Tour de France stages in detail
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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tour de France stages in detail

by Agence France-Presse at 6:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France

The 21 stages of this year's July 5-27
Tour de France in detail:
Stage 1: Brest to Plumelec (197.5km)
One of the first innovations this year is the lack of a prologue, meaning
the fight for the race leader's yellow jersey is wide open on this 197 km
stage which features four categorised climbs. The stage finish line is on a
200-metre long stretch which comes after the 1.7km climb of the Cote de
Cadoudal. A sprinter's victory - in the event of a mass finish - cannot be
ruled out.
Stage 2: Auray to Saint Brieuc (164km)
A relatively short stage, but with four small climbs - including the steep
Mur de Bretagne - the peloton will not have an easy day in the saddle.
Breakaways will struggle to go all the way due to the tight, twisting roads
leading up towards the finish line.
Stage 3: Saint Malo to Nantes (208km)
The first stage of the race to fully tempt the sprinters, stage three is
likely to witness plenty of breakaways although the unpredictable coastal
winds could play a deciding role in whether they go all the way to the finish.
Inner city hazards abound in the final three kilometres, before the peloton
reaches the 280-metre long home straight, and a likely bunch sprint.
Stage 4: Cholet time trial (29.5km)
An early test for the yellow jersey contenders. Despite being held over the
relatively short distance of 29km, the first individual time trial is on
rolling terrain where the wind, especially after La Romagne at km 18 could
play a role in determining crucial gear choices.
Stage 5: Cholet to Chateauroux (232km)
This classic sprinters' stage is arguably one of the flattest to feature on
the race in years. With the next day taking the peloton into the hills, the
sprinters and green jersey contenders are likely not to suffer breakaway
riders gladly.
Stage 6: Aigurande to Super-Besse (195km)
   Stage six is a product of the organisers' wish to reduce potential boredom
from having too many flat stages. It begins on tight twisting roads and leads
the peloton up into the hills of the Massif Central. Breakaways are a virtual
certainty, and the stage's tricky profile means one might actually go all the
way. At this early stage of the race, the yellow jersey contenders may have to
watch who actually escapes from the bunch. The finish line is at the end of a
manageable 11km climb, whose last 1.5km is nonetheless at a gradient of 10
Stage 7: Brioude to Aurillac (159km)
The first real climber's stage of the race is short in length, but will
take its toll. A total of five climbs feature, although none can be compared
to the monsters of the Pyrenees or the Alps. The first of the two that are
rated category two - the Col d'Entremont - will be easy compared to the climb
to the Puy Mary. A long descent from there leads to another smallish climb
which in turn leads to the finish line.
Stage 8: Figeac to Toulouse (172km)
After a week of racing, the less experienced riders in the peloton will
start to feel the first signs of fatigue - and perhaps be glad that the four
medium-sized climbs on this stage come early on. Those with some energy to
spare would do well to get into a well-organised breakaway, which could go all
the way to the finish.
Stage 9: Toulouse to Bagneres de Bigorre (224km)
The first true mountain stage leads the peloton through the high Pyrenees
and over the Col de Peyresourde and the Col d'Aspin - both of which are
category one climbs. The climbing begins progressively, allowing possibilities
for breakaways although they could be caught before the summit of the Aspin,
and the 26km descent towards the finish line.
Stage 10: Pau to Hautacam (156km)
The very mention of 'Hautacam' tends to send shivers down spines of most
cyclists, except the masochist climbers. The second 'unclassified' category
climb of the race - following the 17.4 km climb to the summit of the Col du
Tourmalet - will host the race's first summit finish. A 14.8km ascent with
average gradients of 7.6 percent, the climb to Hautacam's 1535 metre summit
will be tortuous. After the first two kilometres the gradients increase,
reaching an avergage of 9.5 percent between the seventh and 10th kilometre
before averaging out to eight percent in the closing 4.5 km.
Stage 11: Lannemezan to Foix (167km)
The final stage in the Pyrenees is unlikely to see fireworks between the
yellow jersey contenders, but that won't make it's hilly profile any easier to
negotiate despite coming after a rest day. The main climb of the day is the
Col de Portel, which makes its debut on the race in the hope of making its
13km climb a memorable one for the peloton. A long descent leads to the second
category three climb of the day, and eventually the finish line.
