PARIS (AFP) — The 100th edition of the Tour de France will finish in Paris at nightfall for the first time, organizers said on Wednesday, as they unveiled next year’s route in the shadow of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The 3,360km route will begin for the first time on the Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 29, culminating with a final stage run from the historic town of Versailles, southwest of Paris, arriving on the Champs Élysées at sunset.
Three time trials — two individual and one for teams — will feature in the race, as well as four summit finishes, not least a climb to Semnoz in the Alps on the penultimate day, which is likely to determine the winner.
France’s Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France in 1903, which ended with a mammoth 471km sixth and final stage from the western city of Nantes to Paris.
Since then, and barring breaks for World War I and World War II, the battle for the coveted race leader’s yellow jersey has become cycling’s biggest event and seen it grow to include stages across Europe.
But Wednesday’s unveiling comes with cycling in crisis after the UCI on Monday stripped Armstrong — who won the Tour an unprecedented seven times between 1999 and 2005 — of his titles and banned him for life for doping.
Defending champion Bradley Wiggins (Sky) said the Armstrong Affair was a disaster for the sport but cycling must move on.
“It’s a shame for the sport but it’s out there now and we have to deal with it,” said Wiggins. “They said today that cycling is no longer like that and we are here to prove that and show that cycling isn’t like that anymore. It has changed, but it’s definitely a shame, not a shame he (Armstrong) got caught, but for the riders and the sport.”
In next year’s race, sprinters will get a golden opportunity on day one, with a relatively flat run from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, setting up former world champion Mark Cavendish for the first yellow jersey of his career.
The race switches to the mainland, after finishes in the Corsican towns of Ajaccio and Calvi, with the 25km stage 4 team time trial around the southern city of Nice, shaking up the overall standings early and setting up defending champion Bradley Wiggins’ Sky team to take pole position.
The race winds its way along the French Riviera, taking in Marseille and Montpellier before the peloton’s climbers heave the first chance to show their credentials in the Pyrénées on stage 8.
A nasty 15km climb awaits the peloton at Port de Pailheres before the first summit finish at Ax-3 Domaines and a slog over 8km where the gradient is a stiff 8.2 percent.
There is then no let up in stage 9, with five climbs littered across 165km of racing between Saint-Girons and Bagneres-de-Bigorre, before a well-deserved rest day on July 8.
The race heads towards northwestern France, when it resumes with a scenic run towards the Breton port of Saint Malo before a crucial 33km individual time trial between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel. Wiggins built the foundation of his 2012 victory in the race-against-the-clock stages has yet to digest the fact that the time trials in 2013 are a third shorter and could play into the hands of his rivals.
“I haven’t really had time to have a good look at the course, but it looks spectacular and I’m really looking forward to it. I wasn’t paying a lot attention and it’s a lot to take in in 20 minutes but you don’t really get a sense from the presentation how hard it’s going to be,” he said. “The first week, I think a lot of other things could come into play like accidents and things like that.”
The route again heads south through central France, taking in Tours, Montrond and Lyon before a showpiece Bastille Day stage that includes the mythical Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse, where British champion Tom Simpson died in 1967.
A second rest day preceeds the final, 32km time trial, before a climb over the legendary Alpe d’Huez, which features twice on a day that will again prove crucial in determining the 2013 champion.
“It’s a better tour for climbers like me; the course is interesting, especially the last week with two climbs up Alpe d’Huez,” said 2010 winner Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), who missed the 2012 Tour after fracturing his pelvis in a crash in June. “My main job now is to become a rider again and regain my level. I still have pain but I hope to be free of pain by January. When I return to racing I want to competitive again.”
Stages 19 and 20 will provide more opportunities to attack the race leader and two more summit finishes at Le Grand-Bornand and Semnoz before the final day run to Paris, which starts at King Louis XIV’s chateau at Versailles.
“It’s a harder course than last year, but the climbs are better for me,” said 2011 best young rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). “I like the longer, steadier climbs. I wish there were some more distance in the TTs but it’s good there is a team time trial. BMC always does well in those.”
June 29 1st stage: Porto-Vecchio—Bastia, 212 km
June 30 2nd stage: Bastia—Ajaccio, 154 km
July 1 3rd stage: Ajaccio—Calvi, 145 km
July 2 4th stage: Nice—Nice, 25 km (TTT)
July 3 5th stage: Cagnes-sur-Mer—Marseille, 219 km
July 4 6th stage: Aix-en-Provence—Montpellier, 176 km
July 5 7th stage: Montpellier—Albi, 205 km
July 6 8th stage: Castres—Ax-3 Domaines, 194 km
July 7 9th stage: Saint-Girons—Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 165 km
July 8 Rest day at Saint-Nazaire
July 9 10th stage: Saint-Gildas-des-Bois—Saint-Malo, 193 km
July 10 11th stage: Avranche—Mont-Saint-Michel, 33 km (ITT)
July 11 12th stage: Fougères—Tours, 218 km
July 12 13th stage: Tours—Saint-Amand-Montrond, 173 km
July 13 14th stage: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule—Lyon, 191 km
July 14 15th stage: Givors—Mont Ventoux, 242 km
July 15 Rest day in the Vaucluse
July 16 16th stage: Vaison-la-Romaine—Gap, 168 km
July 17 17th stage: Embrun—Chorges, 32 km (ITT)
July 18 18th stage: Gap—Alpe d’Huez, 168 km
July 19 19th stage: Bourg-d’Oisans—Le Grand-Bornand, 204 km
July 20 20th stage: Annecy-Semnoz, 125 km
July 21 21st stage: Versailles—Paris Champs-Elysées, 118 km
Andrew Hood contributed to this report.