2010 Tour de France route unveiled in Paris

If this year's winner of the Tour de France, Alberto Contador, wants to win in 2010, he'll have to contend with treacherous cobblestones and blustery North Sea winds during next year's planned mountain stages after the route was unveiled in Paris on


Reuters - Alberto Contador will have to contend with treacherous cobblestones and blustery North Sea winds before sinking his teeth into next year's Tour de France mountain stages after the route was unveiled on Wednesday.

But the Spaniard, Tour champion in 2007 and 2009 and arguably the best climber in the world, can look forward to stretching his rivals in the Pyrenees, which will be the
highlight of cycling's showcase event in 2010.

Four stages, including a gruelling 16th stage with four daunting climbs, will be held in the mountains that form the border between France and Spain.

One hundred years after first featuring on the Tour map, the Pyrenees could be the scene of a classic battle between Contador and seven times champion Lance Armstrong.

"The route is better than last year's because there are more mountains," Contador told reporters.

"Finishing with the Tourmalet is great for me," he added, referring to the last mountain stage which ends at the top of the 2,115-metre high Col du Tourmalet.

"Well it's not your traditional Tour,"the 38-year-old Armstrong, who was third this year, told reporters.

"(But) I was never one to say I like this Tour, I dislike this Tour. It's the Tour.

"The best man always wins and you always do the Alps and the Pyrenees and you always have some demanding time trials." The objective of this year's route was to create an unpredictable race, Tour director Christian Prudhomme told reporters on Wednesday when he unveiled the route.

"It is going to be a big fight," he said. "We wanted to make sure anything could happen anywhere."

Cycling's heartland

The three-week race over almost 3,600km will start with an 8km prologue in Rotterdam before heading into the heartland of cycling -- Belgium.

The first stage will take the riders along the North Sea, with 12km and 6km sections on an embankment, with crossing winds likely to split the peloton.

"With these two sections on an embankment, with the strong winds blowing, there could be some trouble," said Prudhomme.The opening stage to Brussels will also go through Antwerp and Meise, the home town of five times winner Eddy Merckx.

A tribute will be paid to the classics, with the second stage going through roads used on Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Leaders will have to be extremely cautious in the third stage, which features treacherous cobbled sections used for Paris-Roubaix, the Queen of the Classics.

"There will be 11km of cobblestones in the last 30km. There will be some damage," said Prudhomme.

"Cobblestones are nice on TV, but not on the bike," said Contador, who has never taken part in the Paris-Roubaix race.

Armstrong, who has more experience in the one-day classics, should not suffer too much, according to his mentor Johan Bruyneel, who is set to leave Astana to join Armstrong's RadioShack outfit next season.

"He (Armstrong) feels good on these kind of stages, for him it's not a problem at all," the Belgian told reporters.

Although the Alpine stages will not prove too arduous, a one-stage detour in the Jura mountains is expected to prove tricky, with 56km of climbs over the last 120km in the seventh stage to Station des Rousses.

"That could cause havoc," said Prudhomme. Those who survive the Pyrenees will then lead to Bordeaux after the last rest day on July 21 before a final individual, 51km time trial to Pauillac through the Bordeaux vineyards.

The race will end on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 25.

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