Riding in the yellow jersey at the 2008 Tour de France might require a little less individual effort than in previous years.
The route and daily details released by bike race officials on Thursday shows there will be no starting prologue, and one of the two individual time trials will be shorter than usual.
The 2008 Tour de France rolls counter-clockwise around France from Brest to Paris from Saturday, July 5 to Sunday July 27, 2008. Along the way it will pass 2,170 miles of French countryside, except for a brief one-day stop in the Italian Alps.
The 21 stages are divided into 10 flat stages, 5 mountain stages, 4 medium mountain stages and 2 individual time trials. Officials say 4 of the finishes will be on mountain tops and 19 Category 1, 2 and beyond category mountain passes will be crossed.
The absence of a prologue means that team tactics and a sprint will establish the winner of the yellow jersey on the first day. The first time trial in Cholet is just 18 miles, while the time trial on the next to last day is 33 miles from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Although cyclists will spend less time rolling along the road individually, there will be plenty of suffering in the mountains.
While mostly flat in the beginning, the terrain picks up in stages 6 and 7, but the peloton doesn't hit the Pyrenees until Stage 9. The next stage features a climb up the Tourmalet.
The bicyclists return to the mountains on Stage 15 with climbs in the French and Italian Alps. Stage 16 visits the rarely visited Restefond and Stage 17 is the day for Alpe d'Huez.
The high mountain stages are:
Stage 9: Sunday July 13 – Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin)
Stage 10: Monday July 14 – Pau to Hautacam (Hautacam)
Stage 15: Sunday July 20 – Digne-les-Bains to Prato Nevoso (Col de Larche Maddalena)
Stage 16: Tuesday July 22 – Cuneo to Jausiers (Col de la Lombarde, Col de la Bonnette Restefond)
Stage 17: Wednesday July 23 – Embrun to L'Alpe-d'Huez (Col du Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer, L'Alpe d'Huez)
No free tickets
In announcing the Tour route, director Christian Prudhomme said there will be no free rides getting into this year's Tour de France.
Because of last year's continued doping debacle, Prudhomme said no team is assured a berth in the Tour. One of those troubled teams, Astana, has had a complete makeover, signing up lots of riders from Discovery, including Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer, who finished 1 and 3.
Check out the 2008 Tour de France website for maps, route descriptions and 3D previews.