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95th Tour de France, July 5-27, 2008

Tour Tech


Stage 21 - Sunday, July 27: Étampes - Paris/Champs Élysées, 143km

Gert Steegmans (Quick Step)
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Finally, the last stage is here and the Tour has reached Paris. For many in the peloton this is a victory in itself, but many others have designs on a stage win on the most famous boulevard in the world. It's very likely that a breakaway will try to get away and win the day – everybody wants to be the first man on the Champs Élysées – but it's almost inevitable that they will be reeled in by the sprinters teams and one of the fast men will triumph.

The Champs Élysées is a much more complicated sprint than many other places though. Aside from the cobbles, the course crosses the Place de la Concorde with less than half a kilometre to go and the resulting chicane serves to disrupt a sprinter's train. The winner is usually one of the best sprinters, but rarely the one whose team has led him out.

Étampes is yet another first time stage town, but Paris of course has hosted all 95 of them. Before the course reaches the capital though, there are two fourth category climbs to negotiate – unusual for the final day – which could decide a close polka dot jersey classification.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 20 - Saturday, July 26: Cérilly - Saint Amand Montrond (ITT), 53km

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: AFP
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If the overall classification is anything like as close as it was last year, we should once again be treated to a dramatic final time trial today. Unlike the time trial in the first week, this one is over a much more usual distance. The course gradient rolls without getting properly hilly and so it should suit a more powerful rider over a climber.

The Tour visits another first time stage town in Cérilly, but this is the second visit to Saint Amand Montrond. The previous time – 2001 – was also the finish of the final time trial and saw Lance Armstrong (US Postal) further increase his lead over Jan Ullrich (Telekom) with his fourth stage win of that year's Tour.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 19 - Friday, July 25: Roanne - Montluçon, 165.5km

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)
Photo ©: AFP
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The Tour heads back into the centre of the country almost to where it was two weeks ago as the peloton makes its weary way towards Paris. The profile is almost as rolling as yesterday's, beginning with a third and a fourth category climb inside the first 42 kilometres. The mid-section is fairly flat, but then the final 50 kilometres become much lumpier, although there are no classified climbs in this part.

Today is more suited to the sprinters than yesterday, but with a potentially decisive time trial tomorrow the overall contenders may not want a hard day and so a breakaway might succeed.

Roanne is yet another first time stage town, but Montluçon has been visited five times before. Last time was in 2001 when Belgian Serge Baguet (Lotto) beat Dane Jacob Piil (CSC) in a two-up sprint after the remains of the breakaway was swallowed by the peloton. A similar scenario may well play out this year.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 18 - Thursday, July 24: Bourg d'Oisans - Saint Étienne, 196.5km

Marcus Burghardt (Columbia)
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The Alps are behind us now, but this stage is by no means flat with a third, a second and a fourth category climb to deal with. The course doesn't suit the sprinters, but neither is it tough enough for the climbers and overall contenders, for this reason it has breakaway written all over it. Anyone who has managed to save a bit of energy over the preceding few days will have a go here and in all likelihood the time gap allowed will be enormous providing nobody of any note is in the break.

Bourg d'Oisans has been a stage start time 19 times before, but has never hosted a finish. Sitting as it is at the foot of Alpe d'Huez, it is a natural choice for the next day's stage. The last time a stage started here was in 2006 when the course headed north to another mountaintop finish at La Toussuire. Danish super-climber Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) took the victory alone on his way to taking the polka dot mountain jersey.

Saint Etienne is another regular Tour host, having been a stage town 23 times before, partly because it used to be the centre of the French bicycle industry. Last time the Tour was here it saw Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) cement his seventh and final Tour de France by taking victory in the final time trial of the 2005 race. That day also saw the tragicomic end to Michael Rasmussen's (Rabobank) hope of a podium place, as a disastrous ride saw him crash twice and change his bike three times.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 17 - Wednesday, July 23: Embrun - L'Alpe d'Huez, 210.5km

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC - Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: AFP
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This is the stage that all climbers want to win. Those mythical 21 hairpin bends have become synonymous with the Tour de France and a year without the Alpe seems somehow to have something missing. This is a long stage that takes in the familiar – but no less brutal – Cols du Galibier and Croix de Fer, although as a change they are tackled in a different order from usual.

In all likelihood, the main contenders will sit behind their team-mates for as long as possible and look to make their move on the final steep climb to Alpe d'Huez. The non super-climbers high up in the overall – if there are any left at this stage – will be looking to hold on for as long as possible. For the sprinters however, this will be a day of pure suffering.

