Tour de France and to celebrate organizers of the event have some big plans for the race next year. The full course for the event was unveiled yesterday, giving fans a glimpse of what they can expect and leaving us with months of anticipation for what will surely be one of the toughest Tours in recent memory.
Contrary to recent rumors, the race will still end on the streets of Paris in the final stage, although it will finish at sunset for the first time, rather than mid-day as it has in the past. The race gets underway with two sprint stages on the island of Corsica (another first!), which gives Mark Cavendish the opportunity to take the Yellow Jersey for the first time in his career, although you have to believe there will be a number of sprinters hoping to sniff yellow.
The tale of the tape looks like this: 7 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 6 mountain stages with 4 summit finishes, 2 individual time trials and 1 team time trial, plus 2 rest days. But those numbers don't tell the whole story, because this is a Tour that will definitely favor the strong climbers. One of the individual time trials is even on a mountain stage, which will be brutal for the riders who specialize in the TT discipline, such as 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins or Fabian Cancellara.
Perhaps most surprising is that the riders will have to take on the famed Alp d'Huez not once, but twice, and on the same stage no less. Yep, you read that correctly. Stage 18 will see competitors riding from Gap to Alp d'Huez, ending on the mountain top after riding up the slope twice from two different approaches. The legendary 21 switchbacks have been ridden twice in a single Tour once before, on consecutive days back in 1979, but this is the first time it'll need to be conquered twice in one day. It is going to be on grueling ride to say the least.
Defending champ Wiggins took one look at the route yesterday and pretty much conceded that he wouldn't be able to repeat as the winner. Instead, he says he'll ride for teammate Chris Froome, who is a better climber and finished second in this year's Tour. Alberto Contador will be back in the field next year and should do well in the mountain stages and provided 2011 winner Cadel Evans returns to form, he should be in the mix too.
Either way, the stage is set for an exciting race and, lets face it, the sport of cycling could use something exciting to look forward to right now. The 100th running of Le Tour could mark a turning of the page in many ways.