By Agence France Presse
Lance Armstrong will look to hone his form for the 2005 Tour de France in the 57th Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, a demanding, weeklong race in June that the American has won twice before going on to claim victory in the Tour.
Organizers on Friday announced the route for the June 5-12 race, which should have the 33-year-old American salivating with anticipation – in addition to a climb up the legendary Ventoux, it has a time trial that is slightly shorter than the Tour’s 55km time trial around Saint Etienne, to be held on the penultimate day. It’s the Tour’s only true time trial, barring the 19km prologue.
Armstrong, who may be racing his last Tour this year with the Discovery Channel team after winning the past six editions with U.S. Postal, will find a few contenders absent as he races for a third Dauphiné victory.
Spaniard Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) team, will not saddle up to defend his title, which he claimed in style last year, beating Armstrong in an ascending time trial towards Ventoux, the Provence mountain that resembles a lunar landscape. Mayo went on to struggle in last year’s Tour de France, finally abandoning in the 15th stage, having suffered badly in the Pyrenees climbs.
Another of Armstrong’s July rivals, German Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), who won the Tour in 1997, is scheduled to take part in the Tour of Switzerland, which takes place on the same dates. Ullrich’s teammate Alexander Vinokourov is also set to line up for the Swiss tour , although organizers have not given up hope that both will change their minds and ride the Dauphiné instead.
Twenty-one teams and 168 riders will click into gear for the start of the race, a 7.9km prologue in Aix-les-Bains. After the opening prologue the race meanders over some hilly Alpine terrain, with a brief stay in Provence.
Armstrong will get a chance to test his time-trialing form over the 46.5km TT in Roanne, which includes a category 3 climb, the Paimpillod. The next day, the peloton will get back into team mode for a 182km race towards the Ventoux, and two days later the climbers will face another acid test of their form in the sixth stage from Albertville to Morzine-Avoriaz, which includes the Forclaz, the Croix-Fry, the Colombiere (category 1) and the beyond-category climb of Joux-Plane.
The final stage sees the peloton tackle the Domancy climb (category 3) seven times over a 115km circuit. Those with a nose for cycling history might remember that French legend Bernard Hinault won the world road race title there in 1980.
The 57th Dauphiné Libéré
Prologue, June 5: Aix-les-Bains (7.9km individual)
Stage 1, June 6: Aix-les-Bains – Givors (224km)
Stage 2, June 7: Givors – Chaufailles (187km)
Stage 3, June 8: Roanne (46.5km individual time trial)
Stage 4, June 9: Tournon-sur-Rhone – Le Mont-Ventoux (182km)
Stage 5, June 10: Vaison-la-Romaine – Grenoble (219km)
Stage 6, June 11: Albertville – Morzine-Avoriaz (155km)
Stage 7, June 12: Morzine-Avoriaz – Sallanches (115km)