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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
A Classic Cuvee for the 89th Edition of Le Tour De France
By Tim Maloney, Cyclingnews correspondent, October 26, 2001
Le Tour De France 2002 has announced the official route and it appears to be a classic tour template, with three distinct phases: a first week of flat, fast stages across Northern France; then two weeks of tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees and Alpes before the final dash to Paris. Le Tour '02 opens in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which last hosted a Tour start in 1989. Luxembourg is where '88 Tour winner Pedro Delgado missed his prologue start by almost three minutes. After a winding, technical 6.5km prologue in the historic city center of Luxembourg and a nervous, rolling 195km Stage 1 through the countryside of the Grand Duchy, the TDF makes a quick detour on 175km Stage 2 to finish in Saarbrucken, Germany. Le Tour '02 gets back to France and down to business on Tuesday, July 9, with a 185km third stage from Metz to Reims. The next day's Stage 4 offers a spectacular Team Time Trial along the left bank of the Marne River from champagne capital Epernay to Chateau Thierry. Like last year's TTT, Stage 4 has a WW1 theme as it runs along the former front lines of the Second Battle of The Marne, where French poilus and American doughboys turned back the last major German attack of the Great War in July 1918.
Then it's four more flat, fast Tour stages, heading due west across France through the Champagne and Oise regions, with prevailing northwest winds likely to cause splits in the peloton. Tour '02 then loops on to more rolling, nervous terrain into Normandy and down to Brittany, culminating with a 55km Individual Time Trial from Lanester to Lorient on Monday, July 15's Stage 9.
Phase Two of the '02 Tour starts with an air transfer on July 16 from Lorient to Bordeaux, followed by the transitional Stage 10 to Pau, where the mysterious, cloud cloaked Pyrenees await the peloton of Le Tour '02. The back to back mountain stages start with Stage 11 from Pau to La Mongie: 158km that first climbs up the tough Col d'Aubisque, then finishes at altitude at La Mongie ski resort near the summit of the tough Col de Tourmalet. The next day's Stage 12 on July 18 is longer and tougher still: 198km from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille with four cols to climb before the final 15.9km climb to another Pyrenees summit finish where Marco Pantani took the stage honors in '98 Tour.
With the Pyrenees over, Stage 13 will be another transition stage to the Mediterranean coastal town of Beziers, but before the Tour peloton can relax, Stage 14 offers an ugly surprise just before the Alps begin. After a long hot day in the saddle across the Gard and into Vaucluse, yet another tough mountaintop finish awaits the peloton atop the Giant Of Provence. Yes, it's Le Mont Ventoux, again from the Bedouin side, after 200km of hard racing. Le Mont Ventoux, where only the strong survive. Finally after the Pyrennes and Provence, Le Tour will offer a welcome second rest day in the quaint Provencal town of Vaison-le-Romaine.
After the "journee de repos", the Alps once again embrace the Tour De France peloton for its final phase of racing in 2002. Once again, the majestic, pristine Alpine ascents will be the final battleground of Le Tour, where the first stage, Stage 15 offers 226km of racing over relatively unknown roads of the Drome and Isere before the final assault up to les Deux Alpes, where Marco Pantani took the stage win and maillot jaune from Jan Ullrich in his victorious '98 Tour De France.
No respite for the peloton on the second alpine stage in Le Tour '02 with another mountaintop finish, the 5th in the Tour. Stage 16, 179km from Deux Alpes to La Plagne starts with ascension of the Col de Galabier, at 2656m the highest point in next years TDF. The stage then plunges into the Savoie region, up and over the Col de la Madeleine and up to the final summit arriv of the '02 TDF at La Plagne. The next day, Stage 17 from Aime to Cluses is the final Alpine stage; a short, intense day of 141km with four cols, spaced one every 30 km or so, is on the TDF menu. Up the tough 20km climb of the Cormet de Roseland, then it's Col de Saises, Col des Aravis over the spiky Chaine des Aravis crests and finally the tough Col de Colombiere before screaming down the 20km descent to finish in Cluses.
The conclusive phase of the '02 Tour De France is another transition from Cluses to Bourg-En-Bresse of 180km which could be deceptive as the hilly profile may allow for a strategic escape. Then it's the penultmate stage, number 19,a 52.5km Individual Time Trial through the vineyards of Macon that should sort out the final general classification story. Le Tour's final stage as always since 1975 ends in Paris on the Champs Elysees.
