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Iconic climb may replace traditional Parisien procession for 100th edition

The 2013 Tour de France might not end in the now-traditional procession around the Champs Elysees, but up the races' most iconic climb, the Alpe d'Huez. That's one rumour ahead of the official presentation of the route later this month, but another is that the famous ascent will be tackled on the preceding Thursday - not once, but twice.

According to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, sources within Tour organiser ASO say that next year's 100th edition of the Tour may abandon one tradition to mark the importance of another.

The Tour has only finished on the Champs Elysees since 1975, but L'Alpe d'Huez was first included in 1952 and has been considered the crux of the race whenever it has figured since.

Fausto Coppi set the trend in 1952, winning the stage up L'Alpe d'Huez and going on to win the race overall. Coppi took the yellow jersey on the Alpe, the Tour's first mountain-top finish, and held it all the way to Paris.

Coppi's victory, shedding Jean Robic 6km from the summit, was covered by motorcycle cameramen, another first in the 1952 Tour. The drama of that win transformed the way the Tour was run and marks a turning point between the Tours of the pre-WW2 era and the modern race.

While a Tour finish on L'Alpe would be dramatic, it might pose problems. An Alpe stage commonly attracts 350,000-400,000 spectators. Accommodating them is a logistical and policing headache that would only be made worse if the climb also hosted the finish.

The traditional finish also plays host to a large corporate hospitality area, which might be hard to replicate in a small ski town at the top of a small winding road.

However, according to the Velowire website, run by Thomas Vergouwen who scours local newspapers for news of future Tours and backs up his hunches by for example finding out which hotels are block booked on specific days in particular locations, the final days of the race will have a rather different flavour.

Thomas, who has seen the Tour from the inside - he used to write the race blog for official partner, Orange - has forged a well deserved reputation for being able to second-guess ASO on the following year's route; in the past couple of years, he's had it pretty much spot on by the eve of the official unveiling.

So what does he foresee happening? Well, besides the mouthwatering prospect of a Bastille Day summit finish on Mont Ventoux on Stage 15, the following Thursday's Stage 18 will start in Gap, according to local newspaper the Dauphiné Libéré.

It says the race will head up the Alpe d'Huez, then back down to Bourg d'Oisans before winding back up those famous hairpins. If true, not only will Dirk Hofmann presumably be spending the winter fitting larger fridges to his fleet of motorhomes, but we imagine it will even more of a party than usual on Dutch Corner.

The previous day's stage, by the way, is predicted to be a mountain time trial from Embrun to Chorges. According to Velowire, the final day will see the race end, as usual, on the Champs-Elysees, where Mark Cavendish has never been beaten and will be heading for an astonishing fifth consecutive win.

Next year's race route will be officially announced in Paris in a little over a foright's time, when we'll find out which of the route rumours were based in fact and which were wishful thinking.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.