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The Daily Race: Tour de France Stage 14

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Tour de France Podium Cafe

Stage 14: Revel — Ax-3-Domaines

What is it? Mountain stage!
Got Climbs? Mountain top finish. Port de Pailhères (HC), Ax 3 Domaines (Cat. 1)
Yellow Jersey Battle: Go time!
Ideal Rider: Andy Schleck. One of the few climbers able to match Alberto Contador at his best, Andy Schleck wants to win the Tour. Here is one place where he could.
@Gavia: Mmm, mountains. Now, the real Tour begins.

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The Climbs
Port de Pailhères
Ax-3-Domaines (Plateau de Bonascre)

This stage between Revel and Ax-3-Domaines is not the hardest mountain stage ever, but the back-to-back climbs near the finish should provide ample opportunity for the bigs to strut their stuff. We're getting down to the wire at this Tour de France. The Tour organizers have tried to make the Pyrénées the grande finale of this year's race. Have they succeeded? We'll find out soon enough.

This stage starts out deceptively easily with 100 kilometers of rolling terrain. All the climbing comes at the end, and there is no space for recovery between the hors catègorie Port de Pailhères and the category 1 Ax-3-Domaines. The climbs in the Pyrénées run steeper than the Alps, which tend to be long and relatively gradual. The Port de Pailhères climbs 15.5 kilometers at an average gradient of 7.9%. As is often the case, the average gradient deceives. The majority of the Pailhères climbs at 9%, and sections pitch up to 11% and 12%. There is nothing easy about this climb. The final ascent to Ax-3-Domaines is shorter at 7.8%, but it's also steeper with an average gradient of 8.2%. The majority of this final climb hangs in 10% range, with a brief section hitting nearly 12%. Into the domain of the climbers we go. There will be suffering. Who will wear Yellow in Paris? We should have a better idea after this romp in the high mountains.

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Riblon Scores Big Win as GC stalemates
Christophe Riblon of AG2R survived alone from a nine-man breakaway to win the 14th stage of the Tour de France, climbing well all the way to the finish at Ax-3-Domaines. Behind him the battle raged on for podium spots on the category-1 climb, though mostly it was shadowboxing ahead of bigger days, including Thursday's decisive event. Denis Menchov of Rabobank took a very strong second on the stage, showing great form and his historic knack for riding well in the Pyrenees, on both sides of the border with Spain. However, Sammy Sachez, currently third overall, matched Menchov's accelerations and held off the Russian for that hold on his spot. Read on...

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