Prestige route for centenary
While the sports world comes to terms with the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, Tour de France organisers unveiled a mountainous, prestigious route for the 100th edition of the world's greatest cycling race.
The 2013 Tour, which will start from Corsica, will take l'Alpe d'Huez's 21 hairpins twice in the same stage, go up the gruelling Mont Ventoux (pictured, below) and end at dusk on the Champs Elysees.
Defending champion Bradley Wiggins confirmed after the official unveiling that he would concentrate on the Giro d'Italia next year and do his best to support Team Sky colleague Froome, confirming that he will definitely start the race.
And he laughed off suggestions that he would find it hard playing second fiddle.
"I haven't got that much of an ego. It was always about winning one Tour de France for me and I'm proud of the way that I did it," he said.
"Cycling's a team sport and I wouldn't have won last year if it hadn't been for the help of my team-mates, so if I can play a part in one of them winning next year that would be great.
"If everything goes to plan and I get the nod to do the Giro, that's what is going to happen."
Froome would be Team Sky's leader on the Tour, which will feature four mountaintop finishes and some 65km of individual time trial compared to this year's 101.4km. Wiggins's victory was built on his pre-eminence in time trials; this year, that skill will be far less important than strength in the Alps and Pyrenees.
But whoever wins, with nine of the last 14 title wins wiped out due to doping it remains to be seen whether next year's race will have any credibility.
Seven of those titles belonged to Armstrong, who was stripped of his 1999-2005 victories when the International Cycling Union ratified the USADA's decision to nullify the American's results from August 1998 onward.
According to Tour director Christian Prudhomme, however, cycling is changing.
"A movement has started a few years ago and it must go on. Everybody must work on it," Prudhomme said before Wednesday's ceremony.
"You cannot say that (anti-doping) tests don't work. I remind you that we lost two winners in five years recently (over doping)," he added, referring to Floyd Landis and Contador being stripped of their 2006 and 2010 victories after failing dope tests during the race.
Prudhomme said the day belonged to the magic of the Tour.
"Today is the Tour de France presentation ceremony," he said.
With the first stage being totally flat, Briton Mark Cavendish, who is joining the Belgian team Omega Pharma-Quickstep from Sky, will have the opportunity to wear the coveted yellow jersey for the first time.
"It is the first time since 1966 that a sprinter will have the chance to get the yellow jersey on day one," Prudhomme said.
The route, however, will quickly go uphill as the peloton makes its way towards Calvi in northern Corsica.
Following a short team time trial around Nice, the Tour will visit Marseille and Montpellier en route to the Pyrenees, with two mountain stages on the menu, to Ax 3 Domaines and Bagneres de Bigorre.
The peloton will be transferred to Brittany, where the riders will battle it out on a 33km time trial to Mont St Michel, one of 10 UNESCO World heritage sites on next year's route.
Organisers, however, hope the Tour will be decided in the Alps.
A couple of climbs up l'Alpe d'Huez and a summit finish on the Ventoux should sort the men from the boys before a final, gruelling and hilly time trial around Annecy.
The last stage will start from Versailles palace gardens and finish on the Champs Elysees at dusk, with the podium ceremony being held at night.
"I'm a Parisian. And I have this image of Paris as the City of Light," said Prudhomme.
June 29 - Stage 1: Porto Vecchio-Bastia, 212 km
June 30 - Stage 2: Basta-Ajaccio, 154 km
July 1 - Stage 3: Ajaccio-Calvi, 145 km
July 2 - Stage 4: Nice-Nice, team time trial, 25 km
July 3 - Stage 5: Cagnes sur Mer-Marseille, 219 km
July 4 - Stage 6: Aix en Provence-Montpellier, 176 km
July 5 - Stage 7: Montpellier-Albi, 205 km
July 6 - Stage 8: Castres-Ax 3 Domaines, 194 km
July 7 - Stage 9: St Girons-Bagneres de Bigorre, 165 km
July 8 - Rest day in St Nazaire
July 9 - Stage 10: St Gildas des Bois-St Malo, 193 km
July 10 - Stage 11: Avranches-Mont St Michel, individual time trial, 33 km
July 11 - Stage 12: Fougeres-Tours, 218 km
July 12 - Stage 13: Tours-St Amand Montrond, 173 km
July 13 - Stage 14: St Pourain sur Sioule-Lyon, 191 km
July 14 - Stage 15: Givors-Mont Ventoux, 242 km
July 15 - Rest day in the Vaucluse department
July 16 - Stage 16: Vaison la Romaine-Gap, 168 km
July 17 - Stage 17: Embrun-Chorges, individual time trial, 32 km
July 18 - Stage 18: Gap-Alpe d'Huez, 168 km
July 19 - Stage 19: Bourg d'Oisans-Le Grand Bornand, 204
July 20 - Stage 20: Annecy-Annecy Semnoz, 125 km
July 21 - Stage 21: Versailles-Paris Champs Elysees