After Sunday’s drama where Rasmussen claimed an impressive solo victory, the Tour heads into the Alps proper and this is where a race can be won or lost, where heroes are made and sprinters struggle.
Stage 10– Tuesday 12 July
After a rest day most some riders might be eyeing up the possibility of a solo break away to claim glory for themselves and their team. The stage begins in Grenoble at 220m and builds up gradually into a category one climb, the Cormet de Roseland at 1,967m. It’s about 20km at a gradient of 6%. Expect to see some attacks here, though with Armstrong over two minutes down on current leader Voigt, expect to see the Discovery team attempting to neutralise any attacks and keep the tempo high. The stage finishes in Courchevel after 192.5km, with a climb to the 2000m high finish – another category one climb of 20k and 6%.
Stage 11 – Wednesday 13 July
From Courchevel this stage will be a struggle for yesterday’s attackers or those just trying to hang onto the pelaton. The 173km stage includes two HC climbs of 2000m and 2645m. HC is designated to a climb that is beyond categorisation; basically it’s the worst type of climb that you’ll probably want to avoid. On the way to the final HC summit of Col du Galibier, there’s a category one climb to contest with. The three climbs all share gradients of about 7% for between 12 and 25km distance. Ouch!
Stage 12 – Thursday 14 July
The third mountain stage doesn’t immediately look that tough compared to what the riders have just been through, but the continuously up and down nature will still be hard on tired legs. From Briancon to Digne-les-bains there are five category climbs. The hardest is probably the last category two over Col du Corobin – 12.4km at 4.5%.
Stage 13 – Friday 15 July
This is pretty much a rest day for the riders from Miramas to Montpellier. The only climb is a category four near the beginning. This would be a good stage for a lone breakaway.
Stage 14 – Saturday 16 July
170km of mostly flat riding gets the riders warmed up for the HC climb over the 2000m summit of Port de Pailheres, 15k at 8%. This is one of the bigger stages on the tour at 220km. Before reaching Ax-3-Domaines a 20km descent leads straight into the final kick, a category one leading into the finish.
Stage 15 – Sunday 17 July
From Lezat-Sur-Leze to St-Lary-Soulan this stages looks quite tricky on the map. Four category one climbs over Col de Mente, Col du Portillon, Col de Peyresourde and Col de Val-Louron Azet. The sting in the tail though is the final HC climb to the finish. Another long day in the sadly for the riders at 205.5k, makes it two hard days back to back. The race could be over by here but don’t rule at any last minute attacks.
Stage 16 – Tuesday 19 July
After a rest day the riders head into the final mountain stage, and the last possible chance that someone could truly upset the outcome of Armstrong’s final tour. Over the category one Col de Marie-Blanque (9.3km at 7.7%) and then over the HC Col d’ Aubisque (16.5km at 7%), the riders should be feeling a bit weary. It’s probably safe to say that once this stage is over we’ll know whether Armstrong can make it seven in a row as the race heads back to Paris.