Wiggins unlikely to defend Tour de France crown as mountainous 2013 route is revealed
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
October 24 - Bradley Wiggins faces a huge challenge to defend his Tour de France title as the 2013 route that was unveiled today showed a mountainous race that is likely to favour climbers such as Spain's Alberto Contador, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck and Wiggins' Team Sky teammate Chris Froome, who finished second this year.
The 2013 Tour de France, which will be the 100th edition of the world's most prestigious cycling race, will see a night-time finish on the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris for the first time in history on July 21, by which time the riders would have cycled 3,360 kilometres.
But of more importance to the riders will be the central part of the race with highlights including a summit finish on Mont Ventoux and two gruelling climbs of Alpe d'Huez on the same day.
In total it features 28 mountain passes and given that Froome (pictured top, second right) is considered a better climber than Wiggins (pictured top, far left), the reigning champion admitted that this year could see him support his British compatriot rather than look to defend his crown.
"It's more than likely I'll ride in a supporting role for Chris," Wiggins said at a press conference in Palais des Congres after the route was revealed.
"I just want to be in a successful team and if that's Chris (who is going to be the leader) then so be it.
"He'll have to grow some sideburns though."
The length of the time trials in the 2013 edition of the Tour has been reduced to 65km from 100km in 2012 in another move that could hurt Wiggins, the reigning Olympic champion in the discipline.
But despite a Team Sky armed with Wiggins and Froome, two-time winner Contador could prove the man to beat.
The 29-year-old from Madrid won the Tour in 2007 and 2009 but did not take part in the 2012 edition as he was serving a two-year doping ban.
However, Contador is considered one of the best climbers of the modern era and the course therefore plays to his strengths.
Another strong climber who will be pleased will be Schleck.
He was crowned champion in 2010 after Contador was stripped of his title but missed out on the race last year through injury.
Elsewhere, there is a chance for British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who has left Team Sky for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, to claim the first yellow jersey of his career on the relatively flat opening stage from Porto Vecchio to Bastia.
The Pyrenees provide the first climbing tests with a couple of summit finishes on stages eight and nine ahead of a transfer to Brittany where the first individual time trial takes place.
But the race is expected to be won in the Alps with the race's toughest stage expected to come on Bastille Day (July 14) with a mammoth 242km ride finishing atop the legendary Mont Ventoux
A second rest day comes before the final time-trial over 32km, before a climb over the legendary Alpe d'Huez, which features twice on a day that will also prove crucial in determining the 2013 champion.
Stages 19 and 20 will provide more opportunities to attack the race leader, with summit finishes at Le Grand-Bornand and Semnoz before the final day run to Paris starting at the Palace of Versailles and finish on the Champs-Elysees at night.
"We wanted the finish of the 100th Tour to be unique," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme in explaining the night finish, which will be well lit for riders.
The announcement today provides welcome relief from the Lance Armstrong doping issue that has rocked the Tour and cycling as a sport.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour titles by the International Cycling Union (UCI) earlier this week, which he won from 1999 to 2005.
"Doping is the enemy," said Prudhomme in reference to the issue.
"The Tour will be stronger than doping."