PARIS, France, October 24 – The 100th edition of the Tour de France next year will finish in Paris at nightfall for the first time, organisers said on Wednesday, as they unveiled next year’s route in the shadow of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The 3,360km route will begin for the first time on the Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 29, culminating with a final stage run from the historic town of Versailles, southwest of Paris, arriving on the Champs Elysees boulevard at sunset.
Three time-trials — two individual and one for teams — have been included in the race, as well as four summit finishes, not least a climb to Semnoz in the Alps on the penultimate day, which is likely to determine the winner.
France’s Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France in 1903, which ended with a mammoth 471km sixth and final stage from the western city of Nantes to Paris.
Since then, and barring breaks for World War I and World War II, the battle for the coveted race leader’s yellow jersey has become cycling’s biggest event and seen it grow to include stages across Europe.
But Wednesday’s unveiling comes with cycling in crisis, after US rider Armstrong — who won the Tour an unprecedented seven times between 1999 and 2005 — was stripped of his titles and banned for life for doping.
In next year’s race, sprinters will get a golden opportunity on day one, with a relatively flat run from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, setting up top-rated British racer Mark Cavendish for the first yellow jersey of his career.
The race switches to the mainland after finishes in the Corsican towns of Ajaccio and Calvi with a 25km team time-trial around the southern city of Nice, shaking up the overall standings early and setting up Team Sky to take pole position.
The race winds its way along the French Riviera, taking in Marseille and Montpellier before the peloton’s climbers are given the first chance to show their credentials in the Pyrenees on stage eight.
A nasty 15km climb awaits the pack at Port de Pailheres before the first summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines and a slog over 8km where the gradient is a stiff 8.2 percent.
There is then no let up in stage nine, with five climbs littered across 165km of racing between Saint-Girons and Bagneres-de-Bigorre, before a well-deserved rest day on July 8.
The race heads towards north-western France, when it resumes with a scenic run towards the Breton port of Saint Malo before a crucial 33km individual time-trial between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel.
The route again heads south through central France, taking in Tours, Montrond and Lyon before a showpiece Bastille Day stage that includes the mythical Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse, where British champion Tom Simpson died in 1967.
A second rest day preceeds the final time-trial over 32km, before a climb over the legendary Alpe d’Huez, which features twice on a day that will again prove crucial in determining the 2013 champion.
Stages 19 and 20 will provide more opportunities to attack the race leader and two more summit finishes at Le Grand-Bornand and Semnoz before the final day run to Paris starting with the start line at king Louis XIV’s chateau at Versailles.