PEZ was knee-deep in ‘le hoopla’ in a room light on active pros, but well-stocked with former cycling stars who joined the festivities. We know the fight against dopers is far from over, but the mood was one of excitement none-the-less – it’s still the greatest bike race in the world…
- Reported by Simeon Green-
From the moment I walked into the Palais des Congres I could feel the anticipation in the air and see it on people’s faces. My first job was to head to the press office and get my pass. Despite the human zoo that the Palais Des Congres had become, all went very smoothly and I entered the Grand Presentation hall with the big “BIG” screen at the front – once again reminded of the grandeur that is the Tour. It really is a huge and stunningly beautiful event. Not only in sport, but also in terms of human tragedy and suffering, not to mention the breathtaking scenery the event brings onto our TV screens every July.
Once everyone was seated and the media people had finished running around like headless chickens snapping left right and center as they hunted down riders disguised in normal clothing, the presentation began.
Down in front boys – down in front!
First off ASO president Patrick Clerc started the presentation with a short overview of the 2006 Tour. The video started with some grave music and the exclusions of Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and the Astana-Wurth team. Evidently the tour organizers ASO were going to take a strong stance on the doping issue. With the negative side of the 06 tour out of the way it was on to the stunning shots of last year’s race with a big focus on Frenchman Cyril Dessel and the yellow jersey he wore so proudly. As the movie moved on to show the suffering and hardship that is the back end of a bike race, with dehydrated faces showing pure agony as they grinded up the mountains and edged their way closer to the time cut, it was clear that ASO didn’t want to only show the strong men of tour and the suspicions that follow them. The music made the floor under our feet vibrate to the stunning shots of the 2006 event. That big screen really does show what a beautiful race the Tour is. As stunning shots of the beautiful French countryside seemed to engulf our eyes, the multicolored snake of the peleton wound it’s way in and out of towns, behind trees and up and down the mountains that are an unmistakably part of cycling history.
The emphasis of this year’s presentation was without a doubt put on the fight against doping. ASO took a very strong stance on the issue of doping, congratulating the teams for withdrawing the riders linked to Operacion Puerto from the 2006 event before the start in Strasbourg, the 2007 Tour has to be different.
Next year’s start in London will add some much needed flavour to the race.
After the opening presentation and roundup of last year’s tour, the Mayor of London Mr. ken Livingston came up on stage to say a few words and present his own video of the city of London. With the London Olympics within sight, Mr. Livingston was keen to prove that London is a city of multi-cultural diversity. By equating the effects of the doping scandals of the past few years on the Tour to those of the Terrorist attacks and threats on the city of London, Mr. Livingston showed that the United Kingdom and more specifically London is ready as ever to host the world’s biggest sporting events. The Mayor of London went on to mention the advantages of cycling, not only as a sport but also as a means of transportation in a world that is forever looking for solutions to pollution. I wonder if he rides to work every morning?
London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone and ASO cycling director Christian Prudhomme point out their favorite places in the world.
As the announcement by Christophe Prudomme of the actual 2007 Tour Route came, the tension and anticipation in the room rose to a high as riders started planning their 07 season, trip organizers started thinking of hotel bookings, photographers started to imagine the stunning shots they would be able to take and France as a whole started planning it’s summer vacation. I couldn’t help but notice that although everyone was excited to be at the presentation, this was the only time that everyone in the room seemed to be totally fixed on the screen. It was as if the room itself was holding its breath.
Thar she be, matey! 3547km of classically French bike racing parcours for the 2007 Tour de France.
The yellow line that represented the Tour route twisted and curled around France at breakneck speed revealing an 07 Tour for all to see. When asked about the Tour route, Richard Virenque said it would be a tour that would be thrilling and exciting all the way to Paris. “Dicky” went on to add that it is a Tour he would have liked to race himself. Freshly out of hospital from a riding accident Richard was possibly the most popular person at the presentation.
Worth noting was the comparatively few number of riders that had traveled to Paris for this years’ presentation. Obviously riders such as Basso, Ullrich and Landis were understandably absent, but it has to be said that the ex-riders may very well have outnumbered the active riders.
AG2R’s Samuel Dumoulin (the Peleton’s shortest rider – above) was there and was all smiles as usual; Christophe Moreau had come across from his home in the East of France along with Bouygues Telecom’s Pierick Fedrigo who lives in the southwest. Seemingly one rider from the 4 corners of France will suffice. Oscar Pereiro was also present along with a few other riders that seemed to merge in with the background.
In contrast however was the armada of retired greats. Eddy Merckx, Richard Virenque, Jonathan Vaughters, Frederick Moncassin, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and affable Laurent Jalabert were all prominently visible.
NOW we’re getting somewhere… it’s off to the lounge to toast next year’s race.
So that was it. The 07 route was revealed and everyone is thinking of July in France. After the unveiling it was off to a drink and a bite to eat at the reception. I then headed off to the airport to get a reliable internet connection and compile my report. The one at the Palais des Congres kept cutting out. But as if to put life to Ken Livingstone’s words, a bomb scare at the airport not only limited my internet access to zero, but also saw us evacuated from terminal 2F. Apparently it was just some unattended luggage. Oh well, better safe than sorry.
Stay tuned for the full PEZ-Analysis of the ’07 Tour de France route.