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Le Tour 2001

89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

What's up next? The mountains loom large for the peloton

by European Editor Tim Maloney

Igor Gonzalez
Photo: © AFP
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The first act of the Tour de France has closed and the Spanish rider Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is still in the yellow jersey, closely followed by Lance Armstrong some 26 seconds in arrears. Many expected Armstrong to be in yellow by now and for this reason it's believed the 2002 Tour is wide open. However, US Postal Service DS Johan Bruyneel is quick to point out that none of Armstrong's challengers have recently taken time out of him in the mountains, and over the next two weeks there is plenty of tough climbing ahead. European Editor Tim Maloney previews what's in store.

Phase Two of the 2002 Tour de France starts with an air transfer today, July 16, from Lorient to Bordeaux, followed by the transitional Stage 10 (see profile) to Pau, where the mysterious, cloud cloaked Pyrenees await the peloton of Le Tour. The back to back mountain stages start with Stage 11 from Pau to La Mongie: 158km that first climbs up the tough Col d'Aubisque, then finishes at altitude at La Mongie ski resort near the summit of the tough Col de Tourmalet. The next day's Stage 12 on July 18 is longer and tougher still: 198km from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille with four cols to climb before the final 15.9km climb to another Pyrenees summit finish where Marco Pantani took the stage honors in '98 Tour.

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © AFP
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With the Pyrenees over, Stage 13 will be another transition stage to the Mediterranean coastal town of Beziers, but before the Tour peloton can relax, Stage 14 offers an ugly surprise just before the Alps begin. After a long hot day in the saddle across the Gard and into Vaucluse, yet another tough mountaintop finish awaits the peloton atop the Giant Of Provence. Yes, it's Le Mont Ventoux, again from the Bedouin side, after 200km of hard racing. Le Mont Ventoux, where only the strong survive. Finally after the Pyrennes and Provence, Le Tour will offer a welcome second rest day in the quaint Provencal town of Vaison-le-Romaine.

After the "journee de repos", the Alps once again embrace the Tour De France peloton for its final phase of racing in 2002. Once again, the majestic, pristine Alpine ascents will be the final battleground of Le Tour, where the first stage, Stage 15 offers 226km of racing over relatively unknown roads of the Drome and Isere before the final assault up to les Deux Alpes, where Marco Pantani took the stage win and maillot jaune from Jan Ullrich in his victorious '98 Tour De France.

Santi Botero
Photo: © AFP
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No respite for the peloton on the second alpine stage in Le Tour '02 with another mountaintop finish, the 5th in the Tour. Stage 16, 179km from Deux Alpes to La Plagne starts with ascension of the Col de Galabier, at 2656m the highest point in next years TDF. The stage then plunges into the Savoie region, up and over the Col de la Madeleine and up to the final summit arrival of the '02 TDF at La Plagne. The next day, Stage 17 from Aime to Cluses is the final Alpine stage; a short, intense day of 141km with four cols, spaced one every 30 km or so, is on the TDF menu. Up the tough 20km climb of the Cormet de Roseland, then it's Col de Saises, Col des Aravis over the spiky Chaine des Aravis crests and finally the tough Col de Colombiere before screaming down the 20km descent to finish in Cluses.

The conclusive phase of the '02 Tour De France is another transition from Cluses to Bourg-En-Bresse of 180km which could be deceptive as the hilly profile may allow for a strategic escape. Then it's the penultmate stage, number 19,a 52.5km Individual Time Trial through the vineyards of Macon that should sort out the final general classification story. Le Tour's final stage as always since 1975 ends in Paris on the Champs Elysees.

(See our stages grid for links to all results and reports from the first nine stages of the 2002 Tour de France.)

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