TOUR de France racers are going to suffer next year as they face six mountain sections with four summit finishes.
One is on the 2,645m Col du Galibier, the highest stage finish in Tour history. The col will feature twice to mark the centenary of the first Alpine stage as the Tour swings into Italy for its only foreign trip, to Pinerolo.
The 2011 Grand Départ on July 2 will be from below sea level across the slippery tidal causeway of the Passage du Gois linking the Ile de Noirmoutier to the mainland.
Riders head round Brittany and Normandy, down to Le Mans and then the Massif Central for two stages before heading for the Pyrenees with three stages, including a new col, the Hourquette d'Ancizan, and a visit to Lourdes.
Then, in an echo of the 1911 race, they make for the Alps for the final mountain sections with finishes at Galibier and Alpe d'Huez before the finale in Paris on July 24.
Tour organisers have completely revised the 3,470km race schedule and points set-up this year and and there is only one individual time trial, the day before the finish on the Champs-Elysées.
Sprint or stage finishes will not be rewarded with bonuses and there is little opportunity for the crowd-pleasing bunch sprints, despite the 10 flat stages.
Reinforcing the general view that this is a “climber’s Tour”, the organisers have also changed the points system for the King of the Mountains, rewarding the winners of the stages.
Last year’s winner, Spaniard Alberto Contador, was missing from the launch in Paris after being suspended for suspected doping with clenbuterol during this year’s event.
The 21 stages are:
1 - Passage du Gois - Mont des Alouettes
2 - Les Essarts - Les Essarts (23km team time trial)
3 - Olonnes-sur-Mer - Redon
4 - Lorient - Mûr-de-Bretagne
5 - Carhaix - Cap Fréhel
6 - Dinan - Lisieux
7 - Le Mans - Châteauroux
8 - Aigurande - Super Besse
9 - Issoire - Saint-Flour
10 - Aurillac - Carmaux
11 - Blayes-les-Mines - Lavaur
12 - Cugnaux - Luz Ardiden
13 - Pau - Lourdes
14 - Saint-Gaudens - Plateau de Beille
15 - Limoux - Montpellier
16 - Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Gap
17 - Gap - Pinerolo
18 - Pinerolo - Galibier-Serre Chevalier
19 - Modane - Alpe d'Huez
20 - Grenoble - Grenoble (41km solo time trial)
21 - Créteil - Paris - Champs-Elysées