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95th Tour de France - Course Preview - Week Two
By Nick Bull
Date: 7/3/2008
95th Tour de France - Course Preview - Week Two

95th Tour de France - Course Preview Week Two
Stages 9 - 14 Into the Pyrenees, a summit finish on Hautcam... but the rouleurs and sprinters will be intent on hunting stages on the alternate days.

95th Tour de France
Week Two - Stages 8 - 14

For us climbers, it's great. Not too much time trialing, no time bonuses, and a lot of mountains.’ (Juan Mauricio Soler)

Stage 8 (Saturday July 12) Figeac - Toulouse, 174km
After a rather unflat start – the opening nine kilometres is downhill, before four KOM climbs are passed in quick succession (the opening two average 6%, though are both under 5km in length) – the road to Toulouse becomes rather gentle, making this stage a dead cert for a bunch sprint.

As the next flat stage is a week later, the points for winning the stage will be massively important in the race for the Green Jersey. Even with wind which will be felt in places, breakaway groups are going to have little chance against the Lotto’s and High Road’s of the sprinting World.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Côte de Loupiac, 9km (4th Category)
Côte de Macarou, 36.5km (3rd Category)
Côte de la Guionie, 52.5km (4th Category)
Côte du Port de la Besse, 70.5km (3rd Category)

Intermediate Sprints
La Salvetat- Peyrales, 57.5km
Carmaux, 85km
Rabastens, 134.5km

Perfect for: A sprinters’ last hurrah, and a couple of the French teams to get into a pre-Pyrenees break.

Stage 9 (Sunday July 13) Toulouse - Bagneres de Bigorre, 222km
The Tour hits the Pyrenees for the first time on Stage 13, although the two first-category climbs will not have a critical effect on the General Classification. The final climb, the Col d’Aspin lies 26km from the finish into Bagneres-de-Bigorre, which will allow any who is dropped to chase frantically down the descent.

After an innocuous first 125km (four fourth category climbs, and one third category hill to pass), the race passes through Luchon and continues up onto the summit of the Col de Peyresourde. The climb is one of the most consistent in this year’s race, with maximum sections of 8% and an average just 0.5% lower. Its descent is a little on the technical side; Jan Ullrich crashed in the 2001 Tour de France after failing to navigate tight corner. Riders have been warned.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Cote de Saint-Pey, 42km (4th Category)
Cote de Sainte Qutterie, 46km (4th Category)
Cote de Mane, 91km (4th Category)
Col des Ares, 123.5km (3rd Category)
Col de Peyresourde, 166.5km (1st Category)
Col d’Aspin, 198km (1st Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Saint Suplice Sur Leze, 29.5km
Senouagnet, 111km

Perfect for: With Evans, Sastre, Valverde et al waiting for the next stage, this is an ideal stage for an attacking all-rounder, particularly someone that can ride competently downhill. the finish is close to the Basque country, so Euskatel riders will want to publicize their sponsor, and being close to Bastille Day, a Frenchman may decide to attack. Oh, and watch out for High Road’s Linus Gerdemann, who won a similar stage in 2007 to announce his arrival in the Tour.

Stage 10 (Monday July 14) Pau - Hautacam, 154km
Either the ASO or French Cycling Federation aren’t telling us something, as the chance of a French rider taking a stage win on Bastille Day looks rather remote. In recent years David Moncoutie and Laurent Jalabert have obliged, however the ride up to Hautacam (also the scene of this year’s Etape du Tour) looks destined to be the first fighting ground for any would-be race winner.

Before this, the riders have to pass to ever-epic, 17.5km long Col du Tourmalet, which is being used for the 48th time in the Tour de France. Interestingly, only one of these visits has been for a stage finish back in 1974, where Jean Pierre Danguillame took the honours. Being such a staple of the Tour, and also considering in 2007, the Col d’Aubisque was used as a finishing summit despite a lack of room for the Press and sponsors, may one suggest that the Tourmalet be used in a similar role in the 2010 Tour?

