The sense of anticipation at the Palais des Congres in Paris this morning will be tremendous.

It seems no matter the scale of the scandal that has afflicted the most recent edition of the Tour de France, the excitement preceding the unveiling of the next year?s route is undiminished.

And so a couple of thousand invited guests, officials and journalists will cram into the auditorium, wait for the lights to dim and see what the brains in ASO?s route-planning department have in store for us next July.

After all the speeches, declarations and a video montage featuring the highlights from this year?s race, the waiting will be over as the Tour route is revealed stage by stage.

Sportive riders are eagerly anticipating the announcement of which stage will be used as the Etape du Tour. The 15th edition of the world?s most famous cyclo-sportive could be set for a return to the Alps, with Alpe d?Huez tipped as the favourite to host the finish.

See www.cyclingweekly.co.uk tomorrow (from 10am) for the best reaction and analysis to the 2008 Tour de France route.

WHAT WE KNOW ALREADY…
Saturday, July 5 Stage 1 Brest ? Plumelec
Sunday, July 6 Stage 2 Auray ? Saint-Brieuc
Monday, July 7 Stage 3 Saint-Malo – ?

Sunday, July 27 Stage 21 ? ? Paris Champs-Elysees

The Tour will start in Brest in the west of Brittany. For the first time since 1966 the race does not start with a time trial. Fact fans may be interested to know that year Rudi Altig won a road stage from Nancy to Charleville. In 1971 there was a team time trial won by Eddy Merckx?s Molteni squad.

In 1988 there was an ill-conceived preface ? a three-kilometre team time trial that culminated in a flying kilometre time trial for one of the riders. Guido Bontempi of Carrera won it but the inventor of the format was made to sit in a darkened room until he?d come to his senses.

In 2000 and 2005 there were time trial openers but as they were longer than the UCI rule book?s definition of a prologue they were officially called stage one. They were won by David Millar and David Zabriskie respectively.

THE RUMOURS
Every year the rumour mill grinds into action as newspapers, websites and fans dig out their road maps of France and try to guess how ASO will plot their way to Paris this time.

If there?s one thing ASO manages to do successfully, it?s to keep the Tour de France route closely under wraps.

They are usually all miles out, conjuring up 250-kilometre long stages, or wishfully including six days back-to-back in the Pyrenees, or an individual time trial at Mont Ventoux.

But it doesn?t stop the speculation.

This year the smart money is on the race heading south from Saint-Malo to Nantes, with a team time trial in Cholet on the first Tuesday.

Then it?s on to the Pyrenees with a rumoured summit finish at Hautacam or perhaps Cauterets, or maybe both.

The most outlandish rumour is that one of the transitional stages as the race makes its way from the Pyrenees to the Alps will go over Mont Ventoux in Provence.

Alpine finishes at Cuneo in Italy and Alpe d?Huez could be on the cards.

And that would mean the only individual time trial of the race would be on the final Saturday, possibly in Montlucon or maybe Moulins, before the traditional arrival on the Champs-Elysees on Sunday.

But until tomorrow these are all rumours and, if recent years are anything to go by, they are well wide of the mark. We?ll find out tomorrow?

RELATED LINKS
Tour de France 2007 microsite