2011 Tour route to suit climbers
The 2011 Tour de France route will perfectly suit climbers such as Alberto Contador although it remains unclear whether the three-times champion will be allowed to take part.
The Spaniard has been provisionally suspended pending further investigations into his positive test for the anabolic agent clenbuterol.
Should, however, the 2007, 2009 and 2010 champion take part next year he will find the route ideal.
There are four mountaintop finishes - two in the Pyrenees, two in the Alps - for 2011 with a prestigious mountain finale on the Alpe d'Huez two days before the Champs Elysees parade.
"We wanted a balanced route. We tried to keep the suspense for the Alps but also to have a big battle as early as the Pyrenees," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told a few selected reporters before the official unveiling ceremony.
The Tour will start on July 2 in Brittany, the heartland of French cycling and Prudhomme is hoping the opening week will be filled with action.
"That is why we have this finish at Mur de Bretagne (known as the Alpe d'Huez of Brittany)," Prudhomme said.
"I'm confident I'll have a strong team to help me win this tour," said this year's runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, who left Saxo Bank with his brother Frank to launch a new outfit starting next year.
Schleck, however, did not mention Contador as one of his rivals.
The peloton will then head south through the Pyrenees, where the riders will tackle the testing Col du Tourmalet and also the Col d'Aubisque.
Organisers said they wanted to celebrate the centenary of the Alps in the Tour, with the punishing Col du Galibier section twice on the menu.
The loss of Contador though would be hugely disappointing for organisers.
The Spaniard has claimed that the banned anabolic agent found in his test came from contaminated meat and the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency are investigating the case further before making a final decision.
"It's a very important case and we need to be compeltely sure (of the facts) when the decision is taken," UCI president Pat McQuaid said.
"It's quite complicated. We are waiting for the results to come back and I don't know how long it's going to take.
"In fairness to Contador, to the Tour de France, we need to go into the details to make sure the decision taken is the right one."
Contador was not seen at Tuesday's ceremony at the Palais des Congres in Paris.
Spain's Secretary of State for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky told Telemadrid he was hoping for a quick resolution to the case because any delay was "damaging for Contador, for cycling and for Spanish sport".
"Suspicion does not mean guilt. We are waiting for the conclusions of the UCI and WADA's investigation," said Prudhomme. "We strongly hope that we won't have to wait too long."
Prudhomme said the Tour would not be harmed if Contador fails to take part.
"We still have 250 cities who applied to host a stage, 50 of them being foreign cities. Barcelona, Salzburg, Krakow were candidates," he said.
"Last week I was in Shanghai and I was amazed by the Chinese's knowledge of the Tour, by their passion for the race.
"The Tour is huge. It is broadcast in 137 countries. In France, it is viewed twice more than Roland Garros (French Open tennis), for example."
Prudhomme, who took over the running of the race in 2006, believes the fight against doping is showing results.
"Pierre Bordry, the former head of the French Anti-Doping Agency, said himself that he thought the vast majority of the peloton is clean," he said.
"Cycling is doing more than any other sport in the fight against doping. If (bloodboosters) EPO, CERA are being detected, it is because cycling is a pioneer in the fight against doping."
Tuesday's ceremony began with a video tribute to former Tour champion Laurent Fignon, who died of cancer earlier this year, with the 4,000 spectators applauding after being shown highlights of the Frenchman's career.highlights of the Frenchman's career.