Tour de France 2013

 B.Bade/ASO

B.Bade/ASO - Credit: Archant

On the advent of the 100th Tour de France, Paul Lamarra picks out the highlights of a race that ranges from Corsica to the Normandy coast

It has taken 110 years for the Tour de France to finally reach its 100th edition and organisers have planned a special race to mark the occasion. At the heart of tour director Christian Prudhomme’s thinking is to display the glories of l’Hexagone to the world. The tour, which starts on 29 June, will remain entirely within French borders – which hasn’t happened for a decade – and will include Corsica for the first time.

Stages and finishes have been designed to wow the world. The opening three stages are being held on Corsica, where the peleton will be racing between the island’s rugged mountain scenery and the blue Mediterranean. Prudhomme has said the narrow road that follows the rocky pink coastline of the Calanche de Piana between Ajaccio and Calvi (stage three) will be the highlight of the whole tour.

Later, the race moves to Normandy, where riders will cycle over the causeway to the Unesco World Heritage site of Mont-Saint-Michel and back again for a sprint finish that TV cameras will capture with the abbey as a backdrop.

The 2013 tour is also touted as being one of the hardest ever, with two ascents of the massive Alpe-d’Huez and a new stage to finish at the ski station of Semnoz, overlooking Lac d’Annecy, which is said to be excruciatingly steep.

Mont Ventoux, perhaps the most poignant of mountain stages, is also included. It was close to the summit that British cyclist Tom Simpson died of a heart attack during the 1967 tour and the peak is feared for its unrelenting climbs and unforgiving exposure to the elements.

Such a hard tour will suit the climbing specialists. Last year’s winner, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, will not defend his title due to injury, leaving Team Sky colleague and promising young talent Chris Froome to lead the way in the bid for another British yellow jersey.

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A pre-race favourite is Alberto Contador. Seasoned race watchers are betting the Spaniard will claim his third title after returning from a doping ban. Meanwhile, American Tejay van Garderen, who was best young rider in the 2012 Tour, will be looking to at least match his overall fifth position in that race.

One big innovation is being saved for the climax in Paris on 21 July; an evening tour showing off the City of Light and a dramatic finish at dusk along the Champs-Élysées.