Stage 12: Lavelanet to Narbonne (168km)
Leaving the Pyrenees behind for another year will be a relief for most of
the peloton, but those who have recouped sufficiently will be tempted by a
stage win at the end of a long breakaway. This relatively easy stage will not,
however, be given away cheaply by the sprinters looking to make the most of
900-metre long home straight.
Stage 13: Narbonne to Nimes (182km)
What has been labelled a 'transitional' stage, before the race heads
gradually up into the Alps, will still be closely observed by the teams of
yellow jersey contenders. The terrain is undulating, it will be hot and
breakaways are a certainty. It's up to the race favourites to make sure none
of their potential rivals slip away unnoticed.
Stage 14: Nimes to Digne les Bains (194km)
At the two-thirds stage, stage 14 comes before the big guns prepare for
three days of decisive climbing in the Alps. Those with no yellow jersey
hopes, including the sprinters, will target this relatively easy stage for a
win. A breakaway which is organised well on the sinewy roads leading to Digne
has a chance of going all the way.
Stage 15: Embrun to Prato Nevoso, Italy (182km)
The race's only foray into foreign territory sees the peloton finish on the
summit of the largely unknown Prato Nevoso climb in the Italian Alps, but
first it will have to negotiate the 'unclassified' category climb over the
summit of the Col d'Agnel. Ahead of the race's second rest day, and with the
yellow jersey battle on the horizon, breakaways are likely to form although
the battle for the King of the Mountains may take precedence.
Stage 16: Cuneo, Italy to Jausiers (157km)
The teams of the yellow jersey contenders will be hard pushed to provide
support for their leaders on a stage which features two 'unclassified' climbs
- both of which peak at well over 2000 metres altitude. After a steadily
rising 50km, the peloton will tackle the largely unknown Col de la Lombarde, a
21.2 km slog at an average of seven percent. Next up is the 26.7km climb to
the summit of the Col de Restefond, also known as 'La Bonette', at an average
of 6.2 percent. Attacks, collapses and time gaps are inevitable, although the
long descent to Jausiers will allow some of the slackers to limit their losses.
Stage 17: Embrun to Alpe d'Huez (201km)
If the yellow jersey battle is won anywhere, it should be here. No less
than three 'unclassified' climbs feature on this stage which finishes on the
summit of the legendary Alpe d'Huez. The steady 20.9km climb over the Galibier
will not be decisive, but potential stage winners and 'kings of the mountains'
will start to get frisky once on the 29.2km climb towards the summit of the
punishing Col de la Croix-de-Fer. A long, arduous descent then precedes the
13.3km climb around the 21 hairpin bends which lead to the summit of the Alpe
d'Huez. It's average gradient is 8.6 percent, with some sections at 11.
Stage 18: Le Bourg d'Oisans to Saint Etienne (196km)
For most of the peloton, the worst of the Tour is now over. A few small
climbs feature on this undulating stage but, compared to the previous days'
labours, they will be insignificant. An early breakaway is likely to form,
although its chances of going all the way will depend on how much those
involved have suffered in the mountains. The most difficult climb of the day
is the category two Croix de Montvieux, around 30km from the finish.
Stage 19: Roanne to Montlucon (165km)
Another undulating stage with a few early difficulties. For those riders
still hungry for a stage victory this is the last chance saloon. Others, after
nearly three weeks of toil, will simply be happy to sit back and ride tempo.
Breakaways are a certainty. The question is whether the sprinters and their
teams, with one eye on the 1km long home straight, have the motivation to
chase them down.
Stage 20: Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond (53km time trial)
In the event stage 17 fails to prove decisive for overall victory, the
race's second and final time trial - as it did last year - should do the job.
This race against the clock is over a mix of flat and undulating terrain, and,
depending on wind conditions, speeds are likely to skim the 50km/h mark. Near
the end a small descent, followed by a few tricky bends, leads to the finish
line which is on a small rise.
Stage 21: Etamps to Paris Champs Elysees (143km)
By now, the Champagne should be flowing - at least for the winner of the
race. The final stage to Paris rarely witnesses a battle for the yellow
jersey, and the action is traditionally provided by the sprinters who are
hungry to win a prestigious stage on the world famous Champs Elysees. An
undulating first half of the race gives way to the streets of the capital,
where the peloton races eight laps of a circuit before the finish.


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