2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador will be joined by Lance Armstrong in France tomorrow for the unveiling of the 2010 route by organisers of cycling’s biggest race. Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, who finished second, and Mark Cavendish are also expected at the Paris ceremony, according to the Associated Press.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong and Contador were Astana teammates during this year's Tour de France, and the Spaniard won the Tour for a second time, with Armstrong finishing in third.
Armstrong has since left to launch his own outfit, RadioShack, which has yet to be granted a ProTour license, and it was announced last week that he will compete in the in the 2011 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii
Astana have secured a three-year sponsorship deal with Kazakhstan's vast state holding company, which will solve the financial difficulties that had threatened the team's existence.
Armstrong missed the 2009 Tour route unveiling after Jean-Etienne Amaury, president of Amaury Sports Organization, which runs the Tour, said his comeback was an embarrassment for cycling. And French cycling fans had never taken to the Texan when he dominated the Tour from 1999-2005 and generally went out of their way to cheer for anyone else.
But this year saw a warmer welcome from French fans, who saw him as an underdog after his three year absence, and his regular messages, or ‘tweets’ on Twitter made him seem more open and more accessible to the public, wining him new friends in the process.
The French fans liked the new narrative and cheered Armstrong all along the route. Armstrong loved them back. “Thanks/Merci!!” he messaged on Twitter as he left France.
The 2010 Tour will start from Rotterdam, Netherlands, on July 3 with a final stage in Paris on July 25. In between, riders are expected to celebrate the first crossing of the Pyrenees 100 years ago with as many as four stages in the mountains that border France and Spain.