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92nd Tour de France Route Analysis Part One
By Podofdonny
Date: 11/1/2004
92nd Tour de France Route Analysis Part One

The 2005 Tour route. Courtesy ASO.

Please visit the official Tour website, and also see our Tour de France route presentation report here.

Race Overview

As cycling historian and writer Geoffrey Nicholson observed, “apart from war itself, the Tour is the only international conflict that takes place on the doorstep.” Unlike other great sportsmen, the Tour Champion cannot be sure on what course he will have to defend his jersey from one year to the next. The prospect that Pelé, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto, Tostao and Jairzinho, of the great Brazilian football team of 1970, could have arrived in Mexico to compete in the World Cup to find that the organisers had lengthened the pitch 20 yards, reduced the goal size and decreased the time of play would be unthinkable. Yet in reality, the Tour Champion faces that prospect each time the race organisers announce the next Tour route.

This year the organisers have created a route that, while taking a bow to tradition, is also more unique in its route than many of its 91 predecessors. The Tour de France in 2005 will run from Saturday 2nd July until Sunday 24th July and 3584 kilometres of racing will be covered over 21 stages. The route seems balanced and fair, giving riders of every discipline their chance to shine, while being demanding enough to create a real champion. The 21 stages have the profiles that consist of 5 flat stages, 4 medium stages, 3 medium mountain stages, 6 mountain stages, 2 individual time-trial stages and one team time-trial stage.

The race starts in the West, swings east up the Loire Valley before crossing briefly into Germany and then tackles the mountains in the Vosges after only one week into the race. Heading south, the race then crosses the Aps before swinging west and into the Pyrennees. Then the race heads north but the race has a sting in its tail, since it then crosses the hilly roads of the Massif Central with a demanding finish in Mende. A time trial in Saint Etienne on the penultimate day should ensure tension and excitement throughout the race.

So 3584 kilometres, around France in a clockwise direction. A race dedicated to its former director, Jacques Goddet, who would have been 100 in 2005. Yellow jersey holder and record six time winner Lance Armstrong still not confirmed as participating. Race organisers and the UCI still not in agreement. The 2005 Tour presentation proved two things. The Tour is the biggest race in the world and the future is uncertain. No change there, then.

7th heaven for Armstrong? Photo by Dave O'Nyons.

Tour de France – Stages 1 to 6

Stage 1: July 2

Fromentine to Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile ITT, 19 km

The last time the Tour favoured an Individual Time Trial, as opposed to a prologue, to open the race, was in 2000, in nearby the nearby resort of Futuroscope. In 2000 the course was over 16.5 kilometres and the distance and discipline immediately opened up large time gaps in the peloton. David Millar beat Lance Armstrong into second place by just 2 seconds, but pure mountain men like Marco Pantani and José-Maria Jimenez ended up over 2 minutes down after only 21 minutes of racing.

The race starts in the small town of Fromentine and then crosses the bridge onto the small island of Noirmoutier. The area and roads will be familiar to many of the riders. It was here in 1999 on the second stage of the race between Challans and Saint Nazaire that the peloton used the tidal causeway of Gois to rejoin the mainland after visiting the island. There was a large fall on the causeway which split the peloton, a group of 70 rides broke clear but those caught up in the crash came into Saint-Nazaire over six minutes down, which effectively ended the GC hopes of riders like Alex Zulle, Wladimir Belli and Michael Boogerd.

The flat 19 kilometres start to the race makes life even more awkward than usual for the Team leaders. There is no chance to gradually ease into the race, for a bad day could mean minutes lost on GC. In addition the wind may be a determining factor. If the wind changes during the race we could see an unexpected leader in yellow after only 19 kilometres of racing.

Courtesy Ile Noirmoutier.

Stage 2: July 3

Challans to Les Essarts, 182 km

Jan Kirsipuu has happy memories of Challans, he won here in 1999 and was to wear Yellow later the following day. The race heads down the coast before heading back inland to Les Essarts, which the race visits for the first time. With 9 stages classed as “flat” by the Tour organisers, this should be a day for the sprinters, although the inevitable early crashes and the chance for a strong team to force the pace if it is windy too create echelons may lead to a hotly fought stage. Les Essarts, with just 4,000 inhabitants, is a former fortress whose name remains associated with the violent battles of the Vendée Wars during the French Revolution. These battles will be repeated by the peloton on the coastal roads.

If a break away does succeed, then local rider Walter Bénéteau, who was born in Essarts in 1972, of the Bouygues Telecom Team would be a good outside bet, particularly since manager Jean-René Bernaudeau is also a local lad. He was born in nearby, Saint-Maurice-le-Girard in 1956 and rode the Tour ten times, his best finish being 5th in 1979.

Courtesy Canton de Challans Office of Tourism.

