Tour de France News for October 26, 2007
Edited by Sue George with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
A Grand Tour with minimal transfers and mythical mountains
By Gregor Brown in Paris
Tour Director Christian Prudhomme
and 2007 winner Alberto Contador shake hands
Photo ©: AFP
The 95th Tour de France will be a Grand Tour of modest terms and with
mythical mountains stages. The 2008 French Grand Tour was presented today
in Paris with minimal transfers and with the inclusion of the famed mountain
climbs of Hautacam and L'Alpe d'Huez. The route, 3,554 kilometres over
21 stages, will run from July 5 to 27.
"We have wanted a first week of racing with much more rhythm,"
explained Tour Director Christian Prudhomme. "With no prologue, an
uphill finish that will suit different types of sprinters at the end of
stage one, with a short time trial on stage four and the first mountain
[Super-Besse] only 48 hours later, we have decided to change the scenario."
The 95th Tour starts on Saturday with its Grand Départ
in the cycling-rich region of Brittany without the usual prologue start,
as has been favoured by the ASO (Tour organizers) for the last 40 years.
(Read news item Tour
de France 2008 to start in Brest and visit Italy. It then travels
in a counter-clockwise direction, hitting the Pyrénées and
then the Alps before its traditional finish on the Champs-Élysées,
Sunday in Paris.
"It is not good for the cyclists when there are a lot of transfers,
so this route looks favourable for us," noted the 2007 Tour Champion,
Alberto Contador. "There are not huge jumps from the north to the
south, and this will make the race more comfortable."
Keeping in its modest terms, the 95th edition will contain one time trial
of 29 kilometres in Cholet and a second one of normal Tour length
on the penultimate day of 53 kilometres, from Cérilly to
Saint-Amand-Montrond. Though the minimal transfers presented by the ASO
on Thursday are favoured universally by cyclists and team staff, the lack
of crono kilometres 82 in total was not favoured
"Maybe I might have to modify my training a little," said Cadel
Evans, second in the 2006 Tour, to Cyclingnews when he heard of
the minimal time trial kilometres.
The modesty of the 2008 edition will be forgotten when riders hit the
high peaks near Spain and Italy; there are a total of five mountain stages,
four of which finish in an upward trajectory. Planned is a return to Hautacam
(stage 10), a romp up the 2802-metre Col de la Bonette-Restefonds (stage
16) and the mythical Alpe d'Huez (stage 17). There are a total of 10 flat
and four medium mountain stages that combine with the aforementioned five
mountain and two time trial stages to form the 21 stages.
Evans, Contador and Pereiro
Photo ©: AFP
The final bit of intrigue provided at Thursday's presentation was the
lack of time bonuses on offer. Riders in the top placings will not be
award with seconds taken off their overall time when competing in intermediate
sprints and stage finishes. This will change the fight amongst the sprinters
who are jockeying for the maillot jaune in the first few stages,
and we may not see the overall lead change hands as often.
"People like the Tour," Prudhomme commented in regards to
this year's scandals that involved Moreni, Vinokourov and Rasmussen. "The
public has booed Michael Rasmussen, that's a good thing! They have told
us: keep courage, please fight for the Tour's survival. We have listened
to this message and we want to meet their expectations. ... We want to
The Tour de France will be starting in the region of Brittany for the
sixth time and in the town of Brest for its third time. Fausto Coppi won
his last stage when the race began in the costal town in 1952 and Belgian
Eddy Merckx took honours when it hosted its last stage start in 1974.
34 years later, cyclists will face 195 kilometres, ending in Plumelec.
Two more stage starts will be hosted by Brittany, Auray to Vannes (stage
2) and Saint-Malo to Nantes (stage 3).
Although the Tour does not have a prologue time trial to start next year's
edition it will feature a short individual test on stage four. The 29-kilometre
run starting and ending in Cholet will be seriously contested by the general
classification men and see the wearer of the maillot jaune changes
hands. Its distance contrasts dramatically to the last two years: 2006
had its first time trial with a distance of 52 kilometres and 2007's
first time trial was held over 54 kilometres.
