By Ben Atkins in Paris
As in the 2008 edition, there will be no time bonuses for stage winners – or at the intermediate sprints – in the 2009 Tour de France. Instead of this "official time remains the absolute reference" according to the tour's organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). The majority of riders welcomed the absence of bonuses in this year's race, and the general feeling was that it made the overall classification much closer.
In practice this means that the sprinters will have trouble taking the leader's maillot jaune inside the first week, as was the case this year after Alejandro Valverde took the victory on stage one.
The absolute time theme continues in the team time trial, where officials abandoned the previous practice of limiting the amount of time lost. Instead of the second placed team losing a maximum of 20 seconds, the third placed team losing a maximum of 30 seconds and so on, the actual time gaps on the line will be those given. This, says ASO, is one of the reasons for the stage being limited to 38 kilometres. As usual, officials will take the time for each team on the fifth rider to cross the line.