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2011 Tour de France route announced

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Alexander Vinokourov

Alexander Vinokourov
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The crowd assembled to see where the 2011 Tour de France will head.

The crowd assembled to see where the 2011 Tour de France will head.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Carlos Sastre

Carlos Sastre
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Thor Hushovd

Thor Hushovd
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Hushovd speaks to the media

Hushovd speaks to the media
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Frank Schleck aiming high

Frank Schleck aiming high
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Andy Schleck gave a lot of interviews.

Andy Schleck gave a lot of interviews.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The 2011 Tour de France map

The 2011 Tour de France map
(Image credit: ASO)
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Ivan Basso skipped the tie in favor of a vest.

Ivan Basso skipped the tie in favor of a vest.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Richard Virenque was on hand

Richard Virenque was on hand
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Thomas Voeckler is always a fan favorite at the Tour

Thomas Voeckler is always a fan favorite at the Tour
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The 2011 Tour will start in Voeckler's home department of Vendee

The 2011 Tour will start in Voeckler's home department of Vendee
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The route presentation

The route presentation
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Anthony Charteau, the polka dot jersey winner was honored.

Anthony Charteau, the polka dot jersey winner was honored.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Anthony Charteau near the route map

Anthony Charteau near the route map
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Mark Cavendish seemed pretty happy with the route.

Mark Cavendish seemed pretty happy with the route.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Cavendish, Schleck, Charteau and Prudhomme

Cavendish, Schleck, Charteau and Prudhomme
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The 2011 Tour kicks off at the Passage du Gois in Vendee.

The 2011 Tour kicks off at the Passage du Gois in Vendee.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Vendee will host the 2011 Tour's Grand Depart

Vendee will host the 2011 Tour's Grand Depart
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The new motto for the Tour. Really?

The new motto for the Tour. Really?
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Daniel Mangeas kicks off the Tour presentation.

Daniel Mangeas kicks off the Tour presentation.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Laurent Fignon was remembered at the 2011 Tour presentation.

Laurent Fignon was remembered at the 2011 Tour presentation.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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BMC's Cadel Evans, George Hincapie, John Lelangue and Andy Rhis (R-L)

BMC's Cadel Evans, George Hincapie, John Lelangue and Andy Rhis (R-L)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France race director.

Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France race director.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director, greets the Schleck brothers.

Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director, greets the Schleck brothers.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck and Thor Hushovd chat at the Tour presentation.

Frank Schleck and Thor Hushovd chat at the Tour presentation.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck are excited about different stages.

Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck are excited about different stages.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck, perhaps prematurely signing a maillot jaune. Alberto Contador has yet to be disqualified from the 2010 race.

Andy Schleck, perhaps prematurely signing a maillot jaune. Alberto Contador has yet to be disqualified from the 2010 race.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The map of the 2011 Tour de France flanked by the race's stars.

The map of the 2011 Tour de France flanked by the race's stars.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd talks to the Schleck brothers

Thor Hushovd talks to the Schleck brothers
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The 2011 Tour de France stages.

The 2011 Tour de France stages.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy and Frank Schleck looking sharp at the Tour presentation

Andy and Frank Schleck looking sharp at the Tour presentation
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck and brother Frank watch as the 2011 Tour route is unveiled

Andy Schleck and brother Frank watch as the 2011 Tour route is unveiled
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christian Prudhomme reveals the 2011 Tour de France route

Christian Prudhomme reveals the 2011 Tour de France route
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso

Ivan Basso
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Anthony Charteau

Anthony Charteau
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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The Palais des Congress in Paris awaits the press and riders for the 2011 Tour de France route presentation.

The Palais des Congress in Paris awaits the press and riders for the 2011 Tour de France route presentation.
(Image credit: Sonja Csury)
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Andy Schleck signs an autograph

Andy Schleck signs an autograph
(Image credit: AFP)
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The Schleck brothers study the route

The Schleck brothers study the route
(Image credit: AFP)
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Veronique Besse and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme point to the Vendee start of the 2011 Grand Depart

Veronique Besse and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme point to the Vendee start of the 2011 Grand Depart
(Image credit: AFP)
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Tour de France chief Jean-Etienne Amaury makes his speech

Tour de France chief Jean-Etienne Amaury makes his speech
(Image credit: AFP)
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Richard Virenque at the 2011 Tour de France presentation