"It is good that there are less time trial kilometres in the 2008
race," continued Contador to Cyclingnews. "However, it
would be better if that short time trial was the second and not the first
of the race. I prefer long time trials first."
To read the complete preview, click
Contador ready for different Tour
By Gregor Brown in Paris
Yep, this is where I am going to
Photo ©: AFP
Spaniard Alberto Contador is ready for a "different race" in
the 2008 Tour de France. The 2007 champion attended the race's presentation
Thursday in Paris and was surprised with what he saw, especially the short
first time trial and high-mountain pass of Cole de la Bonette.
"We have to approach the stage with respect," said Alberto
Contador to Cyclingnews of stage 16 that covers the highest pass
in Europe. "I think that it [the high pass] will make for a different
race, and it is a good thing."
He confirmed that he will be out to defend his title in 2008, even if
changing from Discovery Channel to Astana. "The Tour will be the
most important objective for me next year. I will train all-out for the
Tour. I will have to adjust my training to be ready for the mountains.
It is very important to preview these climbs."
Pereiro: "The hardest Tour"
By Gregor Brown in Paris
Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
with his 2006 trophy
Photo ©: AFP Photo
After only being recently
crowned the 2006 Tour Champion, Oscar Pereiro of Caisse d'Epargne
attended the 2008 Tour de France presentation at the Palais des Congrès
in Paris. The 30 year-old Spaniard considers the race to be one of his
"Next year will be very hard," he said to Cyclingnews.
"There will not be a prologue on the first day and the first time
trial is very short, so there is not really a normal time trial until
the end of the Tour. After [the first time trial] we enter the Massif
Central and it will be hard on the legs, very hard."
He was impressed with the mountain stages, particularly those in the
Alps. "The stages in Alps will be incredible, also the time that
we will spend in Italy. The stage from Cuneo [stage 16] will be very difficult;
it is a short stage but we will be climbing the whole stage."
Stage 16 will be the Tour de France's first run over the Italian pass
of Col de la Lombarde and the first to the town of Jausiers, while taken
in the seldom-used Col de la Bonette. The riders will face this moon-like
landscape on Europe's highest road, at 2,802 metres (8,295 feet), before
the 23 kilometre run to the finish.
Like his colleagues, he was happy to see minimal transfers. "For
us it is better this way. It allows us to have more rest. However, I think
this will be the hardest Tour that I will do. I have ridden four and this
will be my fifth and the hardest. It is clear that a rider who
goes well in the climbs will do well in the 2008 Tour. ... I will have
to train more and more in the mountains to be ready."
Clerc: "No team has a guaranteed start"
By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
Patrice Clerc is the General Director
ASO president Patrice Clerc was questioned about the biological passport that
all riders will have to carry in order to take part in the 2008 Tour de
France. "In 2008, it can only be used as an evaluation of the riders'
biological data," he said. "Riders wont get suspended if
some blood values are abnormal but they will be declared unfit to race,
therefore it will avoid the possible margin of mistake. After the experimental
period of 2008, the biological passport will be used for possible bans.
We trust the scientists who guarantee to us that 600 to 700 riders will
have a biological passport by July 1, 2008. That makes a potential of 30
to 35 teams that can be eligible the Tour de France, among which are the
supposed-to-be big teams, but others as well."
Photo ©: AFP
Asked whether or not Astana's chances to ride the Tour after signing
defending champion Alberto Contador have increased, Clerc stood firm:
"No rider and no team has a guaranteed start at the 2008 Tour de
France. Only riders with a biological passport will start, that's all
I can say. But we don't have any link whatsoever with the ProTour. Nobody
will oblige us to line up certain teams!"
The president of ASO doesn't want to restrict the fight against doping
to the biological passport though. "We won't give any freedom to
the riders after the start of the race," he added. "We also
have the evidence that traditional doping tests work. It has worked with
Mr. Vinokourov, with Mr. Moreni, with Mr. Kashechkin, with Mr. Mayo. The
biological passport will prevent the important part of the doping during
the six weeks before the race. There's no universal answer to the plague
of doping but it's going to be very hard for the cheats to do what they
have done in the past."
