Old 10-25-2006, 03:20 PM   #1
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Tour Organizers Bank on Changes


Tour organizers bank on changes to revive race fortunes
2 hours, 25 minutes ago

By Gilles Le Roc'h

PARIS (Reuters) - Tour de France organizers are hoping a few surprises in the 2007 route being unveiled on Thursday will help breathe new life into the race after this year's event was marred by doping scandals.

Starting in London on July 7, next year's Tour is the first conceived by new race director Christian Prudhomme, who replaces Jean-Marie Leblanc.

Prudhomme can only be hoping for a scandal-free Tour after American Floyd Landis tested positive for an excessive amount of the male hormone testosterone on his way to victory this year.

Landis, who remains determined to prove his innocence at an American Arbitration Association hearing early next year, will be stripped of his title and banned for two years if his appeal fails.

Several leading riders were also withdrawn on the eve of the 2006 race after they were linked to an anti-doping investigation in Spain.

One notable change from previous tours was the scrapping of the traditional transfer day taking the riders closer to the mountains at the end of the first week, sources close to the organizers told Reuters.

The first individual time trial would be staged at the end of the second week and there would be no team time trial, the sources added.

The opening 8-km prologue will start on Whitehall, near Trafalgar Square, and finish on The Mall.

A day later, the riders will travel out of London through the city's financial district to Kent and finish the stage in the historic cathedral city of Canterbury.

Sections of the Tour are often held outside France and have been staged in Britain before.

After leaving England, the 2007 Tour will pay Belgium a brief visit before heading to Burgundy and then the Alps, where the first rest day will be taken in Tignes.

The riders will then head for the Pyrenees, where a grueling stage between Foix and Loudenvielle is likely to have a major impact on the overall classification.

The final and potentially decisive time trial will be held on July 28, the penultimate day of the Tour, between Cognac and Angouleme.

The traditional run in to the Champs Elysees will start outside Paris in Marcoussis, home of the national rugby team's training camp, in recognition of the 2007 World Cup being held in France later in the year.
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