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Stage 14 - July 15: Draguignan - Briancon, 249 km
Start time: 09:37
This was supposed to be "it"; the key mountain stage of the 2000 Tour De France. An eight estimated hour epoch ride over the backbone of the lower French Alps to the ancient gateway city of Briancon. Along the way, two first category cols and a "hors categoire" climb plus the final uphill finish await the Tour de France peloton.
First on le menu is the 2250m Col d'Allos (13.4km at 6.4%) after 127km. Exposed to the elements, with a long and tricky 18km descent, Allos is likely where the first key attacks are launched with half of the stage left to race. Then it's the steep 2109m Col de Vars (10.3km at 6.8%) at 177km and finally the epoch climb of the 2360m Col d'Izoard (14.1km at 7.2%), which includes the eerie and dramatic Casse Desert section with the Fausto Coppi / Louison Bobet monument. The Casse Desert, or "broken desert" is a lunar like landscape of scree rocks that starts above 1900m; filled with crumbling stone pylons. Le Casse Desert has been the scene of many dramatic Tour moments.
Hard to predict an outcome for Saturdays long and tough stage; Armstrong and USPS must be vigilant all day. Kelme and Banesto are sure to try and do someting early on, but will this be the stage where the emerging Joseba Beloki (Festina) can make the difference or where Armstrong will take home the victory bouquet ? Only 8 more hours of racing will tell! Weather will be a factor; the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies but the strong northwest wind may slow the entire peloton.
Km 19.5 - Côte
de Canjuers - 16.1 km at 3.8% (Cat. 2)
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