Alpe d'Huez awaits TDF riders
Paris - The 100th edition of the Tour de France next year will finish in Paris at nightfall for the first time, organisers said on Wednesday, as they unveiled next year's route in the shadow of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
The 3 360km route will begin for the first time on the Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 29, culminating with a final stage run from the historic town of Versailles, southwest of Paris, arriving on the Champs Elysees boulevard at sunset.
Three time-trials - two individual and one for teams - have been included in the race, as well as four summit finishes, not least a climb to Semnoz in the Alps on the penultimate day, which is likely to determine the winner.
France's Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France in 1903, which ended with a mammoth 471km sixth and final stage from the western city of Nantes to Paris.
Since then, and barring breaks for World War I and World War II, the battle for the coveted race leader's yellow jersey has become cycling's biggest event and seen it grow to include stages across Europe.
But Wednesday's unveiling comes with cycling in crisis, after US rider Armstrong - who won the Tour an unprecedented seven times between 1999 and 2005 - was stripped of his titles and banned for life for doping.
Defending champion Bradley Wiggins said the Armstrong affair was a disaster for the sport but cycling must move on.
"It's a shame for the sport but it's out there now and we have to deal with it"
"They said today that cycling is no longer like that and we are here to prove that and show that cycling isn't like that anymore. It has changed but it's definitely a shame, not a shame he (Armstrong) got caught, but for the riders and the sport.
In next year's race, sprinters will get a golden opportunity on day one, with a relatively flat run from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, setting up top-rated British racer Mark Cavendish for the first yellow jersey of his career.
The race switches to the mainland after finishes in the Corsican towns of Ajaccio and Calvi with a 25km team time-trial around the southern city of Nice, shaking up the overall standings early and setting up Team Sky to take pole position.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said it was an easy decision to begin the race for the first time in Corsica.
"From the first minute that television images are shown, viewers will understand why we are starting from Corsica. It is going to be extremely beautiful with the mountains and the sea," he explained.
The race winds its way along the French Riviera, taking in Marseille and Montpellier before the peloton's climbers are given the first chance to show their credentials in the Pyrenees on stage eight.
A nasty 15km climb awaits the pack at Port de Pailheres before the first summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines and a slog over 8km where the gradient is a stiff 8.2 percent.
There is then no let up in stage nine, with five climbs littered across 165km of racing between Saint-Girons and Bagneres-de-Bigorre, before a well-deserved rest day on July 8.
The race heads towards north-western France, when it resumes with a scenic run towards the Breton port of Saint Malo before a crucial 33km individual time-trial between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel.
Wiggins who built the foundation of his victory in the race-against-the-clock stages has yet to digest the fact that the time-trials this year are a third shorter and could play into the hands of his rivals.
"I haven't really had time to have a good look at the course but it looks spectacular and I'm really looking forward to it. I wasn't paying a lot attention and it's a lot to take in in 20 minutes but you don't really get a sense from the presentation how hard it's going to be.
"The first week, I think a lot of other things could come into play like accidents and things like that," he added.
The route then heads south through central France, taking in Tours, Montrond and Lyon before a showpiece Bastille Day stage that includes the mythical Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse, where British champion Tom Simpson died in 1967.
A second rest day preceeds the final time-trial over 32km, before a climb over the legendary Alpe d'Huez, which features twice on a day that will again prove crucial in determining the 2013 champion.
Stages 19 and 20 will provide more opportunities to attack the race leader and two more summit finishes at Le Grand-Bornand and Semnoz before the final day run to Paris starting with the start line at king Louis XIV's chateau at Versailles.
The stages for the 2013 Tour de France cycle race, unveiled in Paris on Wednesday:
June 29 - 1st stage - Porto-Vecchio - Bastia, 212km
June 30 - 2nd stage - Bastia - Ajaccio, 154km
July 1 - 3rd stage - Ajaccio - Calvi, 14 km
July 2 - 4th stage - Nice - Nice, 25km (team time-trial)
July 3 - 5th stage - Cagnes-sur-Mer - Marseille, 219km
July 4 - 6th stage - Aix-en-Provence - Montpellier, 176km
July 5 - 7th stage - Montpellier - Albi, 205km
July 6 - 8th stage - Castres - Ax-3 Domaines, 194km
July 7 - 9th stage - Saint-Girons - Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 165km
July 8 - Rest day at Saint-Nazaire
July 9 - 10th stage - Saint-Gildas-des-Bois - Saint-Malo, 193km
July 10 - 11th stage - Avranche - Mont-Saint-Michel, 33km (Individual time-trial)
July 11 - 12th stage - Fougères - Tours, 218km
July 12 - 13th stage - Tours - Saint-Amand-Montrond, 173km
July 13 - 14th stage - Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule - Lyon, 191km
July 14 - 15th stage - Givors - Mont Ventoux, 242km
July 15 - Rest day in the Vaucluse
July 16 - 16th stage - Vaison-la-Romaine - Gap, 168km
July 17 - 17th stage - Embrun - Chorges, 32km (Individual time-trial)
July 18 - 18th stage - Gap - Alpe d'Huez, 168km
July 19 - 19th stage - Bourg-d'Oisans - Le Grand-Bornand, 204km
July 20 - 20th stage - Annecy - Annecy-Semnoz, 125km
July 21 - 21st stage - Versailles - Paris Champs-Elysées, 118km