Tour de France: Corsican roads will put a twist in the start of race with a difference

 

Corsica

As two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador told The Independent, “if you could pick one Tour de France to win of all of them, this would probably be it” – and there can be no doubt that the 100th edition of this race has a special feel to it.

Rather than the usual sedate sight of riders rolling down a prologue time trial ramp, one after another, to get the race under way, the centenary Tour will turn back the clock today when it kicks off with a mass-start stage with a flat finish for the first time since 1966.

That, combined with Corsica’s narrow, twisting, undulating roads – the only French département the Tour has never previously visited – will guarantee that today’s racing is fast and furious, and liable to be fraught with crashes too. “We can’t just rely on there being a bunch sprint,” Mark Cavendish’s team manager, Wilfried Peeters, said – although Cavendish is today’s clear favourite to don the maillot jaune. “We will have to plan for all sorts of scenarios.”

On Tuesday, in a team time trial in Nice, the intentionally muddy waters of three intense days’ racing in Corsica will begin to clear and some sort of pecking order will be established. But the first major sort-out will not come until stage eight’s ascent of  Ax 3 Domaines in the Pyrenees. It may not be until the 33km (21-mile) time trial on stage 11 in Normandy that the first clear leader emerges.

As the organisers’ deliberate attempt to prolong the tension continues, the real high points of the Tour then arrive, starting with Mont Ventoux, France’s single most  difficult climb, on stage 15 and continuing with an unprecedented double ascent of its most infamous Alpine col, the Alpe d’Huez, three stages later. 

In total, there are five days of high mountain racing in the last week and a bit, which will give ample opportunity for the climbers to challenge the time triallists and will mean the Tour’s outcome is likely to remain uncertain – as was not the case last year thanks to Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sky’s stranglehold on the race.

The way the final curtain on the Tour’s 100th edition is to fall is also unique, with the traditional finale on the Champs-Elysées delayed from its usual early evening slot until 9pm and the riders circling, unusually, the Arc de Triomphe as part of their final victory lap. The last moments of the Tour’s victory ceremony, therefore, will be held in the dark.

So far, so different, but the Tour could barely get under way without some kind of echo of the doping scandals that form its perennial plague. And on this occasion it came from Lance Armstrong claiming that it would have been impossible for him to win the Tour seven times without using banned drugs.

“We are practising a much healthier sport and there is almost no doping,” France’s young outsider for a top placing, 23-year-old Thibaut Pinot – 10th last year – told Le Figaro yesterday, “which makes it easier to win.

“There was a long period during which Armstrong lied to us and I want to forget it. Today, our aim is not to disappoint, after those stolen years, to create a real history of the Tour."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there