Tour will open without prologue in '10

1/26/2010 - Olympic Sports

LES HERBIERS, France -- The 2011 Tour de France will start with a flat stage in the Vendee region on the western coast.

The race will start on July 2, 2011, in the windy Vendee region -- also famed for the Vendee Globe sailing race -- for the fourth time in the race's 107-year history. The previous races that started there were in 1993, '99 and 2005.

Race director Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday that dispensing with the traditional opening prologue, which favors sprinters and often creates early time gaps, will give all types of riders a chance to win.

"Every rider can say it's going to be me in the (race leader's) yellow jersey, which is not possible with a time trial (prologue)," Prudhomme said.

The 111.6-mile first stage from Passage du Gois to Mont Des Alouettes will be followed by a 14.3-mile team time trial around Les Essarts on July 3. The race ends July 24.

The following day will be a flat stage as the race leaves the Vendee region, departing from Olonne-Sur-Mer toward a destination not to be revealed until the full unveiling of the 2011 route in October.

The Vendee region holds special memories for seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong, who first wore the yellow jersey after winning the prologue at Le Puy du Fou in 1999 as he returned to racing following cancer treatment.

In 2005, Armstrong also beat rival Jan Ullrich in the prologue from Fromentine to Noirmoutier, overtaking the German in a display of dominance that paved the way for his seventh straight Tour win.

This year's Tour, which is again set to feature Armstrong following his comeback ride last year, will start in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on July 3.

Alberto Contador of Spain won the 2009 Tour, with Armstrong third behind Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.