Galibier both ways, the 21 bends and a time-trial in three days of decisive racingShareThis
The Tour de France organising committee must have had their weetabix before they decided the route for the 2011 Tour, which was announced yesterday in Paris. It is punchy.
The parcours contains the highest ever mountain top finish (Galibier at 2,645m), 23 major climbs, a team time-trial and the legendary 21 hair-pin bends of Alpe d’Huez. July 14 (Bastille Day) is 209kms of misery via the Tourmalet to the summit of Luz Ardiden, which should give the French an entertaining day out.
The route has been created for a dramatic finale. With 3 horrific looking days in the Alps at the tail-end of the Tour, followed by the only individual time trial of the three weeks, designed to create suspense and drama in equal measure.
This formula has become something of a hallmark of the current Tour boss, Christian Prudhomme. In 2009 his attempt to maintain the excitement into the final days of the Tour did not quite work. The inclusion of Mont Ventoux was intended to be decisive. However, the peloton appeared too timid to engage in attacking riding on the slopes of the Giant of Provence.
This year the riders (almost) played ball on the stage that finished at the summit of the Tourmalet. But Prudhomme clearly wants more. As a result he has crafted a stage of only 109kms that passes over the Galibier (for the second time in two days) and then climbs Alpe d’Huez. By reducing the stage’s length the aim is to encourage attacking rides, by including two feared climbs he wants to create drama and excitement.
The general classification riders will have a hard time of it, and the time-triallists and sprinters don’t have much to encourage them either. 41kms of individual time-trialling is less than half what the “against the clock” specialists would have usually expected and the effects of the team time trial on stage two will be lessened by the hill top finish two days later.
Mark Cavendish will have his eye on 8 potentially winnable stages. But if he is going to chase the green jersey (following his success in the Vuelta this year) he will probably need to alter tactics and go after the intermediate sprints with a more concerted effort.
Which leaves us with an exciting Tour to look forward to and an unanswered question as to which stage the 2011 Etape du Tour will follow. The 109kms to the Alpe must be too short and some commentators have mentioned the stage to Luz Ardiden as an alternative…It’s announced later today on the website and we’ll let you know on our Facebook page
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