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Tour Stage 20 Preview: Montélimar - Mont Ventoux

Stage 20 :: Saturday July 25, 2009
167km :: Montélimar - Mont Ventoux

This is it, sports fans. The big one. If anyone has any shot at upsetting the classement général podium, this is their last shot to do it. 21.1km from Bédoin to the summit finish of Mont Ventoux. The penultimate stage of the 2009 Tour de France.

Alberto Contador looks all but bricked into the top spot, but the second and third steps mean quite a bit this year (not that the second and third places are shabby locations any year, right Cadel?), and the racing is far from over. Let's climb this thing and bring it on home to the Champs already guys!

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The race organizers have built a course that builds inexorably toward this grand finale on Mont Ventoux. The stage comes just one day before the traditional parade stage through Paris, and the massive climb should open up gaps in the general classification. Will it pop or will it fizzle? We’ll see soon enough.

Montélimar, which sits on the outskirts of Provence, last hosted the Tour de France in 2006 when it hosted both a finish and a départ. Jens Voigt won stage 13 from a lengthy breakaway, which in an unusual twist decided the general classification. Oscar Pereiro won the Yellow Jersey that day. Though Pereiro lost the race lead to Floyd Landis later in the Tour, Landis tested positive and Pereiro became the official winner of the 2006 Tour, making stage 13 the decisive stage of the race. The following day, Pierrick Fédrigo won the stage between Montélimar and Gap. The Frenchman out-sprinted Salvatore Commesso for the win.

The Tour de France visited Mont Ventoux for the first time during the 1951 Tour de France. That first stage did not finish on the climb, nicknamed the Géant de Provence, and the favorites passed over the summit close on time. At the finish in Avignon, Louis Bobet won the stage by 50 seconds ahead of Pierre Barbotin and 56 seconds over Gino Bartali. Hugo Koblet successfully defended his lead in the overall classification and wore the Yellow Jersey in Paris for his first and only Tour de France victory.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 20 Preview at

Passo di Gavia folks, PodiumCafe's own Rhymenocerous. The German Eurosport commentators are going off in the background calling stage 20 "Verdammt schwer". When the German whips out the "Verdammt", y'all best beware (not at all like Moreau pulling it out at will).

It's rolling at the front of the stage, with three Cat.3 climbs and a Cat.4 to get over on a course that seems to continually head uphill. If you're not on the descent from a Col, then you are climbing gradient, not much, but probably like riding into a naughty headwind. All day.

The climbs on tap are the Cat.3 Côte de Citell, 5.2km long with a gradient of 3.9%, followed 50km later by the 6.7km long Cat.3 Col d'Ey. 21km beyond is the Cat.4 Col de Fontaube: 4.7km long with a 4.2% gradient. 34.5km after that is the Cat.3 Col des Abeilles, lasting a mere 7.7km over 4%.

Then, through the town of Bédoin, it's time for the last climb of the Tour: Mont Ventoux. A classic. She is 21.1km long averaging 7.6%, rising a vertical distance of 1588m (5,209 feet!).

You can see in the climb profile below (and really, ASO? Was there a reason you couldn't put a couple more of these together?), that after a gradual 3%, 5.5%, 4.4% gradient over the first 6km of the climb, they hit 3km that range from 9.5 to 10.6%. I suspect that will be the first attack. Is Sastre totally cooked now? Is Armstrong? Is Franck?