Tour de France
Armstrong likes 2009 Tour de France plans, excited about future
The US cycling legend, returning after a three-year hiatus, released a reaction statement that also expressed his hopes for a return to the event and his desire to work within the Astana team in whatever fashion necessary.
Route details released Wednesday in Paris include an innovative course that sends the peloton from Monaco over the Pyrenees, up eastern France and through the Alps next July 4-26 with the Ventoux mountains in the penultimate stage.
American cyclist Lance Armstrong grins as he coasts to his second straight Tour de France title in July 2000. Armstrong’s victory in cycling’s most prestigious race came just a few years after recovering from testicular cancer. He went on to win the race six straight times, setting a Tour de France record.
"The route of the 2009 Tour de France strikes me as innovative and very interesting," Armstrong said.
"From its start in Monte Carlo with a 15k time trial, to the reinstatement of the team time trial, to stages in my old hometown of Girona all the way to another visit to my old friend the Ventoux, I could not have hoped for a different Tour."
Armstrong and Tour leaders had been at odds during Armstrong's domination of the event, but the US star hopes for a new start in his comeback.
"While there has been a fair bit of tension and numerous disagreements with the Tour and its organizers, I am well aware that there is new leadership at ASO and I look forward to upcoming conversations and to a mutually beneficial future together," Armstrong said.
"Whether it's promoting the Livestrong global cancer campaign or making the biggest bike race in the world the gem that it deserves to be, I look forward to next year."
Armstrong also praised the International Cycling Union (UCI) in the wake of major dope testing that has rocked the event in the years since Armstrong's retirement.
"I would also like to recognize the UCI and commend them for their aggressive stance against doping, a stance that is unmatched in all of world sport," Armstrong said.
Concern over who will be the rider pushed forward for the yellow jersey by the 2009 Astana team with its all-star lineup were addressed by Armstrong as well.
"As to the leadership of the Astana team in 2009, it's illogical to pre-select a leader for any race in October of the previous year," Armstrong said.
"I have been around long enough to know that cycling is a team sport and I am fully committed to supporting the strongest rider in any race, whether that's me, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, or Andreas Kloden.
"We are blessed at Astana to have the strongest team in the world and I look forward to riding with all of these great riders.
Tour De France History
Tour de France, most popular bicycle race in the world, among the most challenging in professional cycling competition. The Tour de France, often called the Tour, is held each July. More than 150 competitors race along a course that covers about 3,200 km (about 2,000 mi) of European roads. The Tour usually lasts about 25 to 30 days.
The course of the Tour changes each year. It lies mostly in France, but it has also passed through neighboring countries such as Belgium, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland. The final stretch of the course always runs along the Champs-Élysées, a famous avenue in Paris. Only about half of the cyclists who enter the Tour finish the race.
The Tour de France is a stage race—that is, it follows a course that is divided into sections, or stages. There is a stage almost every day, and some stages emphasize a particular cycling skill, such as climbing hills, sprinting, or performance in time-trial races. Cyclists are timed for each stage. During the race, the cyclist with the lowest cumulative time wears the maillot jaune (yellow jersey). In this way, the yellow jersey indicates the current leader. At the conclusion of the race, the cyclist with the lowest total time is the winner and receives the yellow jersey as a trophy in a ceremony in Paris.
Cyclists ride past the Montserie castle in southwestern France during the Tour de France, perhaps the world’s most prestigious bicycle race. The arduous competition is a 25- to 30-day event through the mountainous countryside of France and surrounding nations. The rider with the fastest total time at the end of the race is the winner.
Each competitor in the Tour belongs to a team of nine cyclists. Each team has a leader, who is its best all-around cyclist. Other team members, called domestiques, help the leader. They may shield the leader from wind, provide food or drink, chase down cyclists who have broken from the pack, or offer support to the leader while climbing hills. Prize money awarded to winners usually is shared among team members.
Teams also include coaches, bicycle mechanics, doctors, and cooks. A team vehicle carrying spare bicycles and parts, food, and other supplies follows the racers. Officials, broadcasters, and sports reporters follow the cyclists along the Tour route. Corporations or other organizations provide each team with financial support, and team members will often wear matching jerseys that bear the sponsor’s name or logo.
Henri Desgranges, a French journalist and cyclist, organized the first Tour de France in 1903. It included six stages and covered about 2,400 km (about 1,500 mi). Cyclists used heavy steel bikes without gear systems. The Tour became popular almost immediately. The following year, however, the race was marred by controversy. Certain fans put up roadblocks and spread tacks on the road to obstruct cyclists they did not support. After the race, French cycling officials took measures against such corruption and improved the safety of the race.
Serious accidents are rare in the Tour de France. However, in the 1995 race, Italian cyclist Fabio Casartelli died in a crash, becoming the third fatality in the race's history. The other incidents occurred in 1935 and 1967.
Since its beginning, the Tour has been held every year except from 1915 through 1918, during World War I, and from 1940 through 1946, during and just after World War II. Most winners of the Tour have been European. In 2004, however, the American Lance Armstrong established himself as the Tour’s most successful cyclist when he won his sixth Tour. Armstrong, diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, overcame his life-threatening illness and won six consecutive Tours from 1999 through 2004. The Tour’s other great competitors include Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault of France, Eddy Merckx of Belgium, and Miguel Induráin of Spain, each of whom won five Tours. In the 1990s Induráin became the first to win five consecutive Tours (1991-1995). The first American to win the race was Greg LeMond. He won in 1986. He also won in 1989 and 1990.