Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

92nd Tour de France - GT

July 2-24, 2005

Tour de France news for October 29, 2004

Tour 2005: fewer time trials, more climbing

A beautiful show, but no answers

By Hedwig Kröner in Paris

Jean-Marie LeBlanc unveils the Tour for 2005
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After a lengthy preparation, the final 2005 Tour de France route was announced to the public at the Palais des Congrès in Paris on Thursday. Beautifully designed as it is every year, the revelation of the parcours is a celebration of cycling, and cycling's most prestigious race.

Just before the announcement, which was presented as a three dimensional flight over France's topography, a short film of remembrance of the last Tour was sure to create goose bumps as it does each year, reminding the audience why they are all really there on this day. For a moment, the whole of the invited team managements, sponsors, guests, TV crews and other media watched in awe as the blood, sweat and beauty of the riders' performances of France's Grande Boucle were put into image and music on the screen in front of them. One couldn't help wondering what effect this staged show had on the riders present, and what their views were on the fascination their plain leg-turning jobs actually created.

Finally, the race's patron Jean-Marie Leblanc ended the secrecy and displayed a route without a prologue, with fewer time trial kilometres, shifting the focus on the climbs as two stages in the hilly eastern and central regions of Alsace and Auvergne add to six Alpine and Pyrenean stages. All in all, there will be 21 climbs to master on a parcours of about 3,600 km. This will certainly contribute to the variety of the race's day-to-day protagonists, as some stage's outcomes will be less predictable, offering more possibilities for wholehearted attacks.

Nevertheless, the first day's time trial of 19 km can only benefit true rouleurs, and the sprinters that in the past years have been able to reach for the Yellow jersey during the first week, might not be able to do this in 2005 - perhaps making bunch sprint finishes a little less prone to crashes. The Tour's clockwise direction will then lead the peloton right across the country eastwards for the team time trial from Tours to Blois (66 km). With the same rules as this year, significant gaps cannot be created. Then, as the race heads for Germany where Tour de France spectator-mania will certainly culminate as it did in Saarbrücken 2002, the terrain will get more difficult. A little mountain stage will wait for the riders in the Vosges, between Gérardmer and Mulhouse, after the first week of racing, and this will ring the bell for the climbers. A rest day in Grenoble will serve as a last chance to chill before some serious Alpine climbing and the transition to the Pyrenees, certainly no less demanding.

Although there are three mountain finishes in 2005, there are also some descents that could easily see the leading riders regroup after the tops of the last climbs before the finish. After the Ballon d'Alsace, there are 55 km of descent before reaching Mulhouse; the top of the Galibier is a 40 km descent away from the finish in Briançon; and from the Aubisque to Pau, there are 69 km downhill. With the return to the Galibier and the Aubisque, the Tour's mythical mountaintops may add to the legend in the 2005 edition, and even if the Ventoux has been omitted again this time, the mountain stages will provide for some tantalising racing in superb scenery. By the time the riders leave the Pyrenees behind, overall victory should be in the grasp of only a few riders, and the arena open for final attacks in the central region of Auvergne. The last time trial around Saint Etienne (55 km), one day before the final show to Paris' Champs Elysées, will decide the winner of the 92nd Tour de France on a rather technical course.

However, as the presentation was over, the Tour route unveiled and the riders giving interviews, some questions had still been left unanswered. The Tour de France organisation ASO did not state whether or not it would adhere to the UCI's ProTour calendar next year. In a speech just before the announcement of the parcours, ASO president Patrice Clerc made several points about the nature, the ethics and competition aspects of cycling that could have been interpreted as criticism on the UCI's reform plans, but nothing was clearly or officially said. Just a few months away from the season 2005, the face of cycling next year is therefore just as vague as before.