2011 Tour to start in Vendée

It's the Tour de France and you have to shoot the sunflowers!

It's the Tour de France and you have to shoot the sunflowers! (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Bertrand De Villiers, general councillor of the Vendée department, spilled the beans on January 7, according to French veloclub.net: The 2011 Tour de France Grand Départ will be held on the island of Noirmoutier, south of Nantes on the central west coast of France.

Speaking at a traditional New Year's ceremony, De Villiers announced that the first stage would be a normal stage from the island to Les Herbiers, approximately 140 kilometres inland. This is yet to be confirmed by Tour organiser ASO, who has not revealed the parcours of the 2011 edition yet.

If this is true, the Tour's first stage could use the famous Passage du Gois again, where a massive pile-up in 1999 made cycling history. Noirmoutier was also visited in the 2005 edition of the Grand Tour, when a time trial on the very first day already had a massive impact on the favourites' chances.

Furtheromre, De Villiers announced that a team time trial was planned for the race's second stage - albeit a short one.

Starting and finishing in Les Essarts, the collective race against the clock was said to be 22 or 23 kilometres long - a lot shorter than the one around Montpellier last year, which destroyed some of the GC contenders' hopes for an overall victory.

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