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Tour de France 2004 - Latest Reactions
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 10/25/2003
Tour de France 2004 - Latest Reactions
 

Tour de France 2004
Related Articles - Tour de France 2004 - The Route! click here.
Tour de France 2004: The Route - More Reactions click here.
Tour de France 2004. The Route: Spanish & Italian reactions click here.

Team CSC is Happy about the Tour Route

Riis, Sastre, and Basso Look Forward To Next Year

”It is a good route that suits our style of riding well. The first part of the route holds plenty of opportunities for a stage win for riders such as Piil, Arvesen and Voigt – they will all get plenty of chances in the first ten days. As far as Carlos Sastre and Ivan Basso are concerned, I think that it is to their advantage that there is only one long time trial. I have always said that it is the riders and not the route that makes the race tough and next year’s route promises lots of aggressive riding. That is to the benefit of our team as well as to the audience. I can promise you that we will appear at the start with a super strong line up where both Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre will be serious contenders for the positions at the top of the general classification”, said Bjarne Riis when the route had been made public in Paris earlier today.

The 2004 Tour de France will start in Liége in the southern part of Belgium where a six-kilometre prologue will decide who will be the first bearer of the yellow jersey in the 91st edition of the world’s biggest cycling race.

Next year, the race will go counter clockwise and the first part of the race will go through Normandy, Bretagne, and the Massif Central at Limoges. As has been the case in previous years, there will also be team time trial on the first week next year.

After the first eleven stages, the race enters the Pyrenees where climbs such as the Mongie and the Plateau de Beille will have a decisive impact on the outcome of the race. On the 13th stage, the peloton will go over the steep Col de Agnes near Arrigé. The climb has not seen much use in the Tour but it is generally considered to be one of the most difficult climbs in the Pyrenees.

On the route between the Pyrenees and the Alps, the peloton will move over the massive Mont Ventoux – a mountain that often has had a decisive impact on the general classification. As far as the Alp stages are concerned, the mountain time trial up to L’Alpe d’Huez will be an interesting focal point. In addition to the demanding climb up to the legendary ski station, the Tour has one long individual time trial on the penultimate 60-kilometre stage around Besancon.

The overall winner of the race will be celebrated in Paris on Sunday July 25th.

Carlos Sastre accompanied Bjarne Riis to the presentation of the route and he shared his boss’s enthusiasm.

"The Tour is the toughest race of the season and that will not change next year. I will have a difficult time on the first flat stages. But the decisive stages suit me well and I believe that the route will be very good for both myself and for the team. It has been said that next year’s route will be easy. I do not agree with that assessment and I am sure that it will be a tough race", said Sastre after the presentation.

One of the biggest talents in the sport, Ivan Basso, will be riding for Team CSC and the young Italian thinks that next year’s route is ideally suited for him:

”It is a good route and it will suit me really well and I look forward to competing in the Tour for my new team. The mountain stages look exciting – especially the 13th stage to Plateau de Beille will be very tough. I look forward to the mountain time trial to L’Alpe d’Huez. I like that mountain and I believe that I will be able to make a good result on that stage. I think that it will be a mistake to underestimate the first half of the race just because there are few climbs in that section of the Tour. I think that we will see lots of aggressive riding on the narrow roads in Belgium where it will be necessary to pay attention”, says Ivan Basso, who placed 7th in the general classification of this year’s Tour.


Tyler Hamilton and Carlos Sastre: 2003 Tour de France - to see more great photos click here.

The First Few Stages

Interestingly, Ivan Basso’s comments regarding the first few stages - “I think that it will be a mistake to underestimate the first half of the race just because there are few climbs in that section of the Tour. I think that we will see lots of aggressive riding on the narrow roads in Belgium where it will be necessary to pay attention” - is also echoed by the excellent William Fotheringham of the UK Guardian (to read complete article click here.)

In every recent Tour the time-trial stages have played a decisive role, by putting the mountain specialists at a disadvantage. The 2004 Tour will include only one long, flat time-trial, on the penultimate day, but it also contains a solo leg up the most feared mountain of all, l'Alpe d'Huez, and that stage will come four days from the finish, lending the race a shape unique in the event's history.

This will not put Armstrong at a disadvantage; he can win such a stage. "It's funny; I was holding out hope for that," he said. "In Alpe d'Huez the gaps in the times could be substantial." But the fact that there is no long time-trial early in the race, as is usually the case, means the mountain men will be breathing down the American's neck until the last.

The climbers such as the double Tour of Italy victor Gilberto Simoni and Spain's Iban Mayo were delighted at a subtle change to the rules of another stage against the watch, the team time-trial. This is a stage where contenders can lose four minutes or so if their teams are underpowered, but the rules have been adjusted so that their losses will be capped at a minute.

Two of the Tour's greatest mountains, the Cols du Tourmalet and Galibier, are omitted, and the prospect of the Tour starting in Belgium is hardly pandering to French national pride. There is one return to tradition, however, with the inclusion of 2 miles of the fearsome cobbled roads that feature in the Paris-Roubaix Classic introducing still more uncertainty.

Photo: Dave O'Nyons

Australian Reaction

Brad McGee

Australia had a record six starters in the Tour in 2003 continuing a glorious tradition that goes right back to Don Kirkham and Ivor Munro who rode in the 1914 race.

Prologue winner and Yellow and Green jersey wearer in the 2003 Tour, Brad McGee, is particularly motivated by next years route. Talking to the Age.com he said:

"I don't normally get this excited, this early, but I've printed off the map and the distances from the internet," McGee said."They'll go up on the wall for motivation.It is a little bit out of the ordinary, but why not?"

McGee is particularly excited about stage six next year, a 190km road stage in the west of the country from Bonneval to his old home town of Angers.

"I lived there for three years before I moved to Nice in 2001," he said."When I go back to the region, they still call me a local boy. That will be a big stage for me."

Photo: Dave O'Nyons

Can Armstrong make it sweet six?

 
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