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Dauphiné Libéré
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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 11 - Wednesday, July 13: Courchevel - Briançon, 173 km

Ahhh, what a day! One of the hardest days of the Tour, stage 11 finishes in Briancon, in teh middle of the Alps, after heading up the slopes of the Col de la Madeleine, the Col du Telegraphe and then straight into the Col du Galibier for a total of 54.9km of cat 1 and hors categorie climbing at no less than 6.1%. There's plenty of Tour history in these mountains, and the legendary status of all three cols has been the x-factor in victory for many Tour champions. It's a day made for those who can climb and descend fearlessly, and with his recent run of great form and support from the likes of Ullrich and Kloeden, Vinokourov could give Lance a real run for his money, much like 2003; it was at this stage two years ago that the Kazakh made his push for the lead. Young riders such as Michael Rogers and Alejandro Valverde are expected to excel in this kind of environment - Rogers is a proven Tour finisher, whilst Valverde is untested over the tough three weeks in France, so anything could happen. This day will most likely separate the real GC contenders from the rest, as the selection for the final week is made and the remainder of the peloton hangs tough to weather the storm.

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