Prudhomme worked for more open and more romantic race
By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
Prudhomme unveils the route
Photo ©: AFP
As event director, Christian Prudhomme put his personal mark on the course
of the 2008 Tour de France. "We have wanted a first week of racing
with much more rhythm," he said. "With no prologue, an uphill
finish that will suit different types of sprinters at the end of stage
1, with a short time trial on stage 4 and the first mountain (Super Besse)
only 48 hours later, we have decided to change the scenario.
"There are less big climbs but there are some of the best ones with
the [stage 10] Tourmalet,
[stage 16] La Bonette-Restefonds
with its summit at 2,800 meters that has only been climbed four times
in the Tour history and [stage
17] L'Alpe d'Huez," said Prudhomme. "There is also more
harmony on the course with the climbs more distant from each others. We
also wanted to go back to the south in the Alps and at the end, everything
will possibly be open at the bottom of L'Alpe d'Huez."
Along with a new route came a new logo for the Tour de France. It features
a heart with the letters of "Tour toujours" which translates
to "The Tour forever."
"People like the Tour," Prudhomme said. "This year in
London, in Belgium, in Burgundy, and even more at the end of the Tour,
for example in the Périgord after all the problems that occurred,
the crowd gave us wonderful signs of encouragements. The public has booed
Michael Rasmussen, that's a good thing! They have told us: keep courage,
please fight for the Tour to survive. We have listened to this message
and we want to meet their expectations.
"People want the Tour, people don't want doping," said Prudhomme.
"We believe in the biological passport will offer them the Tour without
doping. I'm convinced cycling is on its way to becoming an example for
Talking about both the course and the new anti-doping policy, Prudhomme
used a most magical French word, "We want to restore romanticism."
Soler likes high mountain stages
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ę: Sirotti
2007 polka-dot jersey winner Mauricio Soler was a guest of honor at the
2008 Tour de France route presentation Wednesday morning in Paris. Soler
also won the mountain
stage to Briançon
The Columbian traveled to Paris by car after only recently undergoing
a minor operation on his nose that should help him perform even better
in 2008. Along with Team Barloworld manager Claudio Corti, Soler was obviously
interested in the Tour route that will start in Brest on July 5 and end
in Paris on July 27.
"It's not really up to me to judge the route of the Tour de France
but I have to say that after a first look I like it," Soler said
modestly. "The amount of time trials has been reduced because there's
no prologue and no team time trial. There are lots of climbs but I wouldn't
say it's a particularly tough Tour route. Fortunately for me there are
lots of climbs over 2,000 metres and I'm used to racing and breathing
at that altitude. There'll be lots of chances for me to attack."
"The mountains are interesting, above all the Alpe d'Huez I would
like to win that stage," Soler said to Cyclingnews.
Corti was hopeful for Team Barloworld's chances at the 2008 Tour. "Were
building a team that will strong in every kind of race. We've shown the
professionalism of our team and riders this year and I'm hopeful that
the Tour organizers will remember that when they decide which teams will
take part in next year's race." South African Robbie Hunter also
won a stage in 2007.
Mixed feelings among the Belgian team riders
Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
"I cannot say if I can win on this course," said this year's
second-place finisher Cadel Evans of Belgian team Predictor-Lotto on hln.be.
"The Pyrenees before the Alps makes no difference to me. I think
the second part will be important for the GC. I will concentrate on the
second part, like the majority of the GC riders. But you can lose the
Tour in the first half. I found that out in the previous edition. I might
have been able to win the Tour, who knows?" Evans applauded the lack
of long transfers and said, "That is good for everyone. Riders, journalists,
mechanics ...... that gives more time to rest. It is good for the quality
of the competition."
"Lombardia went well and gave me just enough for the ProTour,"
continued Evans to Cyclingnews. "I was not able to win [the
race] but for the ProTour classification, it was good. I will race the
2008 strictly for the win and not think of the 2008 ProTour classification.
