The looks on the riders sitting in the VIP seats betrayed a mixture of trepidation and excitement - novelty would help level what was in all other aspects a very steep playing field.
Route of the 2012 Tour de France©Photo © Mark Sharon/Daily Peloton
Stage 11, 140km between Albertville and La Toussuire-Les Sybelles, includes a brace of hardy annuals, the Col de Madelaine and the Col de la Croix de Fer, with the finish on next of the new climbs, reached after 18km at an average of 6.1.km. As Prudhomme suggests these stages are designed to promote early attacks and vailnat breakaways. They might just do the job.
The race leaves the Alps and transistions across the south of France via Cap d'Agde, famous for its nudist colonies, and it's fierce headwinds. it's then the Pyrenees where the riders will face three mountain stages. The first, stage 14 from Limoux to Foix, presents another new climb the appropriately named Mur 'Wall' de Peguere, a veritable cliff face, 9.4km at 7.9%. Those that survive with their ambitions intact have a sprinters stage from Samatan to Pau to recover before a brace of traditional stages finally sort out the wheat from the chaff. Stage 16 from Pau to Bagneres-De-Luchon could be raced by some of the old lags with their eyes closed with the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde crammed in to the 197km.
Tour de France Elite with 2012 Route Map©Map © Le Tour
Stage 17, 144km from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes is a lighter affair topographically but as the last climbing stage will encourage a frantic scramble for last minute points and time gains.
From there it is the long slog north for the second ITT (not including the prologue) between Bonneval and Chartres. It was on the same stage in 2001 that Cadel Evans wrecked the hopes of the Schleck brothers. He who wins this time could be sipping champagne en route to the Champs Elysee the next day.
Prologue, Sat 30 June : , Liège - Liège 6.1 km
Stage 1 flat, Sun 1 July: Liège - Seraing 198 km;
Stage 2 flat, Mon 2 July, Visé - Tournai 207 km;
Stage 3 medium mountains, Tues 3 July, Orchies - Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km;
Stage 4 flat, Weds 4 July, Abbeville - Rouen 214 km;
Stage 5, flat Thurs 5 July, Rouen - Saint-Quentin 197 km;
Stage 6 flat, Fri 6 July, Épernay - Metz 210 km;
Stage 7 medium mountain, Sat 7 July, Tomblaine - La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km;s
Stage 8 medium mountains, Sun 8 July, Belfort - Porrentruy 154 km;
Stage 9 Individual Time Trial, Mon 9 July, Arc-et-Senans - Besançon 38 km;
Stage 10 high mountains, Weds 11 July, Mâcon - Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194 km;
Stage 11 high mountains, Thurs 12 July, Albertville - La Toussuire – Les Sybelles 140 km;
Stage 12 medium mountains, Fri 13 July, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Annonay 220 km;
Stage 13 flat, Sat 14 July, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Le Cap d’Agde 215 km;
Stage 14 high mountains, Sun 15 July, Limoux - Foix 192 km;
Stage 15 flat, Mon 16 July, Samatan - Pau 160 km;
Stage 16 high mountains, Weds 18 July, Pau - Bagnères-de-Luchon 197 km;
Stage 17 high mountains, Thurs 19 July, Bagnères-de-Luchon - Peyragudes 144 km;
Stage 18 flat, Fri 20 July, Blagnac - Brive-la-Gaillarde 215 km;
Stage 19 Individual Time Trial, Time trial: Sat 21 July, Bonneval - Chartres 52 km;
Stage 20 flat, Sun 22 July, Rambouillet - Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km;
Link: Le Tour Official Website
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