After the official presentation of the 2012 Tour de France Grand Départ in Liège, Belgium, and the annoucement of the first two stages, speculation is rife about the continuation of the parcours. Given that the start of stage two will be in Visé in the Belgian Ardennes region, one could imagine an early return into the Grand Tour's homeland of France, as well as a visit to the neighouring countries of Luxembourg or Germany on the way to the Alps, the race's first rendez-vous with the high mountains.
Jean-François Pescheux, the Tour's route director, keeps the secret well. "From Visé, we could go in any direction. Several towns have applied to host the finish of that second stage," he told La Dernière Heure, nevertheless giving away some hints.
"These candidacies include Tournai, Tervuren, Ypres, Roulers, Anvers as well as some towns in Luxembourg and Germany. But nothing is set in stone just yet. Everything will depend on the general direction of the 2012 Tour that will have to be directed to the Alps."
By drawing an imaginary line from the south of Belgium to the Alps, this could mean a return to the medium-mountain range of the Vosges, which was last visited by the Tour in 2009. But not necessarily so. "Should we, depending on the chosen route, foresee a long transfer of the caravan and the riders? In any case, we have to be careful to come to every province of France every 3-4 years... Those are some of the elements we are taking into consideration. We'll see it more clearly in May 2011," added Pescheux.
Meanwhile, the Belgian town of Tournai could be a favourite for a stage two finish, as it had had issued a combined candidacy for Tournai and Orchies to receive the 2010 Tour de France - which did not happen. If it is granted for 2012, one could think of a possible start from the Paris-Roubaix cobblestone sectors in Orchies for stage three, then heading south.