The small town of Embrun must think all of its Christmases have come at once as this is their second stage of the Tour this year (they have been awarded the start of stage 15 due to rock falls in the Alps forcing a course change.) Alpe d'Huez on the other hand has hosted the Tour 25 times since that first time in 1952 when Fausto Coppi won, this equates to almost every other year.

Last time the Tour finished here, in 2006, it saw the emergence of Fränk Schleck (CSC) as a future major force in Grand Tours as he dropped riders like former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) on the way to victory.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 16 - Tuesday, July 22: Cuneo - Jausiers, 157km

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale)
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After an Italian rest day, the Tour heads back over the Alps to France. After a fairly flat, but gradually rising 50 kilometres, the course tackles the first of the day's two hors catégorie climbs: the Col de la Lombarde, which marks the border crossing. After a long descent, the roads begin to rise again to the second of the day's massive climbs: the Cime de la Bonnette-Restefond, the highest point of this year's Tour, which at 2802 metres is also the highest paved road in the Alps.

There then follows a 23.5-kilometre descent to the finish in Jausiers, the smallest town to host a stage finish at just over 1000 in population. Once again, the high mountains should provide plenty of opportunity for the favourites to attack one another, but that long descent will allow any dropped riders a chance to make up some ground, keeping the gaps relatively small.

Unsurprisingly, it is the first time that either town has hosted the Tour – although Cuneo was the venue for yesterday's rest day. One of the Cuneo's most famous sons is Michele Ferrero, whose eponymous company has given the world Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and Tic Tacs.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 15 - Sunday, July 20: Embrun - Prato Nevoso, 183km

Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole)
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This stage was to have been a 216-kilometre epic from yesterdays' finish town of Digne les Bains. Because of rock falls on the Col de Larche the start has been moved to the ancient town of Embrun, shortening the stage by 33 kilometres.

The stage starts climbing almost immediately up to the vertiginously high Col Agnel at 2744 metres, which surprisingly is not the highest point of his year's Tour. It does mark a first for 2008 though, as the Tour has up until now been entirely contested in France and this is a border crossing into Italy.

The stage descends into the Italian province of Cuneo, part of the Piemonte region, crossing the rather sinister sounding third category Colle del Morte to an uphill finish at the ski resort of Prato Nevoso. The 11.4-kilometre ascent to the finish should provide a platform for the overall contenders to take time out of one another before the second rest day.

This is the first visit of the Tour to both towns, but Pratonevoso has been a stage finish in the Giro d'Italia. The most recent occasion was in 2000, when Stefano Garzelli (then Mercatone Uno, now Acqua e Sapone) put pressure on race leader Francesco Casagrande (Vini Caldirola) with stage victory. Garzelli went on to take the pink jersey two days later in the mountain time trial to Sestrieres.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 14 - Saturday, July 19: Nîmes - Digne les Bains, 194.5km

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: AFP
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Despite not being a mountainous stage – and only featuring two fourth category climbs – at the end of this stage, the Tour will arrive in the Alps. Although those two climbs are the only ones to count, the altitude rises steadily from 46 metres at the start in Nîmes to 599 metres at the finish in Digne les Bains. The route crosses Provence and the Luberon wine area between Mont Ventoux and the Côte d'Azur before finishing in the spa town in the shadow of the high mountains that divide France form its neighbour Italy.

Digne les Bains is a fairly regular host to the Tour, having been a stage town eleven times before. Last time – in 2005 – David Moncoutié took the second of his two career stage wins after attacking the break on the road from Briançon to the north.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 13 - Friday, July 18: Narbonne - Nîmes, 182km

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
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With just three fourth category climbs in the way, this should once again be a stage for the sprinters. The route continues its way across the southern edge of France between the Pyrenees and the Alps. It's likely that a break will try to get away, but even more likely that the sprinters' domestiques will bring them back before they reach the finish.

The stage travels from one Roman settlement to another: leaving the oldest one in Narbonne, and arriving in probably the most famous one in Nîmes. The capital of the Gard department, Nîmes is home to probably the highest concentration of historic Roman sites outside Italy. These include the best preserved arena in France – which still gets used for concerts and bullfights, the Maison Carrée – a temple dedicated to the sons of Agrippa, and most famously: the Pont du Gard – a three level aqueduct which lies 20 kilometres to the north.

Nîmes' other big claim to fame is as the origin of Serge de Nîmes, an indigo blue fabric that has changed the world. Over the years its name has been shortened to one word that most people will recognise: Denim.

