By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
As event director, Christian Prudhomme put his personal mark on the course of the 2008 Tour de France. "We have wanted a first week of racing with much more rhythm," he said. "With no prologue, an uphill finish that will suit different types of sprinters at the end of stage 1, with a short time trial on stage 4 and the first mountain (Super Besse) only 48 hours later, we have decided to change the scenario.
"There are less big climbs but there are some of the best ones with the [stage 10] Tourmalet, [stage 16] La Bonette-Restefonds with its summit at 2,800 meters that has only been climbed four times in the Tour history and [stage 17] L'Alpe d'Huez," said Prudhomme. "There is also more harmony on the course with the climbs more distant from each others. We also wanted to go back to the south in the Alps and at the end, everything will possibly be open at the bottom of L'Alpe d'Huez."
Along with a new route came a new logo for the Tour de France. It features a heart with the letters of "Tour toujours" which translates to "The Tour forever."
"People like the Tour," Prudhomme said. "This year in London, in Belgium, in Burgundy, and even more at the end of the Tour, for example in the Périgord after all the problems that occurred, the crowd gave us wonderful signs of encouragements. The public has booed Michael Rasmussen, that's a good thing! They have told us: keep courage, please fight for the Tour to survive. We have listened to this message and we want to meet their expectations.
"People want the Tour, people don't want doping," said Prudhomme. "We believe in the biological passport will offer them the Tour without doping. I'm convinced cycling is on its way to becoming an example for other sports."
Talking about both the course and the new anti-doping policy, Prudhomme used a most magical French word, "We want to restore romanticism."