The team time trial will be back for the 2011 Tour de France along with the infamous submerged causeway at Passage du Gois as details of the opening weekend for next year’s race were revealed Tuesday.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme confirmed details of the opening stages of next year’s grand départ set for the Vendée region in western France, once again turning convention on its head.
After Monaco in 2009 and Rotterdam for 2010, the Tour will begin on home soil for the 2011 edition.
For the second time in four years, there will be no prologue.
Instead, the 2011 Tour will start with a road stage on July 2, crossing the infamous Passage du Gois — last used in the 1999 Tour — and ending atop the small climb at Mont des Alouettes. At 232m above sea level, the hill also features a typical windmill of the Vendée region.
The second stage will feature a team time trial on a 23km course around Essarts while the third stage will start in d’Olonne-sur-Mer.
The Vendée region will be hosting the Tour start for the fourth time in 20 years, with other starts in 1993, 1999 and 2005. The team presentation will be held at Puy-du-Fou, which also held the race festivities in 1993 and 1999.
The inclusion of the Passage du Gois will be an interesting reminder of the 1999 Tour, when the causeway played a significant role in Lance Armstrong’s first Tour de France victory.
The 4.5km cobblestoned causeway, which connects the Noirtmoutier island to the mainland along France’s Atlantic coast, is submerged twice a day with the rise and fall of the tide.
The causeway was featured in stage 2 of the 1999 Tour and proved to be decisive when several riders crashed on the still-wet and slippery surfaces. Alex Zulle, who would eventually finish second to Armstrong, lost more than six minutes in a crash.
The remainder of the 2011 Tour route will be revealed in October in a presentation in Paris.