Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tour de France 2007

Floyd Landis - 2006 Tour de France

The 2007 Tour de France starts on July 7th in London (go figure), which will be the first time London hosts the event and only the seventh time the race has started outside of France. With eleven flat stages, seven mountain stages and two individual time trials (totaling over 3,500 kms), the Tour is the ultimate test of speed and human endurance.

After a brief visit to Belgium, the peloton will make its way through France’s gastronomic regions (think Champagne, Brie, Dijon). Chances are the riders’ thoughts will be on picking up points, rather than culinary delights. Expect last year’s Green Jersey winner for best sprinter – Australia’s Robbie McEwen – to feature prominently in the early flat stages. He will face stiff competition from the likes of Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd and Tom Boonen.

The race then enters the Alps, where the favorites will be looking to break away from the pack. A brief respite from the mountains awaits competitors in Marseille, before they return for more grueling mountain stages in the Pyrenees in the final week. Here, the toughest stages await those who have made it this far. Michael Rasmussen will attempt to defend the unenviable title of ‘King of The Mountains’ after having won the Polka Dot Jersey the last two years running.

This year marks the first time in the Tour’s 104-year history that the race will start without a reigning champion. Floyd Landis, 2006 Tour de France winner, is still the subject of doping allegations arising from last year’s event. And with seven-time winner Lance Armstrong a fading memory, Alexandre Vinokourov, Carlos Sastre and Alejandro Valverde are among this year’s favorites to be wearing the famous Yellow Jersey as the peloton completes the traditional eight laps around the Champs-Élysées on July 29th.

While the riders suffer under the hot European sun, the host towns will bask in the glory of being selected out of over 200 candidate towns, to be part of the route. Competition for this honor off the road was almost as intense as it is going to be on the road. Huge crowds will again line the streets within touching distance of the riders, adding to the spectacle and atmosphere as they urge riders up the last section of a mountain climb or marvel as they come down the other side at speeds of up to 75 kph. These enthusiasts are the lucky ones – able to enjoy the atmosphere of the race and the parties in the street, all without raising a sweat.

— Adam Bock

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