The moment is finally here: Tomorrow's prologue in Liège, Beligium, marks the start of the 101st Tour de France and the beginning of Lance Armstrong's battle to break records by becoming the first cyclist in history to win six successive Tours de France.

As the media fuss and flap over various doping scandals the Tour's riders will be doing their best to shut everything out besides this one race. Armstrong himself has acknowledged that this Tour will be his hardest yet and sees Jan Ullrich once again as his closest rival. Ullrich himself, winner in 1997, will be wanting to return to the top slot after five times as runner-up and he's shown good form so far in the season's racing. Also tipped for good performances in this year's Tour are Dauphiné Libéré winner, Iban Mayo, (EUS) and Armstrong's former team-mate Tyler Hamilton (Phonak).

This year's course runs anti-clockwise - the non-traditional direction perceived to be harder for the riders. It's a fantastic course with all kinds of climbs and challenges (see below) in its 20 stages. After last year's incredibly close finish and with so much at stake this year it promises to be a corker.

Here's a brief round-up of the race details and useful links for following the action. We'll also be looking at the highlights here on RCUK. Enjoy the next few weeks!

Race summary

Distance: 3,395 km

Direction: Anti-clockwise

Stages: 20 - includes 6 mountain stages, three mountain finishes, 11 flat stages and 3 time trials (one team TT). Check here for stage details

Climbing: 21 Category 1, Category 2 and highest level passes

Rest days: 2

New stop-over towns: Waterloo, Cambrai, Chartres, Lamballe, Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, Guéret and Annemasse.

Prize money: €3 million total, €400,000 for the winner


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