Cycling : Tour de France, the rush is


summer is definitely filed away in the corner of memories and Paris, this morning (Thursday), it is enough to lift eyes to the sky, low and grey, to be convinced. In order to revive the flame, plunging back into the heat of the summer and its procession of lightness, ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) has its own method.

Like every year since the mid-1990s, the organizer of the Tour de France meet at the Palais des congrès and the good of the cycling world. However, not cycling, or cycling shorts for runners and even less of the shorts for the followers. Clothes fall and summer dreams : it is the cocktail of the presentation of the Tour, version 2019, a show tune and now spread throughout the world in the era of social networks requires.

Merckx and the yellow jersey to honor

in Order to take in the breath of the planet bike until July, the organisers have, as so often, summoned the history. Last year, the year had been delicate, twenty years after the Festina affair, thirty years after the denial of Pedro Delgado (controlled positive because, according to him, a bottle that he had stretched in a v-neck) and ten years after the start in full run of Rasmussen and Riccardo Ricco.

For the 106th edition, which will start in July of next year, the story is more glorious : we will celebrate the 100 years of the yellow jersey and so all the heirs of Eugene Christophe, the first to have sported the tunic golden in 1919. This jersey, it is “a light, a beacon, a distinction of excellence,” said Christian Prudhomme, the boss of the Tower. This new tour will celebrate also the fifty years of the first victory of Eddy Merckx who had the right to a nice ovation, Thursday morning.

The Belgium before France

Are you in 2019 to revive in wide and across the career of the “cannibal” the success of which at the time had come to annoy, fun-house mirror of what the Sky offers to the followers of the Tour since 2012. The tribute to the king Merckx “forced” the Tour start from Belgium, the land of bike in the spring (with the classic) and so the next summer, with the three steps in the flat country. A first-in-line – from Brussels with a hook to Charleroi (192 km) – which announced a massive sprint – before an against-the-clock by team the next day in the streets of the belgian capital.

Alternating geographical forces, the west of france, passed last year, is forgotten. “The Tour will return soon “, says Michel-Edouard Leclerc, the head of the stores namesake, and is now a sponsor of the jersey of best climber. The Tower will therefore now turn to the east, with arrivals in Epernay, which had hosted the Tour in the past half-century, to Nancy and then Colmar. Then, place it to a classic : the ascent of the Planche-des-Belles-Filles (with portions of 20 %), where Froome (2012), Nibali (2014) and Aru (2017) have blasted the peloton.

Of the Tourmalet at the pont du Gard

In the aftermath, the sprinters will be able to find the smile in Chalon-sur-Saône, and the leaders will have to be wary of the step between Mâcon and Saint-Etienne (4 000 meters in altitude) prior to a finish in Brioude, the birthplace of Romain Bardet. The latter will have to be patient with two sprints and a day of rest (at Albi) before, finally, to see the road climb in the Pyrenees. The days that follow promise to be mouth-watering : the col de Peyresourde (13 km, 7 %) and the finish in Bagnères-de-Bigorre (12th step), an against-the-shows Pau composed of two ribs to taste (13-step) and a step short (117 km) which ends at the col du Tourmalet (stage 14).

The Tour will then go to Limoux – touch the terrible floods of a fortnight ago – and will stop at Nimes (where was left the Vuelta last year) for a day of rest and a long loop of 177 km. The next day, the riders will set off the sumptuous pont du Gard before the start of the sequence end in the Alps. The first step of this triptych is composed of three passes of more than 2,000 metres (col de Vars, the Izoard and the Galibier) between Embrun and Valloire (207 km, 18th step).

The col de l’iseran, the roof of the Tower

The next day, between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and Tignes, the platoon returns to the col de l’iseran, the roof of this Tower (2 770m), long shunned in the place of the Tourmalet. However, this is where Pierre Tacca, Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali had been detonated in the platoon (in 1949) and Louison Bobet had abandoned during his final Round at the 1st stage on television (in 1959). It is also here that the vagaries of the weather had driven the organisers to abandon the climb because of the snow tenacious that was in 1996.

After this short day (123 km) – the jargon speaks of step “squat” –, it will be necessary to swallow still 131 miles between Albertville and Val Thorens via the Cormet de Roselend (19.9 km at 6 %), the coast of Longefoy (6.6 km at 6.5 %) before to resist the descent and the final climb, the 3rd highest finish in the history of the Tour. Then, it will be time to return to the Ile-de-France to celebrate three weeks on the roads of France, with champagne and a souvenir album. Small coquetry of that ultimate step : a new route in the capital, a passage in front of the Senate, the palace of justice, and the crossing of the courtyard of the Louvre.

And if the hope came from China ?

In what state of mind will be the caravan, worn out by 3 460 km crossed ? We doubt that the recurrent debates on the difficulty to inject a dose of suspense will not take place. The race is dominated as never before by the austerity britain of the Sky and this is not meant to stop. Geraint Thomas had not yet won a stage last summer that the looks turned already to the young Bernal, 21 years of age, and cannes also fringantes than Froome when he had threatened the leadership of his team mate, Bradley Wiggins, in 2011, before winning four of the five following Rounds.

Read also the Tour de France 2018 : team Sky, why so much hatred ?

The options mentioned for more suspense there are many more steps, short and nervous, a number of crew members is limited (they are now 8 and 9 in 2017), or limited in use, headsets or sensors of power (claimed by Christian Prudhomme on stage)… Only behind the proposals, there is a reality merciless and cold and it reminds us that cycling is just a sport, modern like the others : money.

The Sky has a budget of around 40 million euros, the nest egg Reims in Ligue 1, but double most of its competitors. The least romantic of followers, a dream that a sponsor manages to align the greenbacks to compete. The hope could come from China : it is rumored that the Middle kingdom should invest and be a “super-team” in the years to come. Definitely, the Tour de France is a dream well beyond the armchairs in the stately Palace of congress and the borders of the Hexagon.


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