Ok... Chris already posted a story on "The Highest Road in Europe" so forgive me if this story is late to the presses, Google Earth wet the bed on me and lost all the stages I'd loaded after 15 so this will be brief... climbs only. Fortunately there's only two of them... and fortunately, they are gruesome.
(Videos now up)
We start the pair of climbs in Vinadio, Italy and man it's ugly right away with a 12% gradient and a 16% gradient right out of the gates on the climb to the Col de la Lombarde.
(All images clickety-pop to about double size. If you're using FireFox, try clicking the scroll wheel on them to open them in a new tab)
The road spikes straight up into the alps... does not pass go... and the riders would gladly pay $200 for the right to go straight to Boardwalk.
These passes look Yosemite-ish in their stature. And this climb is nasty long too at 21.5km with a average gradient of 6.9%.
At the summit, the riders will cross from Italy back in to liberté, égalité and a helpful dose of fraternité for all those guys who aren't within 1 minute of the yellow jersey. The descent is 21k from 2351m at the summit of the Col de la Lombarde to 868m in Isola.
If you look closely, there is enough nastiness in the last 15k of this descent for someone to really open it up and possibly gain a bit of time. What they'd do with it is beyond me, because they're gonna need loads of time if they think they're escaping solo up the next beast.
The Cime de la Bonette-Restefond climb is a mere 30km from the feed zone in Isola and none of it is flat (thanks for crashing Google Earth). Here we pick up the route again at the official start of the climb in St. Etienne de Tinee. The route is so crazy, it's almost impossible to get good pics of it.
A constant climb up through the gorges between the summits of all the surrounding peaks.
Passing through the gorges gets you to Bousieyas where things get even crazier.
From the looks of it, that climb is awfully exposed, so unless they catch a break with good weather and warm sun, they're in for a nasty bit of riding up to that summit. The picture in Chris' post almost looks like a Cinder Cone to me. Again, you guessed it, max gradient right before the summit... in this case... 15%. Damn.
And now the descending begins; and it is a descent all the way to the finish... as in negative gradient all the way down... to... and past...the finish line. Somewhere in Italy, a falcon sits at home and licks his lips. Somewhere in France, a Spaniard better try something truly spectactular.
This descent looks about as technical as they come. It's unknown territory to me so even on my bike, I'd never go above 40-50mph the first few times down... I have the benefit though of being able to do it again, and again, and again in one day :)
Video of the Col de la Lombarde. YouTube doesn't seem to have the "high quality" link for this one though...
Video of the Cime de la Bonette-Restefond.