By Gregor Brown in Paris
Although the official 2007 Tour de France route will not be known until later on this afternoon, Cyclingnews has received a few details from reliable sources regarding next years parcours.
It is already well known that the Tour officials have decided to start the 94th edition in a city as grand as the one where it finishes, London. England will play host to the first two days of this year's race. Saturday, July 7, the Grand Départ will be in London, with a spectacular parcours around The Mall and a finish in front of Buckingham Palace. The following day, staying in England, the race will travel though the countryside before finishing on the coast in Canterbury.
After crossing the channel, Monday's stage 2 will start in Dunkirk and travel north into Belgium for the finish in Belgium's lively city of Gent. Keeping the race very much in the heart-land of the spring classics, stage 3 will take the riders south, out of Belgium, with a finish in Compiégne, the city that plays host to the start of the Paris-Roubaix. Whether or not the organizers will use some of the famed cobble sections that make up the Hell of the North is yet to be known.
Typically in the first week of the Tour de France the organizers schedule a team time trial, but for a second year in a row the Tour will go without the spectacular nine-man team test.
After the finish in Compiégne, the race will travel southeast toward the Alps, making the 2007 edition a clockwise route. According to our sources, it is not yet clear if the Tour will use the gruesome Mont Ventoux before departing west toward the Pyrenees.
What will greet the peloton is a new climb that has never been included in the Tour. The Port de Bales, which has featured in the Route de Sud race, tops out near 1750 meters and will offer a staggering 20 kilometres of climbing. The stage is expected of finish in Loudenvielle, in the Hautes-Pyrenees department of France.
Travelling north, towards the final day in Paris, the riders will face the last big test on Saturday, July 28. There will be an individual time trial in and around Cognac. The individual test should sort out the classification before the final stage into Paris.
As we reported last week, the final stage of the 2007 Tour will depart form Marcoussis, site of the centre for French national Rugby, before heading north, with the arrival on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Please stay tuned for complete and accurate 2007 Tour de France route details later this afternoon.