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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

Tour route 2005

Classic Parcours For 92nd Tour De France - Armstrong 50/50 To Defend Title

By Tim Maloney & Hedwig Kröner in Paris

Jean-Marie LeBlanc unveils the Tour for 2005
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(October 28, 2004): The 92nd edition was announced today in Paris to a packed house in the Palais de Congres and for 2005, the Tour De France will focus almost 100% on France. It’s the penultimate Tour of Jean Marie Leblanc and for the occasion, Jean Marie has created a somewhat unconventional but classic Tour.

ASO President Patrice Clerc proudly pointed out that “the 2004 Tour De France saw the historic Record of Lance Armstrong with six consecutive wins, and the performance of young Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, who spent 10 days in the Maillot Jaune and Virenque’s 7th Maillot Pois as best climber."

Clerc continued by explaining that in the face of ongoing challenges against doping, “We must respect the two basics statutes of the Tour De France. One, the defense of ethics: the ethical code of the race must be respected by everyone. Another is the presence of fundamental values of sport: that respect which guarantees the value of the event. That’s how the Tour has been preserved over the last hundred years.”

Although the Tour De France is not currently allied with the ProTour and there was no mention of this at the Tour presentation, nor any sign of UCI President Hein Verbruggen. However, most insiders expect the differences to be settled and the three Grand Tours to join the ProTour at least provisionally in 2005.

LeBlanc looks ahead
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Race director Jean Marie Leblanc spoke fondly of the 2004 Tour: “This Tour is marked by the record of Lance Armstrong, who will go down in history as the greatest dominator of the Tour. So, too did Virenque dominate the climbing classification by winning his seventh Maillot Pois.”

Leblanc spoke of the continuing huge success of the Tour this year as he pointed out that popularity of cycling continues to grow. “We have designed the 2005 Tour to focus on France and we will visit 39 departements of France due to huge popularity of the Tour. Plus we attempted to keep finishes as close to starts wherever possible to make the transfers easier for the teams.”

The 92nd Tour De France consists of 21 stages consisting of 3584km. The Grand Depart of next year’s Tour starts in western France in the Vendee region for the third time in recent years (1993 and 1999). Stage One is a dead flat 19km TT from Fromentine to Noirmoutier en-L’Ile, home of France’s famous potatoes.

Richard Virenque (l) and Thomas Voeckler - French stars in transition.
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Le Grand Depart spends several days in the Vendee region, then heads east up the Loire Valley to Tours, where Stage 3 finishes on Ave. de Grammont, the same finish as Paris-Tours. Next up is a 66km TTT from Tours to Blois along the south bank of the Loire River.

Then there is a stage from the Chateau of Chambord to Montargis through the flat, scrubby woods of the Sologne and Loiret. Then it’s still due east from Troyes in the Haute Marne to Nancy in the Lorraine region for more sprinters stages.

Stage 7 heads from Luneville into Germany on a long 225km stage to Karlsruhe in the Rhein Valley, then turns around and heads west from the jewelry center of Pforzheim back to France to finish in Gerardmer after 235km, half of which are in the Vosges Mountains. Sunday, July 10, is the first climbing stage of the Tour, Stage nine from Gerardmer to Mulhouse over 170km with six climbs in the Vosges, including Grand Ballon & Ballon d’Alsace. This final ascent, 55km from the finish was the first mountain ever climbed in the Tour 100 years ago.

From the Atlantic to Germany and back, the 2005 TdF does a clockwise lap of the country
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After Stage nine, which concludes Phase One of the 2005 Tour, the teams will have a one hour air transfer from Mulhouse to Grenoble and on Monday, July 11, enjoy a rest day at Grenoble. Phase Two of the Tour kicks off with the first Alpine stage on Tuesday, July 12, as Stage 10 heads east from Grenoble to the chi-chi ski resort of Courchevel via the ascent of the Cormet de Roseland and a mountaintop finish at Courchevel 2000.

Another Alpine stage is on the menu for Wednesday, July 13, when Stage 11 heads downhill from Courchevel, then scales the Col de la Madelaine, then up the Galibier and plunges down to for the finish. Thursday, July 14, France’s national holiday, is the halfway point of Tour and Stage 12 heads due south from Briancon to Digne les Bains. No big climbs on this stage, just many tough little up and down ascents on what could be a day for surprises on the way to Provence.

After Friday’s Stage 13 from Miramas to Montpellier in the Languedoc region, the only transition stage between Alps & Pyrenees over 162km, Phase Three commences with a hard stage on Saturday, July 16, from Agde to Ax-3 Domaines via the Port de Pailheres and finishes atop the Plateau de Bonascre, where Colombia Felix Cardenas won in 2001.

Four climbs in under 100kms
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Stage 15 from Lezat-sur-Leze to Saint Lary Soulan (Pla d’Adet) is the queen stage of the 2005 Tour, a classic Pyreneean challenge for the Tour peloton. The second half of the 205km stage ascends five classified climbs before the final assault of Pla d’Adet, including Col du Portet d’Aspet, Mente, Portillion, Peyresourde and the steep Val Louron-Azet before the final mountaintop finish.

Monday, July 18, is a rest day in Pau, where the Tour peloton will stay for three nights. On Tuesday, July 19, the Tour is back at it again on Stage 16 from Mournex to Pau, over the Col de la Marie Blanc and Aubisque before looping back to Pau.

With the Pyrenees over, the final acts of the 2005 Tour begins on Wednesday with Stage 17 from Pau-Revel. This is a tough 239km up and down slog across the Massif Central towards Toulouse and the longest stage of the Tour. Stage 18 from Albi to Mende is a tough189km day with a hard finish atop the Causse Noir where Laurent Jalabert won in 1995.

Stage 19’s run from Issoire to Le Puy En-Velay is a short hilly 154km day while Saturday’s penultimate stage Stage 20 is the second ITT of the Tour over 55km north of St. Etienne which will pay homage to fallen rider Kivilev.

The Tour de France’s final day begins with a morning transfer via TGV to Corbeil-Essonnes south of Paris, then cruises into Paris for the traditional criterium on the Champs-Elysees. Although the 2005 Tour may seem easier than some recent editions, and open the door to Lance’s rivals to finally wrest the Tour crown from the Texan.

This year's historical perspective is provided by the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jacques Goddet (1905-2000), former director of the race and chief of L'Equipe newspaper. It will also coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the first Ballon d'Alsace ascent.

Cyclingnews also caught up with Discovery Channel director, Johan Bruyneel, who commented on Lance Armstrong's prospects of attempting to win a seventh consecutive Tour, as well as other key players. See report.