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Of Bergs and Cotes...

[ed] This is the companion to my Breton post earlier about how the Tour parcours is actually kind of cool. Basically, this is a Giro percorso vs. Tour parcours series. Which ends in about 15 more column inches.]

To hear them tell it, the Tour's entire fight with the ASO is over ensuring a dope-free peloton (and otherwise seizing total control, but that's for later). The idea is that a dope-free race will be one where riders have a little more trouble staying together on the climbs. So to make for a fun race to watch, the Tour has thrown in a pretty huge number of climbs:

  • Stage 1: four minor climbs (all Cat-4); uphill near finish
  • Stage 2: four climbs, including Cat-3 Mûr-de-Bretagne; uphill near finish.
  • Stage 6: Massif Central: 4 rated climbs, two Cat-2 climbs including closing 11km Super-Besse.
  • Stage 7: five climbs, including Cat-2 Col d'Entremont and Pas du Peyrol; last climb 9km from finish.
  • Stage 8: Four more minor climbs (3s and 4s); downhill run-in.
  • Stage 9: Pyrenean stage including Peyresourde and Col d'Aspin, both cat-1, and five other rated climbs.
  • Stage 10: Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam, hors categoire climbs, plus two minor ones.
  • Stage 11: Cat-1 Col de Portel, two others.
  • Stage 12: back over the Portel, one other climb
  • Stage 13: three minor climbs
  • Stage 14: approaching the alps, two cat-4 climbs
  • Stage 15: Into the Alps... hors categoire Col Agnel, cat-1 Prato Nevoso finishing climb
  • Stage 16: two more hors categoire climbs: Col de la Lombarde, Cime de la Bonette-Restefonde
  • Stage 17: All hors categoire, all day: Galibier-Croix de Fer-Alpe d'Huez
  • Stage 18: Cat-2 Croix de Montvieux, three others
  • Stage 19: two final rated climbs (and assorted undulations)

This isn't exactly a huge upgrade over last year, where stages with 4-5 small rated climbs still ended in sprints. But the inclusion of the Massif Central will add an element often missing in the Tour, and lifted straight from the Giro: stages where the Classics-type climbers can score handfuls of precious seconds on the more standard contenders. Remember, Danilo DiLuca won the 2007 Giro by maximizing his gains in stages like these. Now you have the Valverdes and Cunegos, both of whom thrive on the shorter climbs and will be presented with some interesting choices about how much effort to invest in the first week... given their likely status as among -- but not atop -- the list of favorites. Then you have two opening stages which aren't killers but still include some late climbing; alla Bettini as they're known in Italy. Will anyone get tempted out here? Probably not a true GC favorite, but an enterprising lad who feels like sporting yellow for a few days... and there will be dozens of guys in that category.

Anyway, for once there seems to be more going on at this Tour than the interminable Green Jersey battle that, once we have reached the point where we can't take it any more, suddenly gives way to the overall battle. Now, you'll have scores of KOM points, intriguing stage battles, and maybe even some French teams getting involved. Like I said in the earlier post: this course, while maybe not as spectacular as the Giro parcours, is designed for three weeks of good, clean fun.