Team Sky and British Cycling's promise to deliver a British winner of the Tour de France by 2014 got an unexpected boost this morning courtesy of Tour de France organisers ASO… well if the 2012 Tour route accidentally published on the Tour website is true.
That route features a much gentler finish to the race than in recent years - probably taking in to account the Olympic commitments of many of the top riders barely a few days later. It also features a lot more time trialling with three races of truth each progressively longer than the last, starting with a 6.1Km prologue dash in Liege, followed 10 days later by a 38Km test between Arc-et-Senans and Besançon and concluding with what in theory will be race deciding 52Km time trial from Bonneval to Chartres.
On paper at least the leaked route looks to offer less to pure climbers like Andy Schleck with only three likely mountain top finishes although given that only start and end points for each stage are listed we don't necessarily know what climbs may be thrown in between those two points. What we do know though is that the riders will climb 25 mountains in total – 11 in the Pyrenees, six in the Alps, four in the Swiss Jura mountains, 3 in the French Jura and one, stage 17 at Peyragudes in the Vosges.
In all the leaked route suggests that the Tour will visit nine towns hosting their first stage: Abbeville, Annonay Davezieuz, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, La Planche des Belles Filles, Peyragudes, Porrentruy, Samatan, Tomblaine and Visé.
What we know of the route so far suggests that it is a route suited to all rounders who can time trial well, men like Bradley Wiggins of Sky, and his team mate Chris Froome too, and of course Tony Martin, and defending champion Cadel Evans. And while he might prefer more high mountain action it is unlikely to scare Alberto Contador who, meat issues notwithstanding has said he is targeting next year's Tour.
Of course the big question has to be, is the route real? The evidence suggests that if it isn't the actual route when officially announced next week won't be much different. For a start ASO has not been in the habit of leaking details of its biggest race in the past, and were insiders in the mood for leaking it's doubtful they would choose to use the official Tour websiste, letour.fr as their means of doing so.
Interestingly the leaked route which was spotted by journalist Sander Slager of the Dutch Wieler Revue website and then by VeloPeloton.com seems to confirm predictions we wrote about last week that the 2012 Tour would go a bit easier on the riders in the finale… "easier" being a relative terms here. It is also worth pointing out that. It looks even more likely to be true when compared to Thomas Vergouwen's prediction on the Velowire.com. We last wrote about Thomas almost exactly a year ago to the day, he used to write the blog for telecoms company Orange when they were an official partner of the Le Tour makes it his mission every year to scour local media and use his contacts in the hospitality industry to piece together his route prediction ahead of the official announcement - last year he got it 100 per cent right. This year's leak looks very much like the predicted route now taking shape over on Velowire.
So the route looks kosher, this one smacks of cock-up rather than conspiracy… unless of course ASO were testing to see whether we are all paying attention.
Over to you then Bradley, Chris and Mr Brailsford… a British winner of the Tour de France two years ahead of schedule followed up by a British win in the Olympic road race. No pressure then
Unconfirmed route for 2012 Tour de France
P, Prologue : Sat 30 June, Liège > Liège 6.1 km
1, Road stage: Sun 1 July, Liège > Seraing 198 km
2, Road stage: Mon 2 July, Visé > Tournai 207 km
3, Road stage: Tues 3 July, Orchies > Boulogne-sur-Mer 197 km
4, Road stage: Weds 4 July, Abbeville > Rouen 214 km
5, Road stage: Thurs 5 July, Rouen > Saint-Quentin 197 km
6, Road stage: Fri 6 July, Épernay > Metz 210 km
7, Road stage: Sat 7 July, Tomblaine > La Planche des Belles Filles 199 km
8, Road stage: Sun 8 July, Belfort > Porrentruy 154 km
9, Time trial: Mon 9 July, Arc-et-Senans > Besançon 38 km
10, Road stage: Weds 11 July, Mâcon > Bellegarde-sur-Valserine 194 km
11, Mountains : Thurs 12 July, Albertville > La Toussuire – Les Sybelles 140 km
12, Mountains : Fri 13 July, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Annonay 220 km
13, Road stage: Sat 14 July, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Le Cap d’Agde 215 km
14, Road stage: Sun 15 July, Limoux > Foix 192 km
15, Road stage: Mon 16 July, Samatan > Pau 160 km
16, Mountains: Weds 18 July, Pau > Bagnères-de-Luchon 197 km
17, Mountains: Thurs 19 July, Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes 144 km
18, Road stage: Fri 20 July, Blagnac > Brive-la-Gaillarde 215 km
19, Time trial: Sat 21 July, Bonneval > Chartres 52 km
20, Road stage: Sun 22 July, Rambouillet > Paris Champs-Élysées 130 km
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.