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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Tour bosses announce 2005 route
Lance Armstrong
The 2005 Tour de France will start on the tiny Atlantic island of Noirmoutier and will feature just three mountain finishes and one individual time-trial.

Tour organisers unveiled the route on Thursday for the 3,600km race, which starts on 2 July.

The time-trial takes place on 23 July, just 24 hours before the final Paris stage, ensuring a nervous finish.

American Lance Armstrong is expected to seek to win his seventh straight title on the Champs-Elysees.

The 33-year-old, however, has still not commited himself to next year's Tour.

His US Postal team chief Johan Bruyneel said: "He'll race if he is motivated but he has been motivating himself for the last six years.

"When I saw him he was very laid back about it."

A decision is expected next February or March.

S1 Time-trial: Fromentine-Noirmoutier (19km)
S2 Challans-Les Essarts (182km)
S3 La Chataigneraie-Tours (208km)
S4 Team time-trial: Tours-Blois (66km)
S5 Chambord-Montargis (179km)
S6 Troyes-Nancy (187km)
S7 Etape Luneville-Karlsruhe (225km)
S8 Pforzheim-Gerardmer (235km)
S9 Gerardmer-Mulhouse (170km)
S10 Grenoble-Courchevel (192km)
S11 Courchevel-Briancon (173km)
S12 Briancon-Digne les Bains (187km)
S13 Miramas-Montpellier (162km)
S14 Agde-Ax Trois Domaines (220km)
S15 Lezat/Leze-Saint Lary Soulan (205km)
S16 Mourenx-Pau (177km)
S17 Pau-Revel (239km)
S18 Albi-Mende (189km)
S19 Issoire-Le Puy en Velay (154km)
S20 Time trial: Saint-Etienne (55km)
S21 Corbeil-Paris (160km)
"When he starts racing next year he'll discover how motivated he is," added another of his team officials, Dirk DeMol.

The route should give Armstrong's rivals hope, as the Texan's stranglehold on the event has been based on his time-trialling ability and increasingly dominant performances in the mountains.

With a single individual time-trial and fewer finishes at high altitude, the 2005 Tour could be a little less demanding than in recent years and give the likes of Jan Ullrich and Joseba Beloki more recovery time.

The organisers, however, are not holding their breath over a fight to the finish.

"Don't count on me to make any predictions about the winner. We have been far too disappointed by Lance Armstrong's rivals in 2004," said Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc.

The 21 stages will take 200 riders from Noirmoutier, just off Nantes, to Paris on a clockwise route with a short visit to Germany. This means Armstrong and the rest of the bunch will tackle the Alps before the Pyrenees.

Despite a tough stage to Courchevel, in which the peloton will tackle the Cornet de Roselend climb that ended Miguel Indurain's reign in 1996, the Alps stages look less gruelling with two valley finishes, in Briancon and Digne.

The Briancon stage will, however, include the famous Galibier and Madeleines passes.

That last time-trial in St Etienne will decide the final positions in the race - and I can tell you it'll be a tough one
Jean-Marie Leblanc
Tour de France director
The Pyrenees look set to be more decisive with two finishes at high altitude in Ax Trois Domaines and a gruesome 17th stage to Le Pla d'Adet.

Climbers will also be able to shine before the Alps , as the route passes through the Vosges mountains, with a stage up the Ballon d'Alsace.

And from the Pyrenees to Paris, riders will have to tackle the hilly roads of the Massif Central with an exacting finish in Mende.

As a result, the 2005 is a more balanced route than usual and will suit neither climbers or sprinters, who have only five flat stages in which to display their pace.

Time-trial specialists will start the Tour with a longer prologue than usual over 19km, but will have to wait until the penultimate day for a second chance over 55km in St Etienne.

"That last time trial in St Etienne will decide the final positions in the race. And I can tell you it'll be a tough one," said Leblanc.

The organisers have yet to decide whether 21 or 22 teams will contest the race.


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