The Reuters global sports blog
Prepare for Pyrenees classic in 2010 Tour de France
One hundred years after first featuring on the Tour map, the Pyrenees could be the scene of a classic battle between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.
Tour de France organisers unveiled the route for next year’s race here in Paris on Wednesday, with four stages, including a gruelling 16th stage with four daunting climbs, to be held in the mountains that form the border between France and Spain.
Defending champion Contador sounded pretty pleased with the prospect.
“The route is better than last year’s because there are more mountains,” Contador told reporters. “Finishing with the Tourmalet is great for me,” he added, referring to the last mountain stage which ends at the top of the 2,115-metre high Col du Tourmalet.
The three-week race over almost 3,600km will start with an 8km prologue in Rotterdam before heading into the heartland of cycling — Belgium.
The first stage will take the riders along the North Sea, with 12km and 6km sections on an embankment, with crossing winds likely to split the peloton.
The opening stage to Brussels will also go through Antwerp and Meise, the home town of five times winner Eddy Merckx. A tribute will then be paid to the classics, with the second stage going through roads used on Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Leaders will have to be extremely cautious in the third stage, which features treacherous cobbled sections used for Paris-Roubaix, the Queen of the Classics. “There will be 11km of cobblestones in the last 30km. There will be some damage,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
“Cobblestones are nice on TV, but not on the bike,” said Contador, who has never taken part in the Paris-Roubaix race.
Although the Alpine stages will not prove too arduous, a one-stage detour in the Jura mountains is expected to prove tricky, with 56km of climbs over the last 120km in the seventh stage to Station des Rousses. “That could cause havoc,” said Prudhomme.
Those who survive the Pyrenees will then head to Bordeaux after the last rest day on July 21 before a final individual, 51km time trial to Pauillac through the Bordeaux vineyards.
The race will end on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 25. Will Contador be in yellow again?