The Tour de France has published details of its 2010 start in Rotterdam. Starting on July 3rd, the race kicks off with a short urban prologue before heading west into Belgium on stage one.
The direction taken by the Tour towards Belgium following its Dutch start means that first week stages in Great Britain, something strongly rumoured to be on the cards either in 2010 or 2011, remain very much a possibility.
Should the race continue westwards then the Tour could still head over to England via ferry or the Channel Tunnel. But the Tour?s press release gives no indication of what will follow the Dutch start.
In any case, whatever the Tour route, the early part of the race seems sure to have a British flavour to it.
The prologue route looks very good for Bradley Wiggins or David Millar and if the first stage in Belgium has a flat finish, as is very likely, Mark Cavendish would be the top favourite for an early sprint win.
The 2010 prologue is nine kilometres long, running mostly on broad, open boulevards through the city centre. Largely flat, the usual strong coastal winds coming in from the North Sea will be more of a challenge for the riders than the slight changes in gradient on the course itself.
After starting in the south of the city the route heads straight towards Rotterdam?s centre for two kilometres before crossing the River Meuse. It then winds alongside the riverbanks for another kilometre before heading south again via two bridges and down the same boulevard it used on its outward leg.
The second stage, on the Sunday, starts in Rotterdam before heading down through the exposed coastal regions of Zuid-Holland and Zeeland. It leaves Holland in a southerly direction, with the Belgian city of Antwerp looking like it could well host an intermediate sprint or even a finish.
The Tour has visited Rotterdam, Holland?s second largest city, on three previous occasions: 1954, 1973 and 1978. It has started in Holland five times in the past, the most recent being in 1996 when Alex Zulle won a prologue in Hertogenbosch.
Tour de France Website
Cadel Evans to ride 2009 Giro D?Italia