Editor’s Note: Please check back soon for analysis of the route and reactions from top riders compiled by VeloNews’ European correspondent Andrew Hood in Paris.
PARIS (AFP) – Defending champion Cadel Evans was cautiously optimistic over his chances of defending the Tour de France yellow jersey in 2012 after the race route was unveiled here on Tuesday.
With only three mountaintop finishes and almost double the number of kilometers in time trialling compared to last year, race chiefs have kept up with recent tradition by trying to shake up the course. That means the race is dominated by several stages in the ‘medium’ mountains, with forays into the Vosges and some of the more unknown climbs in the Pyrenees and Alps set to give the peloton some food for thought.
However it is the predominance of time trialling which could be decisive in 2012’s 99th edition. Evans made history when he became the first Australian to win the epic race last July, limiting his losses against better climbers before beating Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck with a stunning penultimate stage time trial display.
The BMC team leader, therefore, wasn’t too concerned about the lack of stages in the high mountains, or the 96.1 km of racing against the clock spread over the prologue, and stages 9 and 19.
Asked if the route suited him, Evans said: “I think so, you need a good team there for the GC (general classification), but we have that.
“I think the second half is favorable towards me.” He added: “There are longer time trials, and they are a little bit flatter this year so that’s a little more favorable to the ‘rouleurs’,” he added, referring to the powerful riders who excel on the flat.
After it was accidentally leaked on to the race’s official website last week, details of next year’s course would not have made welcome reading for either Andy Schleck or his brother Frank. Andy finished runner-up for the third consecutive year three months ago after he failed to follow up some epic riding in the Alps with the time trialling performance that would have sealed his maiden race triumph.
On paper, the 2012 race doesn’t smile kindly on either of the Schlecks. Andy, however, was keen to emphasise his strong points in the mountains. “There’s still 25 mountain passes to negotiate, and there were 23 this year so …” the Luxemburger said defiantly. “It will be hard in the mountains, but there’s a lot of time trialling and that’s something I’m currently working on.
“Ideally I would like to see another mountain top finish and one less time trial. But I have to take things as they are and keep on working on my time trial.”
Also in attendance was three-time champion Alberto Contador, who endured a crash-marred campaign in July before finally finishing off the podium. The Spaniard recently said he would not race the Giro d’Italia, which appeared to handicap his chances at the Tour in July, and would focus entirely on winning a fourth yellow jersey.
Contador’s full race program is, however, yet to be decided as he awaits the result of a November doping hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The World Anti-Doping Agency and world cycling’s governing body the UCI are appealing the Spanish cycling federation’s decision to acquit 28-year-old Contador over a failed doping test following his third Tour triumph in 2010.