Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, announced on Tuesday that the 2011 Tour de France will start in the Vendée region, situated in west France.

The first two stages of the 2011 Tour – on Saturday, July 2 and Sunday, July 3 – will take place in the coastal region, with a third stage starting in Vendée before the riders head north.

Rather than a short prologue, the opening stage of the 2011 Tour will be a fully-blown road stage starting on the Passage du Gois, a road to the island of Noirmoutier that becomes submerged by the Atlantic tide twice daily – the organisers will have to time the start accurately.

The riders then head east for 180km for an uphill finish at Mont des Alouettes which will favour attacking riders or a very strong sprinter’s team.

After the opening salvo, the riders – or more specifically teams – then face a 23km team time trial around Les Essarts. It is highly likely, therefore, that we will see two different riders wearing the yellow jersey in the first two days of the race.

It will be the fifth occasion that the Tour has started in the Vendée region in the race’s 98 editions.

Tour de France 2011: The opening stages

Saturday, July 2: Stage one: Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes, 180 km

Sunday, July 3: Stage two: Les Essarts to Les Essarts, 23km team time trial

Monday, July 4: Stage three: Olonne-sur-Mer to ?

Tour de France 2011 start map

Map: Tour de France/ASO

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2010 Tour de France route revealed