Voila! The Tour didn't waste any time this offseason stamping their brand on 2008. I'm just getting back from an all-airplane day, so I know nothing of the rollout, but I doubt anyone is complaining too loudly about the 2008 parcours. Right?
Well, maybe the prologue specialists, but they're pretty low on the list of people the sport should be catering to. Frankly, I love the idea of ditching the prologue and letting the bunch sprinters race for yellow. They deserve it more.
Including the Massif Central (if I remember my French geography, circa 1986) is a nice touch. With one hand the Tour gives the sprinters their real day in the sun, and with the other they take away the monotony of ten straight days of sprints. As far as entertainment value is concerned, this is a hit.
The first ITT is very early and a bit short, but I'm still excited about it, for one reason: it's going to mess with people's strategy. Levi Leipheimer almost stole the show last year by staying conservative and peaking in week 3, not unlike Sammy Sanchez' Vuelta. This is almost conventional wisdom in recent grand tours. But the Giro showed folks that early challenges can disrupt the predictable strategies, and that's exactly what the Tour has done. I don't think the race will be won in this ITT or the Massif Central, but it could be lost, and it will definitely challenge the top riders to stretch out their form.
The mountain stages and final ITT are classic Tour; not much to say. I like the Pyrenees lineup for its difficulty and the Alpes for the odd choices and the finale on the Alpe. They kinda speak for themselves.
There's less of a cloud over the Tour at the moment, at least compared to last year. Resolution of the Landis case (if you can call it that) brings a small measure of peace, as well as the lack of concrete suspicion over this year's podium. The UCI rift is dead, and the doping controls are tightening the vise on the cheaters. Might all fall apart again, but there's reason to look at this course and get really excited about the Tour.