"I don't think it changes much," he said of the lack of a prologue. "There
will not be too many kilometres of time trialing, lots of climbs, no team
trial and no prologue. There are 29 and 53 kilometre time trials
I will have to see the profile of those before we decide, but it looks
to me to be more of a climbers' Tour."
Hendrik Redant, Sport Director at Predictor-Lotto, was not totally happy.
"For a team with a sprinter [McEwen] and a captain for the GC [Evans],
it will be complicated," he said. "The support riders will have
a lot of work. We will have to rely on the work of other teams. The reduction
of the number of time trial kilometers is a slight disadvantage for Evans."
His comments were echoed by Marc Sergeant, Lotto's team manager, who
spoke to Sporza. He also called the reduced number of time trial
kilometers a disadvantage and noted that "Because there is no prologue
and because of the win in Brittany, I expect a nervous start. We must
be attentive from the very start." He added, "The key to the
Tour will lie in the last week, with the only really long time trial and
the stage to Alpe d'Huez."
"With Evans, we have finished eighth, fifth and now second. Next
year we want to win."
The lack of a prologue "is an advantage for Tom Boonen," said
Quick.Step-Innergetic manager Patrick Lefevere, also on Sporza.
"Whether the green jersey is really a goal for us next year is something
we can't say at this point. We will have to look at the makeup of our
team next year. But not only green is possible. In such an opening week
you can hold on the yellow jersey for a long time. Because if you win
the first stage, you will keep it for perhaps a week. But the opening
can bring disappointment, too. Who can say how a mass sprint will turn
"Our team is strong enough to put its stamp on the Tour," he
concluded. "Steegmans has my trust, and Rosseler can go with an escape
Breukink says decision will fall on Alpe d'Huez
It is a Tour for the climbers, according to Rabobank team manager Erik
Breukink. "No prologue, no time bonuses and a short first time trial."
The latter is especially of interest to his riders Denis Menchov and Thomas
Dekker, who are specialists in such middle-length time trials, he told
"The mountain stages are especially difficult, with the ride to
Alpe d'Huez as the main point. I think that that is where the decision
will fall." Not only is the climb itself a classic, "that is
the only stage with three really hard climbs." Of the climb to the
Prato Nevoso in Italy, he said, "That is unknown territory."
Gadret remembers 2007 Tour as nightmare and hopes for better days
By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
AG2R's climbing specialist John
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Cyclo-cross star John Gadret who won the GP Gippingen and the Tour de
l'Ain this year with Ag2r gave his comments after the launch of the 2008
Tour de France, a race he took part in for the first time this year.
"It's been an absolute nightmare," he remembered. "I felt
I was in hell because it was going so fast. I hope the biological passport
is a solution to the problem. It is a weight upon us to handle the doping
environment when we have nothing to do with it."
His team-mate, 37 year-old Stéphane Goubert also was optimistic.
"The biological passport will restore the credibility of the Tour
de France and the bike riders," he said. "It's good thing. My
only regret is that it's not extended to all the sports from the start.
But at least there won't be suspicions on the riders anymore. We hope
that this is the solution, but the other controls [will] have to be well
done as well. There is a real consciousness that cheats will now get caught
very quickly if there are still some around."
Thomas Voeckler gave had a more skeptical opinion. "I'm past the
age to believe in the word 'renewal' for cycling because I've heard it
too many times already and that didn't prevent new scandals from happening.
Many promises haven't been kept in the past. I don't think the biological
passport is the miraculous solution. I believe in it without being too
excited about it. If it's done properly, it's a very good measure. Regular
blood checks are more efficient than controls.
Nonetheless, Voeckler showed some optimism. "I truly hope for a
cleaner cycling though. If it has to become better, it's now. There is
a common wish that didn't exist before. I want this to work for the public
who still follows us and for the young riders who begin cycling now. I
can understand that some people are sick of hearing promises. [Alexander]
Vinokourov had signed the ethical charter, right? The biological passport
is more concrete though."
Current anti-doping clean-up efforts are reminiscent of the clean-up
in French cycling that followed the Festina scandal in 1998, and many
are hoping for better days ahead.
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