Jean-Marie Leblanc (Race director)
On the shortness of the Tour 2002: "We were not trying to put on a performance, but the philosophy of the modern grand tours is without doubt to make them shorter than previously. One cannot claim to fight against doping and to impose increasingly heavier workloads on the riders. We have to respect the limits in the rules. This year, by moving the starting locations, we saved on distance to some extent. This Tour is compact, and will be concentrated in particular in the final 10 days."
On selection: "As usual, the selection is problematic. There are many more candidates than places (21). The international rules have the effect that sixteen teams are already qualified. This is provided that they are operational next year and that they are candidates. For example, if their riders are too weak..."
"In principle, there is just one pre-qualified French team (Cofidis). But if we have five wild-cards, it is to ensure that French cycling is represented properly next July and that will be the case. But the qualification for the Tour de France is not a reward, it is deserved."
"I hope that the French teams will come along. We know the majority of them, consider Credit Agricole, Ag2r, Bonjour, which were excellent this year. There is every reason to think that they will again be operational in 2002."
On the Tour 2002 overall: "Noting that the 2001 Tour was appreciated by the fans and the public, the same balances will be in place. 10 days devoted to the flat, and a second part completely in the south which incorporates all the difficulties. The Tour has to be as open to the flat landers as to the time trial specialists and the climbers. We tried to build a course that gives chances to all types of riders. The ideal is that the most complete rider wins."
Christophe Moreau (Festina/Credit Agricole)
Although Christophe Moreau did not finish the 2001 Tour, he did place fourth in 2000 and managed to win the prologue in 2001. He is thus considered the best hope for a French podium finish in 2002. He will be riding for Credit Agricole next year, further bolstering their chances for a wild card selection.
At the Tour's launch today, Moreau said that "I like the course very much. It will be concentrated and balanced edition with an exhausting and hard finish."
"In the past, my 4th place came about when the race went from the Pyrenees to the Alps. I like the Pyrenees at the end of the parcours, these are mountains that I go well on. I will go with a great deal of hunger, with some unfinished business after my experience in the last Tour de France."
"More than ever, I am thinking of the podium because when one comes fourth, one always hopes for a little bit more. The competition between Armstrong and Ullrich remains very, very high. I will do everything with Crédit Agricole, my new team, to prepare for the next Tour under the best conditions."
Moreau added that Credit Agricole should qualify, "even if we are not currently in the top 10. In the new UCI classification, we will be very, very close. We are in the perfect position for a team going for a wild card."
Richard Virenque (Domo-Farm Frites)
"I have the impression that they have lessened the difficulty. I did not see any difficult mountain stages. It is never hard enough for a climber, we always want more mountains. There is still a lot to do and we will better examine the terrain for the principal difficulties."
"It is an easy Tour de France for the climbers. The major stages will certainly have to be targeted, because there are not many really hard ones. Of course, I will be very happy to take part in a race of which I was not privy to in 2001. I am in a hurry to get to the month of July. My objective will be the Tour de France and then I will try to do well in some late season classics."
On his aims in the Tour, Virenque said that he wants to win the best climber's jersey for the sixth time. "For the general classification, I will see from day to day. For me, the final victory remains hard. With so many time trials and Armstrong who has crushed this race for three years, I would be happy with a place of honour."
Virenque nominated either the stage to La Plagne or Les Deux Alpes as the most difficult in this year's Tour.
Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Daikin/Saeco)
Although he is currently in Japan for the Japan Cup this weekend, Gilberto Simoni followed the Tour's presentation via the internet and was impressed by the route. This year's Giro winner will be endeavouring to help Saeco Macchine per Caffe make selection for 2002, by no means an easy task given the number of available spots.
"I've seen the course and I like it," said Simoni. "I really hope to be able to take part in the Tour de France because I'm sure I've got a chance of winning it. There are six big mountain stages with five uphill finishes. I think I'm stronger than Armstrong in the mountains. I realised this during the Tour of Switzerland when we raced head to head."
He's not scared of the time trials either. "I know that the time trial isn't my strong point and I know I'm not as good as Armstrong and other riders but in the Giro d'Italia I showed I can look after myself in time trials. I've also got all winter ahead of me and I'm going to work hard on improving my ability against the clock."
Laurent Jalabert (CSC-Tiscali & Maillot Pois 2001 TDF)
"It looks like a nice parcours for 2002, with the shorter stages, and there should be a lot of action. Overall, it's a balanced race with time for recovery as well."
