Cycling: Unveiling of Tour route missed by Contador

The Tour de France 2011 route presentation here yesterday was overshadowed by the absence of the two men who have dominated the race for the last decade – Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

The seven-times winner Armstrong missed this high point of cycling's calendar as his partner, Anna Hansen, had just given birth to his fifth child, and because he has said he will not be taking part in the Tour again.

While the Texan's dismal 23rd place in this year's race made it brutally clear that, at 39, he is too long in the tooth to challenge in sport's most gruelling endurance event, Contador's no-show was far more controversial. The winner of the Tour in 2007, 2009 and 2010, the Spaniard is provisionally suspended from racing for a doping offence after minute traces of clenbuterol, a banned anabolic agent, were found in a urine sample taken this July.

Not turning up certainly let the 27-year-old avoid a media feeding frenzy about his ongoing battle to clear his name. But the famous pair's absence meant that even in Paris's massive Palais des Congrès, where the presentation was held, the Tour organisers had a tough time keeping the press's attention off the two elephants in the room.

Ironically, Contador, arguably cycling's best climber, would have liked what he heard if he had attended. The 2011 route would suit the Spaniard down to the ground, with four summit finishes, two in the Pyrenees and two in the Alps.

Even the opening stage, a 191km (119-mile) spin across the Vendée region in western France, finishes on a hill – the Mont des Alouettes, albeit just 232 metres above sea level. What will prove far more decisive are the race's summit finishes, the first on 2,645m Galibier and the second on Alpe D'Huez, the sport's best-known climb.

But the itinerary is a blow for Britain's best prospect for overall honours, Bradley Wiggins, as the Londoner has just one medium-length individual time trial to shine in. The ultra-tough route does no favours either to Mark Cavendish, Britain's best ever Tour de France racer and a winner of five stages this year. The Manxman's initial reaction was that only six stages look flat enough to be sure to end in bunch sprints, his forte, two fewer than in 2010.

A change of rule in the points scoring also hits Cavendish's hopes of finally nailing the green jersey after two years of challenging for it. In 2011, the traditional two intermediate mid-stage sprints have been halved to one while the points on offer in that sprint have been more than tripled, from six in 2010 to 20.

With so much to play for in mid-stage, it becomes more of a gamble to focus on taking the stage's final sprint, worth 45 points. "Mark's not sure if he will find it harder to win now, but it will definitely mean a lot more thinking on our feet for the team bosses and a lot more hard work for the team," said his team manager, Rolf Aldag.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before