American Lance Armstrong’s quest for a fifth straight Tour de France willbegin next year at the foot of the Eiffel Tower – the famous Paris landmarkhaving been chosen to mark the race’s 100th anniversary.
Organizers unveiled details of the 2003 Tour in Paris on Thursday and presenteda race that will include seven mountain stages with the peloton tacklinga total of 21 major climbs.
Next year’s 3350km edition will call in on seven towns which figured in thefirst edition of the Tour: Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux andNantes.
In contrast nine stage venues will be used for the very first time: Meaux,La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, Saint-Dizier, Joinville, Sallanches, Gaillac,Cap’Découverte, Saint-Maixent L’Ecole and Pornic. After the EiffelTower prologue on July 5 the first stage will get underway at the Stade deFrance and will pass by the Reveil-Matin hotel in the French capital’s suburbs where the inaugural Tour set out from on July 1, 1903.
Greg LeMond, winner in 1986, 1989 and 1990, said that he sees the route only a secondary factor in the outcome of the race.”I find the Tour well balanced, but it’s always the same thing. No matter what the route is it’s the strongest who’ll win in the end,” LeMond said.And on his compatriot Armstrong’s prospects of notching up win number five?”If he’s in the same form it’ll be hard to find a rival to him,” LeMond observed.The Crédit Agricole director Roger Legeay reckons the 2003 Tour will not be one of the toughest in the event’s history.”This Tour is more or less ‘soft’, with pretty short time trials,” he said.Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said he had wanted next year’s race to resemble the 1903 edition, yet maintain all its traditional balance.The unmasking of the 2003 race was made at a press conference attended by past winners including Armstrong and Germany’s Jan Ullrich.Among the innovations to mark its centenary the leader’s yellow jersey will carry the initials HM as a mark of respect to Henri Desgrange, the man who created the Tour.Twenty-two teams, each consisting of nine riders, will be invited to takepart in the 2003 Tour. These teams will be selected in three rounds in accordancewith the UCI’s new regulation which applies to the three major tours. Fourteenteams automatically selected at the end of October, 2002 according to theUCI classification drawn up at the end of the season; the organizers willannounce the choice of four wild cards at the end of January 2003, afterthe registration deadline for new teams and finally, four more wild cardswill be selected in mid May 2003.
Prologue– Saturday, July 5 — 8 km – Paris
Stage 1 – Sunday, July 6 Saint-Denis/Montgeron – Meaux – 160 km
Stage 2 –Monday, July 7 La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Sedan – 195km
Stage 3 –Tuesday, July 8 Charleville-Mézières – Saint-Dizier-160 km
Stage 4 – Wednesday, July 9 Joinville – Saint-Dizier – Team TT- 68km
Stage 5 – Thursday, July 10 Troyes – Nevers – 196 km
Stage 6 –Friday, July 11 Nevers – Lyon – 230 km
Stage 7 – Saturday, July 12 Lyon – Morzine – 226.5 km
Stage 8 –Sunday, July 13 Sallanches – L’Alpe d’Huez – 211 km
Stage 9 – Monday July 14 Bourg d’Oisans – Gap – 184.5 km
Stage 10 –Tuesday, July 15 Gap – Marseille – 195 km
R – Wednesday, July 16 – Transfer to Narbonne – Rest Day
Stage 11 – Thursday, July 17 Narbonne – Toulouse – 160 km
Stage 12 –Friday, July 18 Gaillac – Cap’ Découverte Time Trial- 48.5 km
Stage 13 – Saturday, July 19 Toulouse (Cité de l’Espace) -Plateau de Bonascre – 197.5 km
Stage 14 – Sunday, July 20 Saint-Girons – Loudenvielle – 191.5 km
Stage 15 – Monday, July 21 Bagnères-de-Bigorre – Luz-Ardiden- 159.5 km
R – Tuesday, July 22 – Rest Day Pau
Stage 16 –Wednesday, July 23 Pau – Bayonne – 197.5 km
Stage 17 – Thursday, July 24 Dax – Bordeaux – 165 km
Stage 18 –Friday, July 25 – 200 km Bordeaux – Saint-Maixent-l’Ecole
Stage 19 –Saturday, July 26 Pornic – Nantes – Time Trial – 49 km
Stage 20 –Sunday, July 27 Ville d’Avray – Paris Champs-Elysées- 160 km
Total : 3350km
ReactionsMarco Pantani-(1998 double winner of Giro and Tour)
“It is a traditional Tour de France. I will be there if I decide to race next season, but I won’t make guarantees because I’m the one who has to decide whether or not I come back. In the short-term, I have to think about the conditions of my return. I really feel like coming back and making a great season. There is a possibility of making a team around Mario Cipollini and myself, but before doing that we have to talk between Mario and me. It’s true, to race with Mario is very tempting, but I will make a decision in a few weeks.”Vicente Belda -(sport director of Kelme)
“We have to be ready for when the time comes that Armstrong slips. I’m not saying he’s in decline now or next year, but sooner or later he will slip up. This Tour is a well-rounded Tour, hard with a lot of climbing, but not favoring the climbers or the time-trial specialist.”Bjarne Riis-(1996 Tour winner, manager of CSC-Tiscali)
