The first ever Tour de France took place in 1903 and left from Le Réveil Matin cafe in Montgeron, near the Stade de Paris. 61 riders took part. In 2003, there will be a somewhat larger number of competitors but the start will once again be in Paris, a special feature of this year’s Tour.
The three week Tour starts on 7th July and ends on the 27th.
After the Paris prologue the route will go via Meaux, Charleville-Mézières, Nevers, Lyon, l’Alpe-d’Huez, Gap, Marseille, Istres, Rodez, Toulouse, Dax, Bayonne, Bordeaux, Pornic and Nantes before arriving back in Paris for the traditional spin around the Champs-Elysées.
The climbs in the this year’s Tour include Galibier and Izoard in the ALps and Tourmalet and Aubisque in the Pyrénées.
Tour founder Maurice Garin would no doubt approve of such a ‘traditional’ route. OLN TV and ITV2 commentator Phil Liggett isn’t surprised at the route selection:
"It hardly took a Poirot to work out the route for 2003, as being 100 years old the six original cities were bound to be included, and the start and finish certainly in Paris.
"No matter what organisers do to a route, innovations are of interest only to the public, the riders will still prepare in the same way. Lance Armstrong will ride all the key stages in the winter and early spring and if he arrives with the same commitment as in the
previous four years, then he will win his fifth Tour. That isn’t to say that it will not be as interesting and as exciting as it has been these past few years."