A challenging route for the 2009 Tour de France was announced in Paris on Wednesday (22nd October), with riders facing an arduous mountain stage in the closing stages.
The tour will start in the principality of Monaco before winding its way down the Mediterranean coast into Barcelona - the first time it has travelled through the city in 44 years - before eventually finishing in Paris on the 26th July.
The route for the 2009 Tour de France was announced in Paris - with next year's course throwing up a few surprises.
The tour will start in the Principality of Monaco before hugging the coast, passing through Marseille and entering
north-east Spain on towards a visit to Barcelona.
Riders will be rarely be out of sight of the sea in the opening stages and tour director Christian Prudhomme says the coastal conditions will be a real test.
"It is true that in 2009 we will have a Mediterranean start as the sea accompanies us and accompanies the riders of the Tour during almost eight days. It will be a prestigious start in the Principality of Monaco. To follow, we will be going through Marseille; we will pass through Perpignan, as well as Barcelona, a city where the Tour de France has not gone for 44 years now. There will be a kind of continuity along the coast with a true squall, because where there is the sea, there is wind. This will give us absolutely sumptuous images with a permanent reference to the sea in the live broadcast."
SUPER CAPTION: Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France.
After Spain the tour will meander through southern France before riders board a plane to the central town of Limoges.
The tour then makes its way across France before nudging into the ski resorts of Switzerland and Italy as the competition hits the hills.
Controversially the penultimate stage of the tour will also be a tough mountain climb - a 167-kilometre stage from Montelimar to Mont Ventoux at a crucial time in the event.
Non-climbers will hope to have a substantial lead as mountain specialists will look to ride back into contention.
The tour will include 20 major mountain climbs over the 3,445 kilometre course and the hilly aspect of the 2009 course may put off the expected return of Lance Armstrong.
The former tour winner is expected to return to the event this year but the numerous and tough climbs may put the 37-year old off.
Prudhomme says the idea of a penultimate mountain stage has been considered for the past few years.
"The Tour de France always lived in harmony with its time, with its drifts as well as with its innovations. The TGV (high speed train) enables us today to go back to Paris more quickly from Avignon than from Aix-Les-Bains for example; it makes it possible to bring the mountain closer to Paris. Why should we deprive ourselves of such possibilities as the start in Monaco allowed us precisely certain audacities because one did not want to attack the mountain immediately and to go immediately into the Alps? To sum up, the Mont Ventoux has been in my head for the past 3 years and for the past 2 years with the officials and the political authorities."
SUPER CAPTION: Christian Prudhomme.
A team time trial has also been restored to the event in a series of revamps to the tour.
The 2009 Tour de France will finish in Paris on the 26th July.
SHOTLIST: Paris, France. October 22nd, 2008.
1. 00.00 Pan of conference where announcement was made.
2. 00.05 2d map of the tour with moving line indicating route.
3. 00.23 SOUNDBITE: (French), Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France.
4. 00.52 2d map of the tour with moving line indicating route.
5. 01.32 SOUNDBITE: (French), Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France.