Richard Virenque at the 2011 Tour de France presentation
(Image credit: AFP)
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The profile for stage 12 to Luz-Ardiden

The profile for stage 12 to Luz-Ardiden
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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The profile for stage 13 to Lourdes

The profile for stage 13 to Lourdes
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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The profile for stage 14 to Plateau de Beille

The profile for stage 14 to Plateau de Beille
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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The profile for stage 17 to Pinerolo

The profile for stage 17 to Pinerolo
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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The profile for stage 18 to Galibier Serre-Chevalier

The profile for stage 18 to Galibier Serre-Chevalier
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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The Schlecks say hello to Christophe Riblon

The Schlecks say hello to Christophe Riblon
(Image credit: AFP)
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So who was the best dressed?

So who was the best dressed?
(Image credit: AFP)
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The profile for stage 19 to Alpe-d’Huez

The profile for stage 19 to Alpe-d’Huez
(Image credit: www.letour.fr)
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(Image credit: AFP)
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Andy Schleck watches the presentation

Andy Schleck watches the presentation
(Image credit: AFP)
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Fränk Schleck, Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France presentation

Fränk Schleck, Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France presentation
(Image credit: AFP)
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Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck seemed to like the route of the 2011 Tour de France

Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck seemed to like the route of the 2011 Tour de France
(Image credit: AFP)
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Thomas Voeckler points to the start in the Vendee region

Thomas Voeckler points to the start in the Vendee region
(Image credit: AFP)
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Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck, Anthony Charteau and Christian Prudhomme pose with the map of the 2011 Tour de France

Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck, Anthony Charteau and Christian Prudhomme pose with the map of the 2011 Tour de France
(Image credit: AFP)
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Memories of the 2010 Tour de France

Memories of the 2010 Tour de France
(Image credit: AFP)
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Head of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme

Head of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme
(Image credit: AFP)
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(Image credit: ASO)
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The Alpine stage of the 2011 Tour de France

The Alpine stage of the 2011 Tour de France
(Image credit: ASO)

After a 2010 edition dedicated to the centenary of the Pyrenees, the 2011 Tour de France will celebrate the centenary of the first time the race climbed the Alps.

At the launch of next year's event in Paris, race director Christian Prudhomme unveiled a parcours ideal f climbers, with only 64 time trial kilometres of which 23 are a team time trial. Again, there will be no time bonuses on the road from the Vendée region to Paris, while a testing third week in the Alps sees the Tour return to the Galibier and L’Alpe d’Huez: two of its most legendary climbs.

A diverse start

The 2011 Tour's Grand Départ is in the windy Vendée region in Western France, on the Atlantic coastline. The first stage will see the peloton cross the famous Passage du Gois before the first uphill finish on the Mont des Alouettes in Les Herbiers, famous for organising the Chrono des Nations time trial.

The team time trial is back after a one-year absence, around the town Les Essarts, the home of Jean-Rene Bernadeau's team. The collective test against the clock has a totally flat profile and will certainly re-shuffle the general classification, even if the distance of 23 kilometres might not open up significant time gaps.

Stage three (Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon) will see the riders gear up for a probable bunch sprint as the Tour heads northwest from Vendée towards Brittany. On the next day, an uphill finish on the steep Mûr-de-Bretagne in central Brittany will suit the Classics riders and strong finishers, with the yellow jersey probably again up for grabs.

The Tour will then move northwards on stage five from Carhaix to Cap Fréhel, finishing on a windy and especially treacherous section of coast line. On the next day, the bunch will move over into Normandy for stage six from Dinan to Lisieux, the Tour’s longest stage with 226 kilometres.

Moving south: the medium mountains

After the first week in north-western France, the Tour route heads south into France's central mountain range via Châteauroux. The stage starts in Le Mans and is another sure bet for a bunch sprint. The first "real" uphill finish is scheduled for Saturday, July 8 in Super-Besse Sancy, followed by a perfect day for audacious escapists on the hilly stage nine from Issoire to Saint-Flour on Sunday July 10. Three Category 3 climbs await the riders, with the Puy Mary located more than 1500 metres above sea level.

The riders will be able to enjoy the first rest day on July 11 in Le Lioran in the Cantal cheese region. Two transitional stages will then pave the way south to the Pyrenees on July 12, with stage 10 from Aurillac to Carmaux and then stage 11 from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur. Many expected a first individual time trial at this point in the race but the 2011 Tour is set to feature even less time trialling than in 2010, with Prudhomme sticking to one race against the clock only as opposed to two in the past.