The city has hosted the Tour 15 times before, with Aitor Gonzales (Fassa Bortolo) taking the victory in 2004, the last time it finished here.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 12 - Thursday, July 17: Lavelanet - Narbonne, 168.5km

Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
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With the Pyrenean stages over, the Tour now begins its journey across to the Alps. This stage features just one fourth category climb as it descends steadily towards the Mediterranean and so is a prime opportunity for the sprinters to reopen their accounts after a hard few days.

Lavelanet, situated in the heart of Cathar country with its hilltop castles, has hosted the start of a Tour stage once before: in 2002. That day saw a very similar course profile – although an entirely different route – and finished not far from today's Narbonne finish in the Herault department's capital Beziers. The stage was won by Scot David Millar (then Cofidis, now Slipstream-Chipotle) from a breakaway group that finished almost ten minutes ahead of the peloton.

Narbonne, with its 13th century Saint-Just cathedral, has been in existence since 118BC when the Romans settle there. The city has hosted the Tour seven times before, most recently in 2003 as it saw the start of the stage to Toulouse that was won by Juan Antonio Flecha. The last stage to finish here – or more accurately at Narbonne-Plage – was the second of five stages won by Belgian sprint legend Freddy Maertens in 1981.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video , Podcast

Stage 11 - Wednesday, July 16: Lannemezan - Foix, 167.5km

Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank)
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Despite still being in the region of the high mountains (Lannemezan is in the Haute-Pyrénées department, and Foix is the capital of Ariège) this stage features very little serious climbing: the only serious obstacle of the day being the first category Col de Portal. Consequently, the course has breakaway written all over it and will suit strong riders who have lost enough time over the preceding two mountain stages for the contenders' teams to let them go.

Both towns have hosted the Tour before in the past, but only as start towns. Lannemezan has been there three times before between 1999 and 2004, the last one of those being Lance Armstrong's second victory on the Plateau de Beille where he narrowly beat Ivan Basso to the line.

Foix has previously hosted two stage starts: in 2001 and 2007. Last year's stage to Loudenvielle-Le Louron saw a battle between overall contenders Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) on the Col du Peyresourde. In front of them though, Alexander Vinokourov was rebuilding his Tour – after his first week crash – with a storming solo victory. It later became clear exactly where Vino was getting his energy though, and the stage victory has subsequently been awarded to Kim Kirchen (then T-Mobile, now Columbia).

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video , Podcast

Stage 10 - Monday, July 14: Pau - Hautacam, 156km

Leonardo Piepoli wins ahead of Saunier team-mate Juan Jose Cobo.
Photo ©: AFP
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More high mountains in this stage which, despite being just 156 kilometres in length, should prove to be one of the toughest of this year's Tour. Despite a reasonably flat start, the stage finishes with the legendary ascents of the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam. This stage should see some real gaps appear between the overall contenders as the favourites for victory in Paris start to show themselves.

Outside Paris and Bordeaux, Pau is the most-visited town for the Tour de France, featuring on the course no less than 61 times before. The first time was in 1930 too, meaning that have only been ten Tours since then that haven't called in at Pau. Last year – as this – the city was host to a stage start and a rest day, but the last time a stage finished here, in 2006, Spain's Juan Manuel Mercado (Agritubel) bested Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) in a two-up sprint. The Frenchman was consoled though by taking the yellow jersey for a few days.

Hautacam, a ski resort nestled above the pilgrimage centre of Lourdes, has been a stage finish three times before. The most recent, and most famous occasion was in 2000, when Javier Otxoa (Kelme) took the biggest win of his career. All the headlines went to the rampaging Lance Armstrong though as he stormed away from his rivals in the rain, taking the yellow jersey that he would hold all the way to Paris for his second victory.

This stage route will be the one used on the Etape du Tour, which will be run over a week earlier on Sunday, July 6th.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report , Video , Podcast

Stage 9 - Sunday, July 13: Toulouse - Bagnères de Bigorre, 224km

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott)
Photo ©: AFP
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This is where the Tour really begins as the roads head upwards into the high passes of the Pyrenees. Leaving the city of Toulouse, the course heads south and east over a number of small hills, until it reaches Luchon where the climbing really starts. The two first category Cols de Peyresourde and Aspin are not the toughest climbs of the Tour, but both are tough enough to punish anyone who isn't on top form. The descent to the finish though, should mean that any gaps between the contenders will be small.

