Stage 10 - July 17: Aix-Les-Bains -L'Alpe d'Huez, 209 km

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Preview: The real race starts

By Tim Maloney

You ain't seen nothing yet - this is the real thing! That's the word around the race this evening. Everyone is waiting for Stage 10; Aix-Les-Bains to L'Alpe d'Huez, 209 kilometres that should make a huge impact on the 2001 TDF. It's a real mutha' of a stage; the first real climbing on the Tour menu and by real, we mean three "hors categorie" or above classification climbs.

After 89 kilometres raced out of Aix-les-Bains over one Cat. 3 climb for a warmup, the parcours heads up the Massif de Vanoise to climb the 24.8 km Col de la Madeleine. It is a long and moderately steep climb (6.3% average) with the Souvenir Henri Desgrange memorial to the founder of the TDF. Col de la Madeleine has a long, steep tree covered descent to the Arc Valley that will chill the riders to the bone.

Next on Tuesday's TDF menu after 135 km is the Col du Glandon, 19.9 km and a steeper, more irregular climb than Madeleine (7.3% average), Glandon has sections over 12%. Again, the descent will be cold and as the riders hit the Isere River Valley and see the sign for le Bourg d'Oisans, they know what lies ahead. The mythical, magical ascent to l'Alpe d'Huez; a 13.8 km climb with 21 marked turns, and an average gradient of 7.9%. But this is deceptive, as there are some much steeper sections of 14%. Less deceptive is the crowd; riders have a love/hate relationship with the enormous, hysterical crowds on l'Alpe. The adulation is a major motivation, but sometimes the enthusiasm get out of hand.

Stuart O'Grady would love to keep the Maillot Jaune, but the friendly, freckle face Adelaide Arrow will likely lose the jersey to Francois Simon of Bonjour, who is a much better climber than O'Grady. Simon is riding his 9th Tour and was the French champion in 1999. Youngest of 4 cycling brothers from Troyes, the 32 year old said, "I'd really like to have it (the Maillot Jaune) tomorrow - I'll try and follow the main group as long as possible."

Simon's brother Pascal wore the Maillot Jaune in 1983, and his experienced director sportif Jean Rene Bernadeau will do everything he can to put Simon in the Maillot Jaune tomorrow.

As for the big guns, many knowledgeable observers at this year's Tour say that tomorrow should see major attacks as the weird-o break to Pontarlier has forced the hand of anyone that aspires to the podium in Paris. Kivilev has over 13 minutes lead on Armstrong and Ullrich and they will have to start pulling back time on him on the road to l'Alpe d'Huez.

TDF weather forecoast is partly cloudy to sunny and unseasonably cool.



Start time: 1030 CEST
Estimated finish time: 1712 CEST

The first mountain top finish of Le Tour '01 is at the top of the legendary Alpe d'Huez. This climb involves 21 tortuous switchbacks in 14 kilometres, taking the riders up to 1850 metres. However, this is only the last of the three Hors Categorie climbs that are tackled today. The gigantic Col de la Madeleine rises over 1600 metres in 27 kilometres, with its summit at km 114. Immediately after the descent comes one of the toughest climbs in the Alps, the Col du Glandon with its savage sting 2 kilometres from the top. The riders then make the long journey down the valley, eventually hitting Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez climb.

Aix-les-Bains (you pronounce the 'x' but not the 's') is a beautiful city located on Lake Bourget at the base of the Alps. It is named after its alum and suphur springs, which have have been frequented since Roman times

L'Alpe d'Huez is a fairly typical ski resort, but it has gained far more fame through its association with the Tour. The race first visited there in 1952 and has been back there many times since. It was last used in 1999 when Guisseppi Guerini (Telekom) won the stage, despite being floored by an amateur photographer with 1 km to go.

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