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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Past, present and future
Armstrong climbs to victory in 1999
Lance Armstrong faces tougher competition this year
The 2000 Tour de France begins on Saturday with all the top contenders present and a route which looks towards the race's history and its future.

After the drugs scandal which almost derailed the event in 1998, last year's race offered the organisers hope that the event had a brighter future.

Lance Armstrong's win less than three years after he had undergone treatment for testicular cancer was the best story the sport could have hoped for.
Ullrich's 1997 win was dominant

Since then the American has become a star in his home country, and this year's Tour is likely to have more followers than ever across the Atlantic.

Jan Ullrich's 1997 win at the age of 23 had a similar effect in Germany - until then not one of continental Europe's cycling hotbeds.

The German is back after missing the 1999 event, and looked in great shape during last month's Tour of Switzerland despite early season concerns about his weight and form.
Marco Pantani, 1998
Pantani: Back after a year of reflection

In stark contrast to last year, when there were no former winners starting, there will be three on the start-ramp at the Futuroscope theme park.

Marco Pantani triumphed in 1998 against a backdrop of police raids and the biggest scandal the sport had ever known.

He has hardly raced in the past year since being caught up in a similar scandal himself.

The blood check he failed at the Tour of Italy was not a positive dope test, and the Italian still maintains his innocence.

  More hopefuls
Fernando Escartin (Spa)
Abraham Olano (Spa)
Michael Boogerd (Ned)
Bobby Julich (USA)
Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel)
Michele Bartoli (Ita)

Recently he has showed encouraging signs of his old self, much to the delight of the fanatical Italian fans.

As well as this trio there are plenty of others who could provide the race with a sixth new winner in as many years.

Among them are last year's runner-up Alex Zulle of Switzerland, and France's two biggest stars - five-times King of the Mountains Richard Virenque and former world no 1 Laurent Jalabert.

It all promises to be a fantastic fight for the coveted yellow jersey, even without the sub-plots or the bunch sprints and mountain stages.
Laurent Jalabert
Jalabert during 1998's chaos: The Frenchman returns this year

The route itself passes through the village of five-times Tour winner Bernard Hinault, and goes near to Ullrich's home in the German Black Country.

In the centenary year of the world governing body, the UCI, there is also a visit to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

As well as the glory and the organisation, tragedies from the Tour's past are also remembered.

  Tour moments to watch out for
4 July: Spectacular team time trial
6 July: Probably the longest and fastest bunch finish - over a mile in length
10 July: First mountain stage
13 July: Ventoux climb - the highlight of the Tour
16 July: Could be the decisive Alpine stage
22 July: The end in Paris

Limoges hosts a stage, as it did in 1995 when Armstrong dedicated victory to team-mate Fabio Casartelli, who had died on a mountain descent three days earlier.

This year also has a mountain-top finish on the legendary Mont Ventoux, the great hulk of Provencal rock where Britain's Tom Simpson perished 33 years ago.

UK fans will not have Chris Boardman to cheer this year after he was ruled out due to illness.
David Millar: British debutant

But a new star could be born in the shape of 23-year-old Scot David Millar.

In a Millennium race which begins at one of Europe's most futuristic tourist attractions, Millar will aim to win the reinstated white jersey for riders aged under 25.

The presence of some 30 young hopefuls is a sign that despite its recent murky past, the Tour and the sport has every confidence in the years ahead.

The race begins on Saturday 1 July, and ends three weeks and one day later in Paris.

See also:

22 Jun 00 | Tour de France
25 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
Links to more Tour de France stories are at the foot of the page.


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