Bagnères-de-Bigorre features on the Tour route on a regular basis, sitting as it does at the foot of the infamous Col du Tourmalet, which the race tackles tomorrow, but has only been a start or finish town nine times before. Recently, the town has tended to feature as a start town, rather than a finish. The last time was that incredible day in 2003 when Lance Armstrong took stage victory at Luz-Ardiden. He stormed away to win alone after being brought down by a spectator's bag at the foot of the final climb, the incident leading to the "did Ullrich wait" debate that kept internet chat rooms buzzing for years afterwards.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report , Video , Podcast

Stage 8 - Saturday, July 12: Figeac - Toulouse, 172.5km

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
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This is very much a transitional stage after two days in the hills of the Massif Central; the Tour now heads south towards the high mountains of the Pyrenees. The stage has two distinct halves: the first half features four climbs – two third and two fourth category – while the second is mostly flat as the roads descend into the lowlands of the Midi. There are two unclassified bumps in the final 25 kilometres, but not enough to stop the sprinters getting their trains organised in this, their last chance before the roads get really steep.

Figeac has featured in the Tour twice before, most recently when locally raised Cofidis star David Moncoutié won a solo breakaway victory. The town's big claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jean-François Champollion, the man credited with being the first man to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.

As the fourth biggest city in France, Toulouse is a regular host to the Tour, having been a stage town 25 times before. It was one of the original start and finish towns of the original 1903 race where the great Frenchman Hippolyte Aucouturier won his second stage in a row over an incredible 423 kilometres from Marseille. Arcouturier held the race lead (there was no yellow jersey yet!) for those two stages, but lost it on the next leg north to Bordeaux.

The most recent visit in 2004 saw Spanish classics specialist Juan Antonio Flecha (then riding for, but now at Rabobank) escape his breakaway companions to win alone.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report , Video , Podcast

Stage 7 - Friday, July 11: Brioude - Aurillac, 159km

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: AFP
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Stage seven sees the Tour spend a second day in France's Massif Central. Despite being on of the shortest stages of the race, this will be no easy day for the peloton. Like the previous stage, today's course will be nervous as it traverses the twisting and rolling roads of this part of the country. There will be very little flat riding all day, but the main obstacle will be the second category Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary) with 42 kilometres remaining.

The historic city of Brioude is another of this year's first time stage towns, but Aurillac has been visited six times before. The last time the Tour finished here was 1985, and the 237.5-kilometre stage from Saint-Étienne was won by Spain's Eduardo Chozas. Race leader Bernard Hinault had crashed in the sprint on the previous stage and was riding to his fifth overall victory with a fractured nose.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 6 - Thursday, July 10: Aigurande - Super Besse, 195.5km

Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval - Scott)
Photo ©: AFP
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After five stages featuring no more than a smattering of fourth and third category climbs – and with none at all for the last three days – the course takes a decidedly hillier turn. After turning east yesterday, the race resumes its southerly course across France's hot Massif Central. The roads will be up and down all day, with two fourth category climbs in the first half. The final 50 kilometres is where the action starts with two second category climbs, including the 11-kilometre drag up to the finish at Super Besse.

This is the Tour's first visit to the small, fortified town of Aigurande, but it has been to the ski resort of Super Besse twice before. The last time it finished here, the stage was won by Dane Rolf Sørensen in a breakaway between the Alps and the Pyrenees. The ski resort sits 1289 metres high, above the town of Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise, which the stage passes through on the way to the finish.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 5 - Wednesday, July 9: Cholet - Châteauroux, 232km

Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
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This is the longest stage of this year's Tour. However, with no classified climbs it will be far from the toughest as it heads eastwards towards the centre of France. Once again, the flat straight roads give every advantage to the sprinters' teams in the last chance before the terrain gets decidedly hillier tomorrow. Aspiring breakaway specialists may have other ideas though, and those who took it a bit easy in the time trial yesterday might fancy a tilt at this one.

This is the third Tour de France to feature the town of Cholet, and the second stage of this year's race as it hosted both the start and finish of yesterday's time trial.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 4 - Tuesday, July 8: Cholet - Cholet (ITT), 29.5km

German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) on his way to a stage victory
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The first time trial of this year's Tour comes earlier than usual, perhaps because of the absence of a prologue. The stage is also just over half the distance as usual, being just 29-kilometre in length. The stage route, as well as being short, is very flat so – weather permitting – speeds should be high. The stage should appeal to the specialists, but gaps should be small so none of the favourites for the overall classification will be able to take too much time out of their rivals.

