By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris
With the absence of many big names at yesterday's Tour de France presentation, quotes were few and far between. Discovery Channel sport director Johan Bruyneel, just returned from Japan where he was at the Japan Cup race spoke to Cyclingnews after he had a chance to study the parcours for the 94th edition of La Grand Boucle.
The man who guided Lance Armstrong to seven-straight Tour wins is generally positive about the 2007 Tour de France. "The (2007) Tour parcours is a classic one, and on paper, it looks quite hard, more so than the last edition," noted the Belgian. "The first time trial and the Pyrenees stages come late in the race so that will be hard. The Tour is well balanced, with three stages in the Alps and three in the Pyrenees. There is no team time trial, which our team likes, but overall this is a logical course and I like it."
Five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, the last French rider to win the La Grand Boucle said that "this is a balanced Tour. I've heard some say that it's not that hard, but it's the riders that make the race. The problem is that the riders use less and less the natural resources of the terrain and focus on strategic sectors of the race, which is a mistake. In 1985, I attacked when the mountains started, against what people thought, and I almost won the Tour with that attack."
Another Five-time Tour winner, Eddy Merckx, explained that "This will be a special year for the Tour. The course is well designed, balanced and tough. One thing sticks in my mind is what Christian Prudhomme said; 'I hope there will be a winner in Paris'. That is necessary and that’s what everyone wants to see."
French star Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) said, "The beginning of this Tour is less classic; there are a lot of stages where long breaks can succeed. And there are some tough mountain stages, with climbs that are not well known, which can create some surprises.
"As for the time trials, it will depend how fresh you are," continued Chavanel. "The first one, just after the Alps will happen when your legs are tired."
His French compatriot Christophe Moreau (Ag2R Prévoyance) explained that "this Tour has a good balance that should provide a wide-open race, which won't be blocked by the sprinters or climbers teams. And two time trials in 10 days, that's a bit much, but the hard climbs in the Alps will balance that out. As for the start in England, that's probably a nice promotion for cycling, but otherwise it's nothing. The Tour is in France, and that's all."
2006 Tour runner-up Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) said of the upcoming Tour de France that "well some things might happen in the first two weeks, but beginning with the first TT in Albi, and afterwards in the Pyrenees, is where the real action will be in this Tour." Pereiro then squarely put his alliances with his teammate, "(Caisse d'Epargne) will go all out to win this Tour and with Alejandro Valverde, we have a big chance to win. I'll be really motivated to help him win."