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Le Tour 2010: All About the Pyrenees

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Le-tour-sm_mediumCycling writers everywhere are dissecting the Tour de France parcours, trying to pinpoint the exact moment Alberto Contador seals his victory (prologue? surviving the cobbles? etc.). I can't top the many efforts underway, but I will offer my approval for a unique Tour. Looking at the official stage by stage description, a few thoughts:

* The Stop-Contador movement is underway, with the inclusion of only one uphill Alps stage and two downhill finishes of the four Pyrenean events. I am not sure who they expect to take advantage of the descents (Evans? a Schleck?!?) but they will limit the Accountant's opportunities somewhat. Everyone will expect the defending champion to take off on the first Alpine stage to Avoriaz (a name I can't hear without thinking of LeMond), but even that stage isn't massive by any means.

* The heavy emphasis on the Pyrenees is highly unusual. You'd have to go back to 2001 just to find three tough Pyrenean stages in a single Tour. Until I hear it from someone else, I dunno when the last time was that they did four big events in the Pyrenees.

* Nice homage to the Col du Tourmalet, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a Tour de France feature next year. That and the Rotterdam start drove the general shape of the Tour. Oh, and there is no question, stage 17 will be far and away the most decisive of the climbs. Well, unless the riders decide otherwise, but I imagine they're all eyeing that last trip up the Tourmalet.

* A very, very late-developing race is pretty likely. This is a good year to do it though. When the race kicks off in the northeast or Germany or London, the Tour is often compelled to spend an early week wandering aimlessly around France, which makes for some pretty dull days. A Netherlands start, however, means the first week can stop by some of Cycling's most famous roads, which can get very tricky. Point being, if you're going to leave the GC til the bitter end, do it in a year when the first week will be good fun.

* And yes, Contador will be the focus of stages 2 and 3 -- namely, can he stay on his bike? I love stage 2, Brussels to the famous spa resort of, um, Spa. Yep, the original. Anyway, it's via some sections of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Stage 3 would be on the short list of my favorite Tour stages ever if they actually went through the Forest of Arenberg, but 13km of cobbles will give the Luxembourgers a chance to steal some time from Contador and a few others.

That's all I got. I am sure much more lies in the comments below, which I will greatly enjoy later this morning. Thanks for tuning in y'all.