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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for October 29, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

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.

The Tour's mountain stages

Next year's Tour is geared towards the climbers rather than the rouleurs, with a total of 21 major climbs on offer in the Tour's six main mountain stages. The mountains really start in Stage 9 between Gérardmer and Mulhouse, with the key stages looking to be the 12th stage from Courchevel to Briançon, including the Madeleine, Télégraphe/Galibier and the very tough 15th stage between Lezat-sur-Leze to Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla-d'Adet), which contains six fairly serious climbs (Portet d'Aspet, Menté, Portillon, Peyresourde, Val Louron-Azet, and Pla-d'Adet).

The full list of mountain stages:

Stage 9 - July 10: Gérardmer - Mulhouse, 170 km

Col de Grosse Pierre (955 m), 3.1 km. at 6.4 percent
Col de Bramont (956 m), 3.4 km at 6.5 percent
Le Grand Ballon (1338 m), 21.9 km at 3.6 percent
Col de Bussang (731 m), 6.2 km at 4.5 percent
Le Ballon d'Alsace (1171 m), 9.1 km at 6.8 percent

Stage 10 - July 12: Grenoble - Courchevel, 192 km

Cormet de Roselend (1968 m), 20.1 km at 6 percent
Courchevel (2004 m), 21.8 km at 6.3 percent

Stage 11 - July 13: Courchevel - Briançon, 173 km

Col de la Madeleine (2000 m), 25.4 km at 6.1 percent
Col du Telegraphe (1566 m), 12 km at 6.7 percent
Col du Galibier (2645 m), 17.5 km at 6.9 percent

Stage 12 - July 14: Briançon - Digne-les-Bains, 187 km

Côte des Demoiselles-coiffées (1067 m), 4.6 km at 4.8 percent
Col Saint-Jean (1332 m), 13.2 km at 4 percent
Col du Corobin (1230 m), 12.4 km at 4.5 percent
Col de l'Orme (734 m), 2.7 km at 3.9 percent

Stage 14 - July 16: Agde - Ax-3 Domaines, 220 km

Port de Pailhères (2001 m), 15.2 km at 8 percent
Ax-3 Domaines (1372 m), 9.1 km at 7.3 percent

Stage 15 - July 17: Lezat-sur-Leze - Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla-d'Adet), 205 km

Col du Portet d'Aspet (1069 m), 2.7 km at 8.4 percent
Col de Menté (1349 m), 7 km at 8.1 percent
Col du Portillon (1320 m), 8.3 km at 7.2 percent
Col de Peyresourde (1569 m), 13 km at 6.9 percent
Col de Val Louron-Azet (1580 m), 7.5 km at 7.9 percent
Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla-d'Adet) (1669 m), 10.7 km at 7.6 percent

Stage 16 - July 19: Mourenx - Pau, 177 km

Col d'Ichère (674 m), 4.4 km at 6.2 percent
Col de Marie-Blanque (1035 m), 9.3 km at 7.7 percent
Col d'Aubisque (1677 m), 16.5 km at 7 percent
Col du Soulor (1475 m), 2 km at 5.5 percent

Ullrich pleased

Jan Ullrich was another of the big guns not in attendance at Thursday's Tour presentation, as he is currently on holiday in the Seychelles. The German, who finished fourth in this year's race, was happy that next year's edition will pay a visit to his own country. "It is an appropriate compliment for the German cycling fans," Ullrich told SID. "How hard the Tour really is, will be seen during the race. In any case, it's interesting again, but most of all I'm pleased with the stages in Germany."

Also see: The 2005 Tour - what's in store, Reactions to 2005 Tour, Full stages list

Boonen on the mend

Tom Boonen is recovering well after his operation to fix an intestinal problem earlier this week. Although he is still in hospital, he can now sit up again and is hungry, according to his Quick.Step team. "He will try to eat solid foods and may go home on the weekend," said team director Wilfried Peeters to Het Nieuwsblad.

Bartko more on track?

The dual gold medalist on the track at the Sydney Olympic Games, Robert Bartko, is considering focussing more on the track in the future, in light of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The German was disappointing at this year's Games in Athens, with his best result being fourth in the team pursuit, and his contract has not been renewed by Rabobank. "If I want to win gold in Beijing, I have to let the interesting but time consuming road racing go," he told DPA.

Scheuneman back to Rabobank

Niels Scheuneman will return to the Rabobank team in 2005 after signing a two year deal with team CEO Theo de Rooij. Scheuneman rode for Relax-Bodysol-Brustor this season, and has permission to leave the team mid-contract.

Niels Scheuneman was a member of the Rabobank youth teams from 2000 through 2003. In 2001 he won the bronze medal in the individual time trial and the silver medal in the road race at the Junior World Championships. In 2003 he finished second in the U23 time trial at the Hamilton World Championships. He also finished second in the Dutch U23 individual time trial championships in 2002 and 2003.

Eeckhout to Jacques

Nico Eeckhout (Lotto-Domo) will join the new Chocolade Jacques-T Interim team next season. Eeckhout won two races this year (Delta Ronde Van Midden-Zeeland and Stage 4 of the Ster Elektrotoer) but did not get a contract offer from Davitamon-Lotto.

Colombian transfers

One of the top Colombian riders, Felix Rafael Cardenas, is continuing with Cafes Baque-Orbitel next season. The winner of the mountains jersey in the 2004 Vuelta a España will join his compatriots Hernan Buenahora, Ivan Parra, Hebert Gutierrez, Jose Castelblanco in the Basque/Colombian sponsored team.

In other Colombian team news, Fredy Excelino Gonzalez and Luis Felipe Laverde are both joining Panaria, while Leonardo Fabio Duque is continuing with Chocolade Jacques. Finally, it's quite possible that Carlos Lopez (Saunier Duval) will join the Barbot team.

Bratkowski to Lamonta

29 year old German Jan Bratkowski will ride for the Lamonta team next season, according to Bratkowski had to give up his road career two years ago after being unable to find a team, and since then has been racing mountain bikes.

Larsen to Glud & Marstrand

Michael S Larsen has signed a contract for 2005 with Danish team Glud & Marstrand Horsens.

Surf City Cyclocross lives

A single Surf City cyclocross race will be held on October 31, 2004 in Santa Cruz, USA. The Halloween race is being promoted by Velo Bella and Roaring Mouse Cycles in an attempt to keep the popular series alive, as it looked doomed when its most recent promoters retired and no one else stepped up to take over. The northern California series has been in existence since 1975, and has spawned early cyclocross stars such as Clark Natwick, Don Myrah and Shari Kain.

The race will be held at one of the series' most popular venues, The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, CA. In addition to 14 categories of racing, The Spirit of Surf City Cyclocross will also offer a costume contest race, a kid's race on a specially designed pint sized course, live music by a local framebuilder and rock star, Paul Sadoff, a post race barbecue, a halloween cat fight, and the assorted mischief and mayhem that Velo Bella is known for.

Race information can be found at and participants can register online through Friday, October 29th at

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)