The 2006 Tour de France route itinerary was unveiled in Paris on Thursday (27th October).
The 2006 race looks to favour the climbers, with the abandonment of team trials and the return of the infamous Alpe D'Huez climb.
The current race director Jean-Marie Leblanc will hand over to the Christian Prudhomme after 2006 - and at Thursday's ceremony, Prudhomme said he hoped for an open race next year, while speaking out about the need to eradicate doping from the sport.
Some of the biggest names in cycling - past and present - were in Paris on Thursday as the itinerary for the 2006 Tour de France was revealed.
Before the unveiling of the route, the Tour's Race Director Jean-Marie Leblanc handed over to Christian Prudhomme, who is currently the A.S.O.'s director of cycling, and will take over from Leblanc as Tour director following the 2006 race.
Prudhomme said that the greatest task facing cycling was to eradicate drugs from the sport.
"For cycling to remain a magnificent sport, one should be well aware of the situation. Doping is a disease in sports - but also in cycling. We need to fight, for the clean riders. The many clean riders, who are the real victims. I will fight for them. I can't stand the fact that some might consider that those who fight against doping are the enemies of the sport. It's the opposite. Cycling is the most beautiful sport, a sport for heroes, with fantastic values - courage, solidarity, humility. It's past is glorious, (and) I believe in its future."
SUPER CAPTION: Christian Prudhomme, A.S.O. Director of Cycling and Tour de France race director-elect.
Lance Armstrong will not be taking part in 2006, and the seven-time champion's name was conspicuous by its absence from the speeches of both Leblanc and Prudhomme.
When he did mention Armstrong, Leblanc said that the American has been discredited by allegations printed in the L'Equipe sports newspaper in August, which claimed that he used the banned performance enhancer E.P.O. during his first Tour win in 1999.
Leblanc added that there was relief in the sport that Armstrong will not be returning.
For his part, Armstrong vehemently denies any wrongdoing, and is reportedly considering whether to take L'Equipe, France's national anti-doping laboratory and the Tour director to court.
It starts on July 1st in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of eastern France, then passes through Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands, before winding counterclockwise through the Pyrenees and then the Alps and ending on Paris's famed Champs-Elysees on July 23rd - a total distance of 3,639 kilometres (2,256 miles).
The team time trial has been axed and there will be three individual time trials, one on the eve of the final stage.
The tour will also visit Pla de Beret, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, for the first time, for a mountain-top finish.
There are five major mountain ascents - including the Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Izoard, Col du Galibier, and the return of the infamous Alpe D'Huez - and three uphill finishes.
With a total of 18 ascents, the route is likely to favour the climbers.
Prudhomme is hoping for an open race in 2006.
"It's a Tour that gets gradually harder, with a fantastic final week. One will need to keep strength for the third week. It's a Tour with giant climbs in the mountains - the Tourmalet, the Izoard, the Galibier, and the return of the Alpe d'Huez. And on the other hand, new things, with a finish in the Val d'Aran in Spain, and La Toussuire, a Tour with around 115 kilometres of individual time trial - the longest distance since 1999. No team time trial, (so) there's everything necessary so that the 2006 Tour crowns a strong champion. If he could be known as late as possible (during the race), then that would be great. But only the race and riders can decide that. All the ingredients are there to make a great Tour de France."
SUPER CAPTION: Christian Prudhomme, A.S.O. Director of Cycling and Tour de France race director-elect
In Armstrong's absence, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich of Germany, Ivan Basso and Gilberto Simoni of Italy, Spain's Alejandro Valverde and American rider Floyd Landis will be among the favourites.
SHOTLIST: Paris, France. 27th October 2005
1. 00:00 Wide shot auditorium.
2. 00:03 Various of cyclists sitting.
3. 00:15 Various of Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc (on left) with Christian Prudhomme, who will become Tour director after 2006 race. Leblanc has been in charge for 17 years.
4. 00:24 Wide shot of auditorium.
5. 00:28 SOUNDBITE: (French) Christian Prudhomme, A.S.O. Director of Cycling and Tour de France race director-elect.
6. 01:13 Graphic showing 2006 Tour de France route.
7. 02:16 SOUNDBITE: (French) Christian Prudhomme, A.S.O. Director of Cycling and Tour de France race director-elect.
8. 03:03 Various of LeBlanc and Prudhomme next to board with 2006 Tour route.