Tour de France route, Mont Ventoux, Lance or no?
The 2009 Tour de France route was announced today. The race will begin in Monaco and will feature stops in Spain (Girona, where many cyclists have off-season training bases, and Barcelona) and Switzerland.
But the most talked-about stage will be the penultimate one that will take riders to the top of Mont Ventoux, a stark climb up a broiling hot Provence mountain that famously helped kill British cyclist Tom Simpson and caused a major feud between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani after Pantani finished just ahead of Armstrong in 2000. Armstrong let Pantani win the stage, a move the impetuous Armstrong made to honor the Italian champion but Pantani took the gesture as an insult.
Whether Armstrong rides in this Tour is turning into daily drama.
It wasn't long ago that he announced his comeback after a three-year retirement and then announcing he was joining Astana. This is the team that already has young Tour winner Alberto Contador but also has Armstrong's muse Johan Bruyneel, who helped create the teams that shepherded Armstrong to seven straight Tour wins. But since then, Armstrong has publicly taken offense at comments from Tour de France officials who still question whether the seven-time champion was doping during his dominant run.
Armstrong has now said he will ride his first Giro d'Italia and may just skip the Tour de France. So there you cranky and jealous Tour de France officials! You're going to have to beg him to come.
And some in attendance at today's news conference think Armstrong has already decided to pass on the Tour.
Well, Armstrong hasn't quite said that, but he has hinted that he'd like an olive branch and maybe a personally-engraved invitation. Which kind of is what the Mont Ventoux climb is -- a carrot to the ultra competitive Armstrong who has always said he'd like another chance to win that climb.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: The Tour's map route. Credit: AFP/Getty Images