The Tour has visited Cholet just twice before, the last time when Dutchman Jeroen Bliijlevens (TVM) out-sprinted Italian Nicola Minali (Riso Scotti) and Ján Svorada (Mapei-Bricobi). By picking up time bonuses throughout the stage, Australian Stuart O'Grady (then GAN, now CSC) took the first maillot jaune of his career. The town sits on the banks of the Moine river and is most famous for the production of linen fabrics.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 3 - Monday, July 7: Saint-Malo - Nantes, 208km

Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) took a brilliant win in Nantes
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This should be a stage for the sprinters, especially as there are no classified climbs on today's route. After a rolling start over the small roads of Brittany, the course joins the fast, wider roads as it heads south to the finish in Nantes.

The port town of Saint-Malo is the most-visited place in the region of Brittany. From here it is possible to catch a ferry to and from various ports in the UK and the Channel Islands. This will be the Tour's eighth visit to Saint-Malo, the last time was 1980 when Dutchman Bert Oosterbosch took victory.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Stage 2 - Sunday, July 6: Auray - Saint Brieuc, 164.5km

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: AFP
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Once again, the rolling and hilly roads of Brittany will dominate this stage as it crosses the region from south to north from the Atlantic coast to that of the English Channel. Like yesterday's stage, the course features a number of small climbs including the third category Mûr-de-Bretagne. The sprinters' teams will be keen to deliver their fast-men to the finish line first; so a breakaway win here will be difficult.

Auray hosts the Tour for the first time, although it did host the start of last year's Hexagonal VTT (the MTB equivalent of the Tour). The town is situated on the coast of the southern Brittany department of Morbihan. It has a pretty harbour and is filled with atmospheric and narrow cobbled streets.

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Stage 1 - Saturday, July 5: Brest - Plumelec, 197.5km

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) fires a warning to his rivals
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The Tour de France kicks off without a prologue (or time trial) for the first time since 1967; instead it starts with a rolling 195-kilometre road stage. After crossing four fourth category climbs the stage finishes at the top of the Côte de Cadoual – locally known as the Breton Alpe d'Huez. As there will be no time bonuses available on the stage, the first yellow jersey will securely be taken by the stage winner. The hilltop finish though, means that this is unlikely to be one for the pure sprinters.

Brest, a sub-prefecture of the department of Finistère and the most westerly city in mainland France, is a stage town for the 29th time and will host the Grand Départ for the third time – after 1952 and 1974. Its other big claim to cycling fame is of course the fact that it is the turning point of the epic 1200-kilometre Paris-Brest-Paris endurance event.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video, Podcast

Preview: Evans, Valverde and Cunego clear favourites

Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) is the top favourite going into the 2008 Tour de France
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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On the eve of another post-Lance Armstrong Tour de France, it is anyone's guess as to who will don the maillot jaune of best overall rider when the three-week race concludes in Paris. There are only a handful of contenders, but just how they will perform on the parcours with decreased time trial kilometres but more mythical mountain stages is unknown.

When organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced the route of the 95th Tour de France, it was clear that a rider who could excel in the mountains and hold his own in the time trials would have a shot at the overall win. The riders' climbing legs will be put to the test with four mountaintop stage finishes – Super Besse (stage six), Hautacam (stage 10), Prato Nevoso (15) and L'Alpe d'Huez (17) – while their time trialing abilities will be put to use in only 82.5 kilometres over two stages (4 and 20).

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Tour Features



Form guide:

Tour Videos


Stage 18: Bourg d'Oisans - Saint Étienne, 196.5km
Stage 17: Embrun - L'Alpe d'Huez, 210.5km
Stage 16: Cuneo - Jausiers, 157km
Stage 15: Embrun - Prato Nevoso, 183km
Stage 14: Nîmes - Digne les Bains, 194.5km
Stage 13: Narbonne - Nîmes, 182km
Stage 12: Lavelanet - Narbonne, 168.5km
Stage 11: Lannemezan - Foix, 167.5km
Stage 10: Pau - Hautacam, 156km
Stage 9: Toulouse - Bagnères de Bigorre, 224km
Stage 8: Figeac - Toulouse, 172.5km
Stage 7: Brioude - Aurillac, 159km
Stage 6: Aigurande - Super Besse, 195.5km
Stage 5: Cholet - Châteauroux, 232km
Stage 4: Cholet - Cholet (ITT), 29.5km
Stage 3: Saint-Malo - Nantes, 208km
Stage 2: Auray - Saint Brieuc, 164.5km
Stage 1: Brest - Plumelec, 197.5km

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