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97th Tour de France - Parcours Preview Week 2
By Giles Belbin
Date: 7/8/2010
97th Tour de France - Parcours Preview Week 2

Courtesy Tour de France

Week One of the Tour is history. A week that featured a wet prologue and paid respects to the great Eddy Merckx is done and dusted. The short, steep ascents of Belgium of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the pavé of Paris-Roubaix that defined week one are but a distant memory as the peloton heads further south and into a difficult second week. The Alps feature in the early part of the week before the peloton traverse the Massif Central en route to the Pyrenees that will dominate the third week of racing. Welcome to the Daily Peloton's guide to the second week of the 97th Tour de France.

Route Map

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

Stage 8; Sunday 11th July; Station des Rousses - Morzine-Avoriaz; 189km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

The Tour's second week starts where week one ended, in the Jura mountains and the ski resort of Station des Rousses. Today's stage will take the riders from the middle mountains of the Jura and into the high passes of the Alps. The stage starts steadily enough with a rolling descent from the 1,089m high ski resort down to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine. It's a lumpy descent with some short, sharp climbs along the way, but nothing categorised apart from the early Cote de la Petite Joux, Cat 4 and 2.3km at 4.3%.

The fun really starts when the race reaches Viuz-en-Sallaz, after 129km of racing. After a brief descent the road rears up as the peloton greet the first Cat 1 climb of the tour - the 1,619m Col de Ramaz. After an initial kilometre averaging 6.9%, the Ramaz softens slightly, with the next 5kms under 6%. There follows a brief descent before the road kicks up and the hard work really begins. The middle 4kms all average close to or over 8% and whilst that flattens further up the climb the Col has a nasty sting in the tail with a final kilometre at 8.8%. Once over the top they descend the Ramaz, then face a stiff Cat 3 kick up to Les Gets before the final climb to Morzine-Avoriaz.

The final climb to Morzine-Avoriaz starts gently enough, before ramping up to 7% at kilometre 4. The next nine kilometres hover around 7% before a final 600m at 4.5%. It is by no means the toughest climb the peloton will face in the this race but it presents the first real opportunity for the mountain specialists among the GC contenders to flex their climbing muscles and start their assault on the GC. With a rest day to come tomorrow today could be a good time to put in a serious effort to try to distance some rivals.

Stage 9; Tuesday 13th July; Morzine-Avoriaz - St Jean de Maurienne; 204.5km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

After a rest day spent kicking around the ski resort of Morzine it's back to business with another tough day in the mountains. Today features no less than four climbs ranked Cat 2 or higher in 204.5km of racing. After the descent fom Morzine-Avoriaz there is a Cat 4 leg warmer before the peloton hit the Cat 1 Col de la Columbiere after just 25km of riding. They climb the Columbiere from the north side and it is a tough ascent, long at 16.5km and steep, with an average gradient of 6.7%, including some 9kms at over 7.5%. After descending the Columbiere the riders must climb the Cat 2 Aravis (7.6km at 5.9%) and the Cat 1 Saisies (14.4km at 5.1%), before they hit the majestic Col de la Madeleine.

The Col de la Madeleine was last used in 2005 in the stage from Courchevel to Briancon when it acted as the appetiser to the Telegraphe and the Galibier. This year it is the main event as it is a the last climb of the stage. Ranked Hors Category, the climb is 25km long, averaging 6.2%. That includes a short descent between kilometres 10 and 13 meaning the average understates slightly the difficulty of the climb. The Madeleine has over 5kms at over 9% and 10kms at between 6% and 9% making it a tricky proposition. After cresting the 2,000m high pass, the riders face a steep and technical descent before a flat run in to St Jean de Maurienne.

Stage 10; Wednesday 14th July; Chambery - Gap; 179km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

On paper an easier day than yesterday and one for the attackers rather than the pure climbers but the Cote de Laffrey comes just 70km into the stage, and it is a nasty climb. At just 7km it is short for a Cat 1 climb but what it lacks in distance it more than makes up for in gradient averaging 9% but featuring stretches of up to 18%. It comes too early in the stage for the climbers to use it as a springboard as it is followed by over 50kms of rolling flat before the peloton hit the lower slopes of the cat 2 Col du Noyer (7.4km at 5.3%). After the Noyer there is a descent down to La Fare en Champsaur before an uncategorised final kick up to Saint Laurent Du Cros and a descent into Gap.

Stage 11; Thursday 15th July; Sisteron - Bourg-les-Valence; 184.5km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

Stage 11 takes the riders out of the foothills of the Alps. After the travails of the previous three stages this is a relatively straightforward affair. Relatively short at 184.5km and with just one categorised climb on the route - the Cat 3 Col de Cabre (5km at 5.9%) - followed by a long gradual descent to the finish it should be as close to a day off for the GC contenders as Tour days come. After suffering from vertigo in the Alps, the sprinter's fast twitch muscles will be quivering big time in anticipation of a bunch sprint to the line.

Stage 12; Friday 16th July; Bourg-de-Peage - Mende; 210.5km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

A difficult looking stage through the southern reaches of the Massif Central that could prove to be quite nasty. Five categorised climbs lie in wait on the road to Mende including the brutal La Montee Laurent-Jalabert.

First up is the Cote de Sain-Barthelemy-le Plein, a long Cat 3 cliomb at 10.7km and 3.1% before the 671m Col des Nonieres (5.7km at 3.8%). As soon as the riders come off the Nonieres they are climbing again with a long 13.7km drag up to the Cat 2 Suc de Montivernoux. There follows a lumpy 100km before a sharp descent down to Badaroux and the Montee Laurent-Jalabert.

La Montee Laurent-Jalabert may only be a Cat 2 climb, but that is purely down to the fact that it is just 3kms long. It is brutally steep, averaging over 10%. Alberto Contador has won here twice, including in March's Paris-Nice, and he will be a strong favourite to take some time here today in what should be a fascinating climax to the stage.

Stage 13; Saturday 17th July; Rodez - Revel; 196km

Graphic © 2010 Tour de France

Stage 13 is a lumpy affair from Rodez to Revel that culminates with a short cat 3 ascent of the Cote de Saint Ferreol (1.9km at 6%). There are five climbs on the route but normally you would put this one down as a day for the sprint trains to be gearing up but that final cat 3 climb comes just 7.5kms from the end and so could put a spanner in the works. That said Cavendish won in Aubenas last year on a stage that featured a Cat 2 climb in the last 20kms so it is more than a possibility that we will see the bunch sprint for the line.

And that's it, week two of the 2010 done. Looming large on the horizon is the third and final week and four days in the Pyrenees. Be sure to check back soon for the final part of the Daily Peloton's preview to the parcours of the 97th Tour de France and that all-important final week.

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