Stage 3: July 4

La Châtaigneraie to Tours, 208 km

Whereas La Châtaigneraie makes its first appearance in the race, Tours is a town steeped in racing tradition. Before 2005, La Châtaigneraie’s main claim to fame in cycling history was its son Roland Berland, who was a great lieutenant of former Tour winner Lucien Aimar. Tours of course, hosts the World cup sprinter's classic Paris Tours and each year the spectators gather in the thousands along the majestic avenue de Grammont.

The Tour has visited on 6 occasions: 1955, 1957, 1961, 1970, 1992 and 2000. On its last visit Rabobank’s Leon Van Bon won ahead of team mate Markus Zberg as part of a 12 man break that gained nearly 8 minutes on the peloton and put 36 year old Alberto Elli into the yellow jersey. In 1992 Thierry Marie won a mass sprint on stage 18 into the race which saw Miguel Indurain in yellow. Andy Hampsten was still in third place on the General Classification but the following day's time trial saw him lose nearly 5 minutes to Bugno.

In theory the wind should drive the peloton along the Loire Valley and we should see a very fast stage, with a hectic finish. However, with Erik Dekker's great victory in this year's Paris Tours, maybe the Rabobank will again strike gold in Tours.

One for the sprinters. Photo by Dave O'Nyons.

Stage 4: July 5

Tours to Blois TTT 66 km

Saeco in 2004 TTT action by Dave O'Nyons.

Although they first made their appearance in the 1930’s, Team Time Trials, in the modern sense, made their debut in the 1954 Tour over just 10.4 km on the Circuit des Essarts in Rouen. On that day the top three riders' times were added together to give a total time. In 2004, the system will once again be used by which the actual time of the winning team (first five riders) counts for that team, with the team setting the second time, losing a maximum of 0'20", adding 0'10" per team until the 15th team losing a maximum of 2'30", the 16th team 2'35" until a maximum of 3'00" for the 21st and last team.

The TTT finishes in Blois, which the Tour visits for the second time. In 1992 Miguel Indurain won an Individual Time trial into Blois over 64 km with an average time of 52.351 km/h. The Team Time Trial of 2005 could also see a very fast time and possibly the 10 year old record by Gewiss will fall in the Loire Valley. The Discovery Channel Team, who have won the event for the last two years, will be hoping to make it three in a row, however they still have a long way to go before equalling the record of the Raleigh team. They won the event for 5 years running between 1978 and 1982, and since in three of those years there were two team time trials, no less than 8 straight victories in a row.

Postal in 2004 TTT action. Courtesy Dave O'Nyons.

Stage 5: July 6

Chambord to Montargis, 179 km

Courtesy Domaine National de Chambord.

The small (population 215) village welcomes the Tour de France for the first time. However, the outstanding chateau, of fairy tale proportions, has 800,000 visitors a year, so the locals will not be fazed by the arrival of the Tour and its followers. The area also produces a “Royal Liquer” which is made from locally grown raspberries. The finishing town of Montargis is on the canal d’Orleans and is called “la Venise du Gatinais.” The town has welcomed the Tour before. In 1969 Herman Van Springel won a ten-man sprint after a massive 329.5 kilometres of racing from distant Clermont Ferrand. It took the Belgian 9 hours 37’37" to complete the stage, at an average speed of 34.216 kilometres an hour.

Today should be one for the sprinters, but by now riders who are no threat to the general classification may be allowed a little leeway, which a well organised breakaway might be able to exploit.

Stage 6: July 7

Troyes to Nancy, 187 km

The Tour makes its seventh visit to Troyes, and the town is associated with sprinters. In 2000 Erik Zabel won the gallop. The Spanish sprinter Manuel-Jorge Dominguez won in 1987 ahead of some very famous English speaking riders; Sean Kelly, Phil Anderson and Malcolm Elliott all finished in the top ten. Dominguez is often not credited for his victory since he actually finished second behind Guido Bontempi, however the Italian failed the control and was ranked last for the stage with a ten second penalty. The 1987 race will always be remembered for the Delgado-Roche duel with the Irishman coming out on top, with three compatriots also in the race - Martin Earley, Sean Kelly and Paul Kimmage.

Nancy is a town steeped in Tour tradition. It welcomes the race for the fourteenth time and first entered Tour history as stage one of the 1905 Tour. The riders who set out on July 9th from Paris to Nancy encountered crowd trouble and an estimated 125 kilograms of nails were thrown on the road. Only 15 riders made it to Nancy, eventual race winner Louis Trousselier covering the 340 kilometres in just over 11 hours. Jean Fischer, who was nicknamed “Le Grimpeur” and had won Paris Tours in 1901, came in over 5 hours behind. Not for the first time in its history, the organisers took pity on those riders who had made it by train or car following the incidents on the road and 24 riders were reinstated.

Hopefully the crowds will behave better in 2005 than they did 100 years previously, and a nail-free peloton will battle it out on the roads to Nancy, although the terrain and 5 days hard racing may favour the breakaway artists.

Tour de France. Daily Peloton.

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