Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Inside the Tour de France Route Presentation:
A Preview

Jean-Marie Leblanc, Tour de France Paris -- The route for the 2006 Tour de France will be revealed tomorrow at the Palais des Congres in Paris.  The 2006 Tour will be the first of the post-Armstrong era.  It will also be the first Tour for which responsibility for the route falls to Christian Prudhomme, designated successor of race director Jean-Marie Leblanc (pictured at right).  Prudhomme will fully take over race direction when Leblanc steps down at the end of 2006.

The presentation of the following year's Tour route is always awaited with great anticipation by cycling fans as well as professional riders, team staff and others directly involved in the event.  Some will have for weeks played a game of trying to figure out the route ahead of time.  Others may be responsible for leaks, unable to contain their excitement that the Tour is coming to their towns.

France Soir Tour Route - Click to enlarge French newspaper France Soir (click image at left to enlarge) today printed what it said was the rough outline of the 2006 Tour route, including a team time trial from Saint-Gregoire to Rennes, a mountain stage in the Pyrenees to Pla de Beret in Spain, an individual time trial from Carpentras to Mont Ventoux, a stage from Gap to l'Alpe d'Huez and a time trial the final day from Versailles to the Champs Elysees in Paris.  Such a final day time trial recalls American Greg Lemond's stunning final day victory over Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1989.  If it is true that Prudhomme has worked in a final day time trial, perhaps it would be an homage to Leblanc who directed his first Tour....in 1989.  (The first Tour route designed by Leblanc was the 1990 edition.)

Is France Soir's "scoop" reliable?  No way to know until tomorrow's presentation but much of the information has been rumored for weeks, even months, in France.  Tour officials of course could be behind some false leaks.

Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme
Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme
The race director prepares his successor
2004 GP des Nations

The 2006 Tour's July 1 start in Strasbourg, France (prologue, stage 1 and start of stage 2) was revealed months ago on the Official Site .

Who will be in attendance tomorrow?

The invitation-only event will be attended by some current and former professional riders, team directors and staff, Tour sponsors, regional and local officials representing stage host towns, other invited guests and the media.

The following riders are among those who have reportedly accepted invitations to attend:  Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni, Alejandro Valverde, Michael Rasmussen and Floyd Landis.  Jan Ullrich will not be in attendance tomorrow.  (source:  FFC/AFP)

Richard Virenque
Richard Virenque, surrounded by reporters
2005 Tour route presentation, Paris

The Show

Patrice Clerc, ASO president Race organizer A.S.O. puts on an impressive show.  Tomorrow, ASO president Patrice Clerc (pictured) likely will make the opening remarks, introduced by Daniel Mangeas, the "voice of the Tour."  Last year, Clerc fired some shots aimed at the UCI, given the dispute over the direction of the ProTour, a dispute that continues today.  Clerc may talk about "a new era" tomorrow and the ongoing fight against doping.

Clerc's remarks should be followed by a 10-15 minute video of highlights from the 2005 Tour.  Last year's video opened with clips of Lance Armstrong's first six Tour wins, followed by highlights from the 2004 Tour.  It's anyone's guess what tone exactly tomorrow's video will take....

Richard Virenque is awarded for record 7th polka-dot jersey

Presentation of awards will likely follow the video.  Last year, awards were given to Richard Virenque for his record 7th polka-dot jersey and to Vladimir Karpets (the 2004 Tour's best young rider).

2004 saw the inaugural Prix Jacques Goddet There is also the Jacques Goddet prize, awarded to the journalist judged to have written the best article during the Tour de France.  (Goddet was the founder of L'Equipe and a longtime Tour director.)  Tomorrow, the second annual Jacques Goddet prize will be awarded to Philippe Bouvet of L'Equipe for his largely negative article, "La fin d'une equivoque," published the day following Lance Armstrong's 7th Tour victory.  The voting for this prize took place recently at Le Procope in Paris, billed as the oldest cafe in the world.

Portrait of Ben Franklin in window at Le Procope, Paris
Le Procope in Paris was frequented by such notables as:
Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin (pictured), Danton, Marat, Robespierre,
Napoleon Bonapart and Victor Hugo.  It was here, too,
that recent voting picked L'Equipe's Philippe Bouvet
as winner of this year's Jacques Goddet prize.

After a likely presentation by a politician or two, representing regions the 2006 Tour will visit, Christian Prudhomme will finally present the 2006 Tour route to the audience.  With that done, the interviews will begin, as will the phone calls as media, tour operators and others scramble to make hotel reservations for next July.

And so, too, will the debates begin about which riders are most favored by the 2006 Tour route.

2005 Tour de France route presentation kit

All in attendance should receive a Tour route presentation kit containing something like the following (2005 Tour presentation): a TdF/ASO press book, a DVD copy of the previous Tour highlights video shown during the presentation, Tour stickers, the route map and the new poster, all contained in a feedbag-style cloth bag.

photos © 2004, 2005 Pete Geyer

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