Cycling: Challenging times ahead for Indurain: Severe final week could loosen Spaniard's grip on Tour

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The Independent Online
AS next year's Tour de France route via the Channel Tunnel was revealed in Paris yesterday, the British contingent missed the launch of a race which, it appears, will be not be tied up so easily by Miguel Indurain as the previous three, writes Robin Nicholl.

Alan Rushton, who is in charge of England's two of the 21 stages, found himself rerouting yesterday's trip to the French capital via Brussels to beat the shut-down of the Paris airports by strikers.

He was leading a group of 12 including representatives of the southern towns which will host the 3,972-kilometre race on 6 and 7 July - 20 years after the Tour's first visit to Britain. After flying to Belgium, Rushton had to drive 300km. 'I could have done with the Tunnel,' he said.

What he missed was the unveiling of a course which should produce a fight to the finish in Paris on 24 July. It is going to be a severe final week with five successive days of climbing and three mountain summit finishes, the third of which is a time trial to Avoriaz ski station.

Indurain's concern will be focused on the Alpine climbs which should help the Swiss Tony Rominger challenge even harder than he did last July. The 45km mountain time trial is two days before the Champs-Elysees finale, and the riders' verdict was 'it is going to be much harder for Miguel'.

'It will definitely suit Rominger,' Stephen Roche the now retired Tour winner said. 'It's a very good course for riders like me. This could be the chance for Rominger, Alex Zulle or Claudio Chiappucci, if they are on form.'

'It is going to be a very difficult week,' Indurain agreed. However, it was thought such a test would be too much for him in the Tour of Italy - until he won it.