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92nd Tour de France Route Presentation - Updated
 
By Staff
Date: 10/31/2004
92nd Tour de France Route Presentation - Updated
 

Article and photos by Pete Geyer.
Click photos for larger images.

"General De Gaulle runs France eleven of twelve months, in July it's Jacques Goddet," wrote Antoine Blondin, longtime journalist for the French sports daily l'Equipe. Thursday in Paris current Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc outlined his plan for running France in July, 2005.

The announcement each October of the following July's Tour route is one of the most anticipated moments in sports, particularly in France. For weeks prior, there is much speculation, both by those within the sport and those who follow it, about the path the next Tour will take. Tour organizers, ASO, have every reason to keep the route secret as long as possible, at least until after they've secured all the required hotel reservations for the teams, Tour officials and other members of the caravan that will move along the route in July. Once the Tour route has been revealed, there is a rush by journalists, tour group operators and some individual fans to secure hotel reservations. Some present at Thursday's announcement will have immediately begun efforts to reserve required lodging.


Bernard Hinault and Jean-Marie Leblanc present Richard Virenque with a framed photographic collage commemorating his record 7 polka-dot jerseys. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


Jean-Marie Leblanc, in front of a large reproduction of the 2005 Tour poster, speaks to the packed crowd at the Palais des Congrès. © Pete Geyer.

But the impact of the announcement of the Tour route goes well beyond the world of professional cycling, the teams, media and fans who travel far to see the Tour. Throughout France (and in part of Germany) beginning last Thursday, the 2005 Tour is a topic of discussion (all the evening news programs displayed the Tour route map) for many residents along the Tour route in particular, serious fan or not. Fans will have looked at the announced route and immediately started thinking of friends or family members along that route with whom they could stay next July, whether or not such potential hosts are fans themselves. Those lucky enough to learn that the Tour is coming to their town will plan to be there for it. It's easy to get excited when you learn that Le Tour is coming to town, your town.

With 15 million spectators on the roads in July (68% male, 32% female according to ASO) and 96% "brand recognition" in France (who and where in France are the other 4%?), the architect of the Tour route, Leblanc, indeed wields some power.

Tour watchers around the world, while in most cases not as directly impacted by the route, will certainly have taken notice. Foreign spectators in Tour mountain stages are estimated by ASO to be as high as 30%.

The crowd waiting to get into the auditorium for Thursday's presentation was a mix of riders, team managers and sport directors, sponsors, local government officials, media and others. Lance Armstrong was not in the house this year, neither were Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov, who marched in the front entrance together last year, re-united as teammates and projecting an image of determination and expectation of great things to come in July, 2004 that was not to be. But off to one side was Richard Virenque speaking with a French minister and cycling fan, Nicholas Sarkozy, who was surrounded by secret service agents who may or may not have been cycling fans. Also present were Ivan Basso, Vladimir Karpets, Thomas Voeckler, David Moncoutie, Christophe Moreau and others, mostly French riders. Former pro and current tour group leader Phil Anderson was there, as were OLN's team of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll.

Once everyone was inside, seated and ready for the show, master of ceremonies Daniel Mangeas, longtime speaker of the Tour, introduced ASO president Patrice Clerc. Clerc's brief speech recalled the historic and other thrilling moments of the 2004 Tour: Armstrong's record 6th win, Virenque's record 7th polka-dot jersey, Voeckler's inspiring battle in yellow. But given several far less glorious moments in the sport this season, it was no doubt inevitable that Clerc would raise the issue of sports ethics: "Now more than ever, we must not compromise our values of sport, ethics and fair play." He seemed to be sending a message in light of recent disagreements between organizers of the Grand Tours and the UCI, the sport's international governing body.

But ASO was mostly intent on reminding the audience what a beautiful sport this is and it no doubt succeeded with an inspiring 10-minute video of Tour 2004 highlights. Lights out, first up on the screen appeared key moments from each of Armstrong's six Tour victories, accompanied by music that suggested battle, warriors and conquerors. On to the highlights of the 2004 Tour, the pace of the music picked up, dominance was the theme, and the powerful USPS team was seen in the team time trial, in slow motion, then Armstrong and Basso together on the climbs, Armstrong triumphing and a thumbs up from Sheryl Crow in the team car. More Armstrong stage wins, then finally Armstrong on the podium in Paris. The video then included segments depicting all the stage winners triumphing, the crashes (with appropriate "mishap music"), Voeckler's courageous fight to stay in yellow (the music there was light, energetic, fresh), Virenque securing his 7th polka-dot jersey. In addition to the music, voice-over clips from Radio Tour, team directors, and television broadcasters in several languages were included. It was an impressive show and was heartily applauded by the audience.

 


French politician Philippe de Villiers presents the Vendée area where the 2005 Tour will start. Photo © Pete Geyer.

Philippe de Villiers, representing the Vendée area of France where the 2005 Tour will begin, then showed a promotional video.


Jean-Marie Leblanc looks on while Philippe de Villiers speaks; Leblanc is about to present the Tour route for the last time. © Pete Geyer.

"President in July" Leblanc then presented the 2005 Tour route, what everyone had come for. This was the last time Leblanc would design and present a Tour route; that task will go to Christian Prudhomme starting in 2005 as he gradually takes over the reins to the Tour.

Leblanc showed an impressive flyover of the route, then got down to the details of the stages. That detail included mentioning the mayors of the Tour stage towns. There was nothing that quite jumped out like the announcement last year of the time trial up l'Alpe d'Huez but if one stage got the attention of the audience, that would be stage 15 to Pla-d'Adet. Perhaps the surprises this time will come in July, not in October?


Jean-Marie Leblanc shows an impressive flyover of the 2005 Tour route. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


Vladimir Karpets, who earlier in the ceremony received a best young Tour rider trophy, looks on as Jean-Marie Leblanc presents the details of the 2005 Tour route. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


Jean-Marie Leblanc announces the creation of the Prix Jacques Goddet, a prize to recognize the best article written during the most recent Tour. This year's winner is Yves Perret of the Dauphiné-Libéré newspaper. Photo © Pete Geyer.

From one "President in July" to another, Leblanc also announced the creation of the Prix Jacques Goddet, a prize to recognize the best article written during the most recent Tour. Leblanc then concluded and spent significant time patiently posing for press photos while pointing here or there on the Tour map, his last one.


Jean-Marie Leblanc and officials from Germany point to a German stage on the 2005 Tour map. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


Thomas Voeckler speaks to the media after the 2005 Tour presentation.
Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


A retiring Richard Virenque, surrounded by reporters, knows he won't be riding the Tour route he sees projected on the large screen and said he was feeling nostalgic. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


Ivan Basso does a television interview. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


OLN's Bob Roll interviews Ivan Basso. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 


OLN's Paul Sherwen interviews Jean-Marie Leblanc as a cameraman for l'Equipe TV looks on. Photo © Pete Geyer.

 
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