The climb to today’s finish was last used in 2000, when Javier Otxoa ignored the Armstrong-Pantani-Beloki-Ullrich battle further down the slopes to take a courageous victory. Since then, his courage has been even more impressive following an accident that killed his brother, Ricardo and paralyzed him.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Cote de Benejacq, 38.5km (3rd Category)
Loucrup, 67km (3rd Category)
Col du Tourmalet, 106km (Hors Category)
Hautacam, 156km (Hors Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Lamarque – Pontacq, 44km
Pouzac, 74.5km

Perfect for: Anyone who wants to make an impact on this first critical stage. Armstrong effectively clinched the 2000 Tour here - despite not winning the stage, he gained ten minutes on Otxoa from the bottom of the climb. While this gap won’t appear among the GC favourites, some overall favourites could lose vital time today, and won’t recover from this. Interestingly, until last year, whoever claimed the Yellow Jersey after the stage at Hautacam has won the Tour. Since Bjarne Riis’ confessions, this isn’t the case.

Tuesday July 15 - Rest day in Pau

Stage 11 (Wednesday July 16) Lannemezan - Foix, 166km
Another sign that Prudhomme has torn up Jean-Marie Leblanc’s rule book is stage eleven. With the riders slightly fresher having completed a rest day in Pau, this stage is not flat nor mountainous.

Set in the Valleys of many significant and challenging climbs, the one peak of note, the Col de Portel, comes too far from Foix to be the springboard for success. It may lead to a breakaway emerging, but with 57km to the finish, anything could happen. This stage, put simply, is a great opportunity for a lot of riders.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Col de Larrieu, 49.5km (3rd Category)
Col de Portel, 110km (1st Category)
Col Del Bouich, 145km (3rd Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Saint-Bertrand-De-Comminges, 19.5km
Prat-Bonrepaux, 69km

Perfect for: Anyone bar a sprinter and a GC favourite. Rolling roads, little flat and several places to attack should contribute to a lively stage. Expect to see a Slipstream-Chipotle rider in a leading group today.

Stage 12 (Thursday July 17) Lavelanet - Narbonne, 168km
With no major obstacles to overcome in the closing seventy kilometres, Stage Twelve could well be a rare chance for a Sprinter to claim a victory. Setting out from Lavelanet, the opening kilometres will wake any tired riders up.

Despite some slight elevation, however, this shouldn’t cause problems for any of the remaining riders. The difficult part of the stage comes just after the final sprint at Thezan-des-Corbieres; the route turns towards the Mediterranean Sea on its path into Narbonne, which increases the chance of some strong winds. Despite looking like a stage for the sprinters, any crosswind could through the stage wide open.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Col du Camperie, 57.5km (4th Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Saint Paul De Fenouillet, 76km
Thezan-Des-Corbieres, 142.5km

Perfect for: Rabobank to get their tactics right for Oscar Freire.

Stage 13 (Friday July 18) Narbonne - Nimes, 182km
Ahh, a ‘transitional stage’... just what we need before the Alps come lurking. Surrounded by Roman scenery, the route is less inspiring, although few of the riders will be complaining. Again, the parcours will suit a Sprinter but also a large breakaway. If a group goes early on, and the sun is beaming down on the ride, very few teams will want to chase. We’ve seen in previous years how decisive this could be (read 2006), yet I suspect whichever team has the Maillot Jaune will ensure that doesn’t happen again.

The closing thirty kilometres are some of the kindest in the whole race; it just depends who wants to take advantage of this.

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Cote de la Resclauze, 62km (4th Category)
Cote de Puechabon, 105.5km (4th Category)
Pic Saint-Loup, 126km (4th Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Saint-Bauzille-De-Montmel, 139.5km
Villeveille, 155.5km

Perfect for: Either a breakaway group or a sprinter, depending how determined the Peloton feels.

Stage 14 (Saturday July 19) Nimes - Digne les Bains, 182km
The ever-famous (!) Col de l’Orme, positioned just nine kilometres from the finish, is where the action will take place on Stage 14. The route takes us along the foothills of the looming Alps, which ensures the race today is rarely flat.

Digne was last used for the 2005 Tour, where Cofidis’ David Mouncoutie took the honours. Thirteen riders went away in a breakaway that day; both Thor Hushovd and Stuart O’Grady made the cut. Aware of their presence, Sandy Casar attacked to no avail, before Moncoutie made his decisive move. The lesson, of course, is that the first move rarely works, so just sit on until then!

 © Amaury Sport Organization 

Cote de Mane, 128.5km (4th Category)
Col de L’Orme, 185km (4th Category)

Intermediate Sprints
Saint-Remy-De-Provence, 37 km
Oraison, 145 km

Perfect for: Different ways of calling the stage. The final climb looks likely to be the decisive point of the race, yet by then someone could have ridden off into the distance. Conversely, the peloton may be together and a Sprint finish could be imminent. I give up on these predictions...

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