“I think Jan (Ullrich) has learned the lessons from the past and if we give him the time to come back and rediscover the rhythm of competition after missing all this year I think he’s the only one today able to beat Lance Armstrong.”Gilberto Simoni -(winner of 2001 Giro)
“The Tour will head straight into the Alpes and that’s where the climbers will have an advantage. Alpe d’Huez is spectacular but the Pyrenees will be horrible. This Tour looks the same as all the others, but I think this will be more difficult. I hope that I can do well.”Christophe Moreau-(fourth in Tour 2000)
“Three stages in the Alpes, four in the Pyrenees and in between an individual time trial – the Tour 2003 will be difficult and very selective. I would love to forget my abandon in 2001 and my crash in 2002, and give something back to my fans and to myself, I don’t want to fail in this Tour.”Manolo Saiz -(manager of ONCE)
“The Tour can be magical for everyone to dream. It’s a Tour like any other, but it’s also a Tour to be imaginative. There are only three summit finishes and the equilibrium in the time trials remains the same. There are a lot of mountain stages that don’t end on the summit and these are the chances to make possibilities for tactical situations. This Tour can be magical if we participants realize we have to risk something to win.”Eddy Merckx-(five-time Tour winner)
“It’s the passion that has reunited all of us. It’s true that we’re talking about an historical meeting. I have never seen former Tour winners.”Richard Virenque-(five-time King of the Mountains)
“Seeing the determination this year, it’s going to be necessary to wait to see until the time comes when Lance wants to leave. If there weren’t such long time trials, maybe we could make him a little nervous. All the Tours are important, but even more so.”
The joint statement of Patrice Clerc and Jean-Marie LeblancThis year it is not an ordinary Tour de France that we are preparing, but this rare and significant event, the Centenary edition of the greatestcycling competition in the world.
This has been in our thoughts for the last few years. In order to celebratethis event we have already set up important operations with the Paris Mint,and with the Post Office, for the fabrication of a commemorative medal andstamp. The magnificent book from our friends at L’Equiperecountingthe 100 years of the Tour has just appeared, and, on the television and theradio, retrospectives, documentaries, series, will see the day over the nextfew months. Along with exhibitions, and special animations for young people,and celebrations.
Many more ideas will appear before next July. We ourselves have already glorifiedin our own way these hundred years of the Tour de France with the Centenaryposter, which idealizes our competition’s past, and which will be reproducedon the route by the Centenary caravan; along with a new logo, a new personality,open to modernity, to the future, to the youth of today, because we wouldlike to see the values of the Tour perpetuated for a long time to come.
But the race in all that, you may say?
The race, we cannot -the rules are what they are- and nor do we want to,change it, to break its balance and its logic which give it its credibility:there will be no more mountain stages than usual, no less time trials thanusual; no excessively long distances or untimely difficulties. All is measureand reason. This is what we expect of the Tour de France today, in the straightline of sporting ethics that should not be provoked in favor of the attractionof the show alone.
Yet, we will have a very pretty Tour route, via the emphatic and symbolicallusion that we wanted to make to 1903. For, just as in 1903, we will setoff from Paris and the l’Ile de France area- the famous Réveil-Matinin Montgeron still exists – and just as in 1903, we will pass through Lyon,Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes; and even Ville d’Avray, on the lastday.
And, diverging from the route of the first Tour de France, we will pay tributeto the memory of its forefathers, Géo Lefèvre, Henri Desgrangeand Jacques Goddet; we will visit its symbolic places, the Galibier, theAlpe d’Huez, the Izoard, the Tourmalet, Luz-Ardiden; we will remain faithfulto those who have been faithful to us, Bordeaux and Pau, but also Morzine,Ariège, the Hautes-Pyrénées… And we will also innovate,by exploring Cap’Découverte, in the Tarn region, or the Citéde l’Espace in Toulouse: nine new towns in total will figure on our route.
One hundred years later, without moving away from its fundamental pointsof reference, the Tour de France wants to retain its pioneering spirit.
Patrice Clerc, President of Amaury Sport Organisation
Jean-Marie Leblanc, Tour de France Manager
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