In a change from last year's success story of the London prologue, the 2008 Tour will kick off without its usual short time trial to establish a first distinct general classification. Instead, the riders will head from Brest over 195 kilometres to Plumelec, in Brittany. Time trial specialists will be disappointed to find the first contre-la-montre very short, with only 29 kilometres. The second time trial, on the penultimate day of the race, is 53 kilometres long. No team time trial will be part of the route, but the monument of L’Alpe d’Huez is back in the mix. Climbers will be elated that four mountain top finishes are featuring in the 2008 version. A full preview can be found on Cyclingnews' Tour site.
Le Grand Départ returns to Brest after 34 years. Brittany will see an extended Tour this year, with several hundred kilometres spent in the Northwestern part of the country. After the time trial in Cholet on stage four it is off to the first mountain top in Super Besse, on stage six. After a few more southbound transitional stages the peloton will hit the mountains.
First the Pyrenees have to be tackled on the counter-clockwise route. The time spent in the mountain range between Spain and France has been reduced to two days. On stage nine the climbs that have featured many times, the Col de Peyresourde and the Col d'Aspin, will have to be tackled, while stage 10 promises to be the first real indicator of the final outcome in Paris. The stage will take the riders over the long and difficult Tourmalet, at 2,115 metres, before the day's uphill finish at Lourdes-Hautacam is reached.
This will earn the racers a first rest day, spent in the Pau area.
After that the riders will head out of the hills, east and towards the Mediterranean, via Narbonne to Nîmes. These stages will be giving some breakaways the chance for glory as the GC contenders will be watching each other more than the riders interested in stage wins and the sprinters likely having heaving legs after the first set of climbs.
Then stage 15 will be another mountain top finish, at Pratonevoso. Stage 16 sees some high altitude climbs (Col de la Lombarde 2351 meters and Col de la Bonnette-Restefonds at 2802m), before the race hits the popular L’Alpe d’Huez on stage 17.
Finally time trialest's will have their chance, but the 53 kilometres comes only one day before the final stage into Paris and the traditional lap on the Champs-Élysées. A modest route indeed, as indicated in the earlierCyclingnews coverage.