Cycling: Tour returns to savour home soil

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THE Tour de France is going back to its roots in 1993. The world's most famous cycling race, which went through seven European countries last July, will head back to the roads of France and towards the mountains between 3 and 25 July in 1993.

'It will be one of the most mountainous Tours in recent years, with 20 mountain passes, including nine at above 2,000 metres,' Jean-Marie Leblanc, the race director, said in Paris yesterday.

In the absence of the traditional finish in l'Alpe d'Huez - dropped for the first time since 1985 - a highlight of the 23-day, 3,800- kilometre race will be the 11th stage between the Alpine resorts of Serre Chevalier and Isola 2000, which features four passes at over 2,000m.

The pack will also have to ride through the Pyrenees, included after being dropped this year. The 228km 16th stage between Andorra and Saint Lary Soulan includes five gruelling climbs.

'This course is a little bit frightening, with so much mountain,' Spain's Miguel Indurain, the Tour winner for the past two years, said.

However, Claudio Chiappucci, the Italian who came second last year and in 1989, said: 'It looks fine. I love mountains.' Chiappucci's Irish team-mate, Stephen Roche, contemplating what will be his last Tour, said that his ambitions are 'just to do my best. I want to go out by the main door.'

The Tour will only cross a border once, for a short spell in Indurain's native country in the 15th stage. Starting from France's west coast, at Puy du Fou, the race will head north and then east to Strasbourg, before a transfer by plane to the Alps. The 180 riders - two teams fewer than this year - will then cross the south of France to the Pyrenees before heading back towards Paris.

1993 TOUR DE FRANCE: 3,600km (2,237 miles), 2 to 25 July: Prologue (3 July) Puy du Fou, 6.8km (4.2 miles). Stage 1 (4 July) Lucon - Les Sables d'Olonne, 208km. Stage 2 (5 July) Les Sables d'Olonne - Vannes, 230km. Stage 3 (6 July) Vannes - Dinard, 190km. Stage 4 (7 July) Dinard - Avranches, team time trial, 85km. Stage 5 (8 July) Avranches - Evreux, 226km. Stage 6 (9 July) Evreux - Amiens, 160km. Stage 7 (10 July) Peronne - Chalons-sur-Marne, 196km. Stage 8 (11 July) Chalons-sur-Marne - Verdun, 180km. Stage 9 (12 July) Lac de Madine, individual time trial, 65km. Stage 10 (after transfer to Grenoble, 13 July): (14 July) Villard de Lans - Serre Chevalier, 206km. Stage 11 Serre Chevalier - Isola 2000, 175km. Stage 12 (16 July) Isola 2000 - Marseilles, 285km. Stage 13 (17 July) Marseilles - Montpellier, 195km. Stage 14 (18 July) Montpellier - Perpignan, 218km. Stage 15 (19 July) Perpignan - Andorra, 220km. Stage 16 (after rest day, 20 July): (21 July) Andorra - Saint Lary Soulan, 228km. Stage 17 (22 July) Tarbes - Pau, 190km. Stage 18 (23 July) Orthez - Bordeaux, 202km. Stage 19 (24 July) Bretigny-sur- Orge - Montlhery, individual time trial, 55km. Stage 20 (25 July) Viry-Chatillon - Paris, 180km.

(Map omitted)