We asked the stylish, leather jacket-clad Jaja what he thought of the impending arrival of his new team-mate Tyler Hamilton at CSC-Tiscali: "I've spoken to him a few times in the peloton, but don't know him well. But I am looking forward to him coming (to the team); it should be a good arrangement as I'm used to having another leader in the team; it worked well with Olano, and Hamilton will be good for the team."
Walter Godefroot (Manager, Deutsche Telekom)
"This (TDF 2002) is a very, very classic parcours. Plus it has a lot of recuperation for the riders, the way the rest days are placed." When cyclingnews asked Godefroot about the impending arrival of his second American rider Bobby Julich, he remarked that "we are looking forward to him coming, but it's hard to say now how he'll do."
Johan Bruyneel (Director Sportif, USPS)
"Under the circumstances with the difficulty of air travel, Lance preferred to stay at home and spend time with his family. His wife is expecting (twins) next month." When Cyclingnews asked Bruyneel about the 2002 TDF parcours, he said, "it a good one; quite similar to the 2000 Tour; first the Pyrenees, then Mont Ventoux and the Alps."
Claudio Corti, (Manager, Saeco)
"With the arrival of Gilberto Simoni, we are looking to the Tour next year. Simoni is confident that he can have both a good Giro and Tour and so am I. After his breakthrough Giro win this year, Simoni is also confident that he can challenge Lance Armstrong on the mountain stages of next year's Tour."
Ricardo Magrini (team manager, Mercatone): "Marco (Pantani) is feeling good these days. The (sporting fraud) case probably shouldn't have existed, but in any case, Marco is satisfied with how it turned out." Magrini commented that "the parcours is bello; it seems that it will be very... we hope they invite us! But we have to show them (STF) that we deserve to be invited by our riding."
By Jeff Jones, October 25, 2001
The official route of the 2002 Tour de France was unveiled in Paris today, and it looks to be one of the best yet in recent years. At 3282 kilometres, Le Tour 2002 is shorter than last year by 170 km, making it the shortest since 1905 (equal with the 1988 Tour). Combined with this is an interesting final week in the Alps, which will certainly liven things up, culminating with a 52.5 kilometre individual time trial from Regnie-Durette to Macon on the penultimate stage.
Other points of interest include the Luxembourg start, with a prologue and two stages starting in the diminutive country. A brief excursion into Germany is followed by the team time trial on July 10, 68 kilometres from Epernay to Château-Thierry. Then comes what Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc described as a "race on the flat from east to west, then going to the tough mountain finishes without any long stages."
The latter comment is certainly true, as all the grand tours (with the Vuelta as the main example) are starting to become shorter. In theory this means more excitement and less stress on the riders, helping to reduce the reliance on illegal performance enhancing and maintaining substances.
Although Lance Armstrong, the winner of the last three editions of the Tour, was supposed to be present in Paris today, he chose to stay at home in the USA due to the current situation.
Stage 11 - July 18: Pau-La Mongie, 158 km
Stage 12 - July 19: Lannenezan-Plateau de Beille, 198
Stage 14 - July 21: Lodève-Mont Ventoux, 220.5
Stage 15 - July 23: Vaison-le-Romaine-Les deux Alpes,
Stage 16 - July 24: Les Deux Alpes-La Plagne, 179 km
Stage 17 - July 25: Aime-Cluses, 141 km
Total distance: 3282 km
By Jeff Jones
We are moving into the area of speculation, but an examination of the UCI regulations can yield a Tour de France preselection list. This list - although strictly unofficial! - has gained widespread acceptance in the cycling community.
According to UCI regulations, the first 10 classified teams at the end of the year get an automatic berth in the three Grand Tours. In the case of the Tour de France, you also need to add the winner's team (Armstrong's US Postal), the team of the World Cup winner,(Dekker's Rabobank) and the winner of the team classification in the three Grand Tours (Giro: Alessio; Tour: Kelme; Vuelta: iBanesto.com). There is some overlap between these teams. The remainder of the 16 teams are made up from the UCI rankings at the end of 2001, provided all eligible teams have registered by December 20.
Based on the latest UCI rankings (October 14, 2001), the following is a very unofficial Tour de France preselection list.
1 Fassa Bortolo
Further speculation: Saeco and Credit Agricole are theoretically next on this list. But Credit Agricole would only be the second French team here, after Cofidis, and they should be selected based on their performance in 2001. That would leave a maximum of four more wild-card positions to make up 21 teams...