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2011 Tour de France Preview and Press Conference PHOTOS

by Chris Redden

July 1, 2011 – The 98th edition of the Tour de France runs from July 2-24 and features 18 ProTour squads along with four wild-card spots awarded to Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun, FDJ and Team Europcar. Ryder Hesjedal with Garmin-Cervelo is the lone Canuck on the start line and with his stellar 7th place overall last year fans are eagerly anticipating Hesjedal’s performance this year.

This year’s event looks to be a match-up with defending champion Alberto Contador (ESP, Saxo Bank Sungard), looking very strong after his recent win at the Giro d’Italia, and the Schleck bothers Andy and Frank, from Luxembourg on the new Leopard-Trek team, who challenged the Spaniard last year.

Yet again, there’s controversy at the Tour as a decision regarding Contador’s positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol during last year’s event is still pending. After claiming the positive result was due to ingesting contaminated beef, the Spanish Cycling Federation cleared him. But the ruling was challenged by the Union Cycliste Internationale and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Contador is scheduled to appear before the Court of Arbitration (CAS) on Aug. 1, a week after the Tour ends. If he loses the case, it means that he will forfeit any title he has won since, including last year’s yellow jersey.

The Tour itself looks to punish even the fittest athletes, with the sprinters and time trialists in mind during the first week. The race hits the Pyrenees Mountains in the second week, and in the third it gets even more difficult in the French Alps with the Col de Galibier and Alp d’Huez, the highest category of climbs, mere days before the finish.

There is also the individual time trial on the penultimate day, meaning the leader’s jersey could change hands up to the very last stage, keeping the race exciting up until the final sprint into Paris. New this year, there will be no time bonuses given for intermediate sprints or finishes, so riders will not get any extra time deducted from their overall result.

Also new and something fans have been waiting for on this side of the pond is that TSN and TSN2 are the exclusive Canadian broadcasters and will deliver complete coverage of the Tour de France on English television – TSN schedule HERE – Evasion’s French coverage HERE

This year’s Tour is shaping up to be an epic battle to see who’ll be on the final podium wearing the coveted yellow jersey after close to 3,500 kilometres of racing.

2011 Tour de France Stages
Stage 1 – July 2 – Passage du Gois La Barre-de-Monts to Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers – 191km
Stage 2 – July 3 – Les Essarts (TTT) – 23km
Stage 3 – July 4 – Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon – 198km
Stage 4 – July 5 – Lorient to Mûr-de-Bretagne – 172km
Stage 5 – July 6 – Carhaix to Cap Fréhel – 158km
Stage 6 – July 7 – Dinan to Lisieux – 226km
Stage 7 – July 8 – Le Mans to Châteauroux – 215km
Stage 8 – July 9 – Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy – 190km
Stage 9 – July 10 – Issoire to Saint-Flour – 208km

Rest Day 1 – July 11

Stage 10 – July 12 – Aurillac to Carmaux – 161km
Stage 11 – July 13 – Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur – 168km
Stage 12 – July 14 – Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden – 209km
Stage 13 – July 15 – Pau to Lourdes – 156km
Stage 14 – July 16 – Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille – 168km
Stage 15 – July 17 – Limoux to Montpellier – 187km

Rest Day 2 – July 18

Stage 16 – July 19 – Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap – 163km
Stage 17 – July 20 – Gap to Pinerolo – 179km
Stage 18 – July 21 – Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier – 189km
Stage 19 – July 22 – Modane to Alpe-d’Huez – 109km
Stage 20 – July 23 – Grenoble (ITT) – 41km
Stage 21 – July 24 – Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées – 1

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