• Thu November 02 2006
  • Posted Nov 2, 2006
Surprising calm follows storm of speculation at the 2007 Tour de France route presentation By James Startt Paris, France : In a day marked by its discretion, Tour de France organizers announced the 2007 race route. Many expected them to use the occasion to address the array of issues and conflicts facing the sport today, as they often use the occassion to go on the attack. Instead they remained largely silent. Just yesterday the French sports daily L'Equipe, who like the Tour is owned by the Amaury media magnet, presented many subjects the Tour could address. First there was the ongoing struggle between the International Cycling Union and the three national tours - the Tour de France, Tour of Italy and Tour of Spain - regarding the fledgling UCI ProTour system. Then there was the state of the yellow jersey, since the 2006 winner Floyd Landis tested positive for Testosterone. There was also an update on the riders involved in "Operation Puerto," the Spanish doping scandal that forced many Tour favorites out of the 2006 race. And there was a new array of measures that the UCI and the ProTour teams were adopting in their own fight against doping. There were so many controversial issues facing the Tour that many wondered where the organizers would find time to talk about the race. Instead, however, they talked about little more than the race. To help facilitate their efforts, they symbolically did not invite many key players in the sport. Both Landis and UCI president Pat McQuaid led the list of "persona non grata," in the Palais de Congres here in Paris. Sure London mayor Ken Livingstone likened the fight against drugs in sport to that of fight against terrorism in his city. Also the city that will play host to the start of next year's race. And Patrice Clerc, President of the Amaury Sports Organisation said simply, "you can never give up in the fight against doping." But aside from such general lines of position, today's Tour presentation resembled that of many others. It opened with a film of the previous edition before outlining the upcoming one. Unlike last year, when Lance Armstrong was conspicuously absent from the film after evidence came out regarding possible use of EPO in the 1999 Tour, Floyd Landis could be seen in the 2006 recap. Although the final parting shot of the American was visibly blurred in an effort to communicate the confusion surrounding his victory and subsequent drug test. Soon, however, it was back to business, back to the upcoming Tour de France. Christian Prudhomme, who replaced Jean-Marie Leblanc after 18 years as director of the Tour, concentrated on the race. After its uncharacteristic start in London, the 2007 Tour will resemble many others. It will start with its traditional flat opening stages in the north, before entering the mountains in the final phases of the race. This year's race first enters the Alps for three days on stage seven. The first time trial is strategically placed just before three more mountain stages, this time in the Pyrenees, before the race makes its way back towards Paris. Totaling roughly 3550 kilometers in 20 stages, with six mountain stages and two time trials, the race, is on par in terms of distance and difficulty with those in recent years. As always the Tour will be magnificent as it rolls around the French countryside. And this year's race will be treated to rare stops in towns like Marseille, Montpellier, Albi and Cognac. But try as they might, conversation quickly turned to controversy once the official presentation was over. "The world of cycling is full of problems. Today did nothing. There is still a war," said Jose-Miguel Echevarri, manager of the Spanish Iles Balerias team. His team is home to the world's number-one-ranked rider Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro, who one day may be declared winner of the 2006 Tour if Landis is ultimately disqualified. "Last year's Tour was cycling's Chernobyl," said Rolf Aldag, recently appointed director of Germany's T-Mobile. That team was completely restructured after long-time leader Jan Ullrich was linked to the "Puerto Affair" in Spain. "We have to believe that people finally understand. We have to believe that things will finally be different next year," added Aldag. And indeed we do. 2007 Tour de France: Stage-By-Stage Guide

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