The Pyrenees: more than an appetizer

Three days in the Pyrenees with two mountain top finishes will provide plenty of climbing action  in the second week and will reveal who has a real chance of victory before the Grande Finale in the Alps in the third week.

Stages 12 and 14 will end on top of Luz-Ardiden and the Plateau de Beille respectively, with the hard day from Pau to Lourdes surely to tempt the climbers to chase mountain points for the polka-dot jersey.

Stage 12 to Luz-Ardiden also has the famous Tourmalet on its profile, and stage 14 includes a total of four passes before the final ramps of the Plateau de Beille: Portet d’Aspet, Col de la Core, Latrape and Agnes.

After another transitional stage 15 from Limous to Montpellier, a day that should be marked green on the sprinter’s calendars, the race will head east across the south of France for the second rest day in the Drôme region on July 18 before the 2011 Tour reaches its climax in the Alps in the third week of racing.

A centenary in the Alps: the big showdown

The Tour De France climbed the Alps for the first time in 1911, with a 366km-long stage from Chamonix to Grenoble taking the riders over four testing passes: the Aravis, Télégraphe, Lautaret and Galibier.

100 years later, stage 16 from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap serves as a taste of the pain to come and three days in the high mountains begin on July 20 as the peloton departs on a 179km-journey from Gap to Pinerolo in Italy. Three categorized climbs are on the menu: Col de Montgenèvre, Sestrières and the Côte de Pramartino.

Italy will be the only foreign country visited by the 2011 Tour. Riders will return to France on the next day for back to back mountain-top finishes. Stage 18 – the queen stage, no doubt - will finish on the prestigious Galibier (2645m), after crossing some of the most challenging climbs of the Alps: the Col d’Agnel (2774m) and the Izoard (2360m).

The Galibier will be re-visited on the next day via its northern side as the 109km-long 19th stage finishes with the climb to L’Alpe d’Huez. Although a short stage, it seems this one could be just as decisive as the 41km-long individual time trial that will follow on the race’s penultimate day in Grenoble.

No time bonuses, but secondary classifications changed

Again, Prudhomme has prefered a “real-time” general classification without any time bonuses. But the Tour organisers have altered the points systems in the hope of intensifying the fight for the green and polka-dot jerseys.

Prudhomme announced there one single intermediate sprint per stage, awarding half the points on offer at the stage finish. This way, the sprinters will have to sprint twice a day if they want to be a contender for the green jersey. The changes will surely change the pattern of the racing on most days and affect the chances of breakaways making it to the finish.

The mountains classification will also be changed, with double points up for grabs at the four mountain-top finishes of the race. This may be an additional lure for the strong climbers to show off their talent in the high mountains.

The 2011 Tour de France stages:

July 2, stage 1: Passage du Gois-Mont des Alouettes, 191km
July 3, stage 2: Les Essarts-Les Essarts, TTT, 23km
July 4, stage 3: Olonne-sur-Mer-Redon, 198km
July 5, stage 4: Lorient-Mûr-de-Bretagne, 172km
July 6, stage 5: Carhaix-Cap Fréhel, 158km
July 7, stage 6: Dinan-Lisieux, 226km
July 8, stage 7: Le Mans-Châteauroux, 215km
July 9, stage 8: Aigurande-Super Besse Sancy, 190km
July 10, stage 9: Issoire-St-Flour, 208km
July 11, rest day at Le Lioran/Cantal
July 12, stage 10: Aurillac-Carmaux, 161km
July 13, stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines-Lavaur, 168km
July 14, stage 12: Cugnaux-Luz Ardiden, 209km
July 15, stage 13: Pau-Lourdes, 156km
July 16, stage 14: Saint-Gaudens-Plateau de Beille, 168km
July 17, stage 15: Limous-Montpellier, 187km
July 18, rest day at province of Drôme
July 19, stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux-Gap, 163km
July 20, stage 17: Gap-Pinerolo, 179km
July 21, stage 18: Pinerolo-Galibier/Serre-Chevalier, 189km
July 22, stage 19: Modane-Alpe d’Huez, 109km
July 23, stage 20: Grenoble-Grenoble, ITT, 41km
July 24, stage 21: Créteil-Paris/Champs-Elysées, 160km