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Tour de France to cross four countries and WWI battle sites

© Image: Tour de France

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-23

Tour de France organisers announced on Wednesday a four-country route for 2014, starting in England and featuring stretches in the north and east of France to commemorate 100 years on from the start of World War One.

The 2014 Tour de France will pass through the sites of some of the worst fighting of World War One next year, organisers revealed on Wednesday, as they unveiled a four-country route that is likely to limit the strengths of defending champion Chris Froome.

After a France-only race this year, the 101st edition will begin in England and also pass through Belgium and Spain.

Starting in Leeds, Yorkshire on July 5, the 3,600 kilometre-race ends 22 days later, as is traditional, on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. With 25 ascents, the same as the 2012 edition won by Bradley Wiggins and only three fewer than this year’s centennial dominated by Froome, the 2014 race will suit particularly strong climbers.

Overall, the course includes six mountain stages with five summit finishes and a stage tackling the cobblestones that are the hallmark of the Paris-Roubaix classic.

There is also just one time-trial for the first time since the 1950s, all of which will provide defending champion Froome with a tough test in a race likely to favour smaller, lighter climbers.

Froome retained the title for Britain in the Tour's 100th edition last year after compatriot Wiggins became the country's first-ever winner in 2012.

Commemorative course

One hundred years after the start of the Great War, the race will pay tribute to the millions killed in one of history's bloodiest conflicts, visiting towns and countryside devastated by four years of fighting.

Stage five starts in Ypres, in the Flanders region of western Belgium, which was the scene of sustained and intensive fighting between German and Allied forces.

Stages six and seven visit Arras, the Chemin des Dames, Verdun and Douaumont – all sites of key battles and home to memorials to the fallen – and a finish in Reims, in Champagne country, where French kings were once crowned.

The cycling tribute is a part of commemorations across France, Europe and the rest of the world to the conflict that helped shape the violent history of the 20th century.

Three winners in the early years of the Tour, Francois Faber, Octave Lapize and Lucien Petit-Breton, died during the war, which forced the race to be suspended from 1914 to 1919.

"We of course cannot forget them. The Tour is also a moment of collective remembrance," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said on Wednesday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-10-23

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