By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
In between the end of his career as a professional cyclist in 1994 and the beginning of his second real job as a directeur sportif for Française des Jeux in 1997, Marc Madiot was a consultant for radio Europe 1 alongside a young journalist called… Christian Prudhomme. "After some times commentating the races with him, I know what kind of cycling he enjoys, he likes to be enthusiastic about the race and I can see he has put his personal mark on the course of the 2008 Tour de France", Madiot explained at the launch. "It's a really good course. It opens the debate. The difficulties are spread all the way and we'll go mostly on local roads, no more on national roads, which should suit the escapees. With no more [time] bonuses, there isn't as much space for sprinters as before. There is a new dynamics in cycling that has to be worked on. Shall the ear pieces be forbidden – that would be perfect."
His Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert shared the same enthusiasm when he watched the course. "In 2007, there were four or five stages that I could target for wins, in 2008, there will be almost ten of them!" the Wallonian commented. "It's really special to have no prologue and no bonus. It's great. It opens more opportunities for riders like me, who like to take risks. It's more similar to the style of the Giro, which is always a very beautiful race with many things happening. There should be more spectacle with many more actors and that will begin with stage 1."
The uphill finish of Plumelec also inspires Thomas Voeckler who won 'A Travers le Morbihan' at the exact same place in 2004, one month before his fantastic ten days in the yellow jersey. "A course with no prologue seems strange but it's exciting," the Bouygues Telecom rider said. "Short stages are usually nicer than long ones and the cancellation of the time bonuses is better for the beauty of the sport. Cadel Evans would have liked that this year, I suppose! When I heard Christian Prudhomme talking about no [time] bonuses, I thought it was for mountain stages only but I understood it's for all the stages, which is even better. Teams and riders used to calculate their efforts too much in relation with the bonus. Now in breakaways, it will be more a question of gaining time for GC. Somebody who will finish seventh in Plumelec might become the yellow jersey the next day. After such a short time trial in Cholet, there might be a successful breakaway the next day because it will be tight."
Cyril Dessel, another Frenchman who has experienced the life in yellow in 2006, added: "It's a very well balanced course. We know by now that long mountain stages with five big climbs aren't exciting from start to finish. It's a Tour for attackers. Not all breakaways will get caught by the bunch. It'll be a race with movement all the way. It's a very good course for the spectacle."