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Riding through history

Centenary Tour recalls race's glorious past

Posted: Tuesday July 01, 2003 12:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday July 01, 2003 12:02 PM

PARIS (Reuters) -- The 198 Riders in the 2003 Tour de France will embark on three weeks of time travel through the history of the race, which is celebrating its centenary.

"The 2003 Tour will be a rare and considerable event," said Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc when he unveiled the route for the race, which starts Saturday.

"We will revisit the six cities which hosted the 60 riders in the 1903 race -- Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes," he added.

"We will also climb mountain passes like Galibier, Izoard and Tourmalet, in that order.

"We designed a balanced itinerary and hope the race will provide some great moments."

The route should suit defending champion Lance Armstrong, who will be favorite to win the centenary race.

The American, hoping to win his fifth Tour in succession, will have to master two individual time trials, over 98 kilometers in all, and seven mountain stages.

But there will be fewer altitude finishes compared to last year -- three instead of five.

For the first time since 1986, the Tour will start from Paris and the prologue will begin at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Symbolically, the first stage will begin from the same place as it did 100 years ago.

The inaugural Tour de France, won by Maurice Garin, started in front of a cafe called Le Reveil Matin. Though the cafe itself has long gone, the spot where it stood will mark the beginning of the first stage on Sunday.

"A little ceremony will be held on the spot," said Leblanc.

After three flat stages which should favor sprinters, the participants will race in a 68-km team time trial in St Dizier and then ride to Nevers, where the first feeding station was installed in 1903.

"For the centenary we could not avoid going to l'Alpe d'Huez, a memorable finish which crowned Fausto Coppi as its first winner (in 1952)," Leblanc said.

"That day we will go up the Galibier to pay homage to the Henri Desgrange (the Tour creator) monument.

"The next day, we'll climb the Izoard and stop at the plaques honoring (former Tour winners) Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet," Leblanc added.

The first individual time trial will be held at the foot of the Pyrenees over 48.5 kms between the wine city of Gaillac and the Cap Decouverte theme park.

The second will be held between Pornic and Nantes over 49 kms on the day before the finish on the Champs-Elysees.


 
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