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Alberto Contador returns to Tour de France after a two-year ban for doping.
Alberto Contador returns to Tour de France after a two-year ban for doping.

Tour de France takes a different approach for 2013 route

Changes to route means climbers such as Contador are favourites and sprinters can win on the first day since 1966.

PARIS // While the sports world comes to terms with the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, Tour de France organisers yesterday unveiled a mountainous, prestigious route for the 100th staging of the world's greatest cycling race.

The 2013 Tour, which will start from Corsica, will take l'Alpe d'Huez's 21 hairpins twice in the same stage, go up the gruelling Mont Ventoux and end at dusk on the Champs Elysees.

But with nine of the last 14 title wins wiped out because of doping, it remains to be seen whether next year's race will have any credibility.

Seven of those titles belonged to Armstrong, who was stripped of his 1999-2005 victories when the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the US Anti-Doping Agency's decision to nullify the American's results from August 1998 onward.

According to the Tour director Christian Prudhomme, however, cycling is changing.

"A movement has started a few years ago and it must go on. Everybody must work on it," Prudhomme said.

"You cannot say that [anti-doping] tests don't work. I remind you that we lost two winners in five years recently" over doping, he added, referring to Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador being stripped of their 2006 and 2010 victories after failing dope tests during the race.

Prudhomme insisted the day belonged to the "magic" of the Tour.

Next year's route is expected to suit top climbers, with Spain's Contador and Britain's Chris Froome the likely favourites.

Bradley Wiggins, the champion, might find it tough to contain the attackers throughout.

Froome suggested on Monday that Wiggins may concentrate on the Giro d'Italia next year while he would be Team Sky's leader on the Tour, which will feature four mountaintop finishes and some 65 kilometres of individual time trial compared to this year's 101.4km.

With the first stage being totally flat, Britain's Mark Cavendish, who is joining the Belgian team Omega Pharma-Quickstep, from Sky, will have the opportunity to wear the coveted yellow jersey for the first time.

"It is the first time since 1966 that a sprinter will have the chance to get the yellow jersey on the first day," Prudhomme said.

The route, however, will quickly go uphill as the peloton makes its way towards Calvi in northern Corsica.

Following a short team time trial around Nice, the Tour will visit Marseille and Montpellier en route to the Pyrenees, with two mountain stages on the menu, to Ax 3 Domaines and Bagneres de Bigorre.

The peloton will be transferred to Brittany, where the riders will battle it out on a 33km time trial to Mont St Michel, one of 10 Unesco World heritage sites on next year's route. The organisers, however, hope the Tour will be decided in the Alps.

A couple of climbs up l'Alpe d'Huez and a summit finish on the Ventoux should sort the men from the boys before a final, gruelling and hilly time trial around Annecy.

The last stage will start from the gardens of the Palace of Versailles and finish on the Champs Elysees at dusk, with the podium ceremony being held at night.

The finish at night is a Tour first, as is the start in Corsica

"I'm a Parisian. And I have this image of Paris as the City of Light," Prudhomme said.

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