Tour de France 2011 route unveiled

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The Independent Online

Christian Prudhomme, general director of the Tour de France, unveiled the Tour's 2011 route on Tuesday, October 19. Starting on July 2 in the west coast Vendée region, the tour will take in the northwest, the Central Massif, the Pyrenées and Alps, before finishing in Paris on July 24.

As part of the 98th Tour de France, northwestern Italy will also be paid a visit, when the historic town of Pinerolo marks the end of Stage 17 and the start of Stage 18 on July 21 and 22.

The shortest stages are the time trials: the 23km/14mi team time trial is the Tour's second stage in Les Essarts on July 3, while the 41km/25mi individual time trial is the race's penultimate stage, in Grenoble on July 23.

The 3,470km route's longest stage is on July 7, the 226km from Didan (Brittany) to Lisiex (Normandy), before riders begin the journey down to southern France via Le Mans and central France's ski country.

The 2011 Tour harks back to the 1911 edition, which not only included 1910's inaugural visit to the Pyrenées, but also added the Alps to its schedule.

Henri Desgrange, the Tour's founder and first director, then proclaimed the alpine Col du Galibier mountain to be his favorite. In 2011 it will feature twice, with Stage 18 finishing at its summit, the Tour's highest ever finish.

In a change from previous editions, there will be no bonuses awarded based on sprint or stage finishes, and the traditional prologue has been passed over in favor of the Vendée's Grand Départ.

Three-time champion and current title-holder Alberto Contador of Spain looks likely to miss out, following a doping investigation's provisional suspension, and while Lance Armstrong raced his last Tour that summer, it was his Team RadioShack that won the teams classification.

See the full Tour de France 2011 route at http://www.letour.fr.

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