Tour de France chief calls for 'clean' 2007 winner

26th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - Newly installed Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said there was no alternative to producing a 'clean' winner of next year's race after unveiling the 2007 route here Thursday.

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - Newly installed Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said there was no alternative to producing a 'clean' winner of next year's race after unveiling the 2007 route here Thursday.

This year's edition was beset by doping controversies, which were compounded by a Spanish doping investigation which embroiled top riders Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. Combined, they have left the sport fighting for its credibility.

The winner of the race's yellow jersey, American Floyd Landis, added to the scandal when he tested positive for testosterone on stage 17. Having proclaimed his innocence, he is still waiting on a decision from the American authorities on his future in the sport.

Since then an aura of uncertainty has been hanging over the yellow jersey. If Landis is sanctioned, he would be the first rider in the history of the race to be shorn of the main prize.

It was no surprise then that Prudhomme said it was time the riders started showing some respect for race's legendary tunic.

"I want us to have the winner of 2007 remaining the winner in 2007. There is no alternative," he said after unveiling a route which will be held in clockwise fashion over roughly 3,550 kilometres.

Prudhomme's presentation was attended by the soon-to-retire former race chief Jean-Marie Leblanc and the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone agreed that the fight against doping must be maintained, but the mayor applauded Tour chiefs for giving the English capital an "historic" chance to help promote cycling as both a daily and leisure activity in the country.

"This is an historic occasion. It will be the first time the Tour comes to London, and it's the first time the race will begin anywhere in Britain," said Livingstone.

The last time the Tour began abroad was when the 1998 edition started in Dublin.

On July 7, the race will begin with an 8km prologue on the Meridien Line and will be followed the next day by the first stage proper from London to Canterbury in Kent.

After two days in England the race heads back to France but will spend two days immediately in Belgium before racing down towards the Alps.

The first major difficulty for the peloton is stage seven's 197km from Bourg en Bresse to Le Grand Bornand in the Alps, which includes four climbs, including the difficult 16km ascent of the Col de la Colombière.

An epic day of racing over five climbs will lead the peloton to the first summit finish of the race the next day, at the French ski resort of Tignes - following which the peloton will have a rest day.

A final day of climbing in the Alps will end on stage nine when the legendary Télégraphe and Galibier cols will come after the 15km ascent of the Col de l'Iseran.

Three largely transitional stages will ensue before the next big test - the first major time trial of the race, held over 54km on stage 13 around Albi near the foot of the Pyrénées.

Despite the exertions of the race against the clock, Prudhomme put the Pyrénées mountains on the next day's menu.

Stage 14 will take the peloton over a nine-kilometre climb and along towards the 16.8km ascent of the Col de Pailheres. The descent leads almost immediately on to the 15.9km ascent of the Plateau de Beille, the race's second of three summit finishes.

Five climbs lie in wait the next day, including the Port de Bales. The 19.2km climb, a regular on the Route du Sud race, has never featured on the Tour.

The second and final rest day will be followed by a final day of climbing in the Pyrenees.

Four climbs are on the 218km menu, including the tough Col de Marie Blanque, the descent of which leads directly on to the 16.4km climb towards the summit finish at the Col d'Aubisque, which makes only its second appearance on the race having last featured in 1985.

Another two transitional days on stages 17 and 18 precede the final big test, the second time trial held over 55km from Cognac to Angoulême.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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