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Tour Stage 7: The Race Starts Here

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The Tour reaches the Pyrenees.

Le Tour de France 2015 - Stage Eleven Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Stage 7: L'Isle-Jourdain - Lac de Payolle, 162.5 km

Yep, that's a mountain.

What's It About?

Finally getting us to the Pyrenees. The stage starts in L'Isle Jourdain, which contains the European Museum of Bell Art, which is nice, and goes over the Col d'Aspin, used since 1910 in the Tour, and since then it has been crossed seventy-one times. The stage finishes at Lac de Payolle, an artificial lake.

AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings

Each stage we bring you suggestions regarding the local fare from AmyBC. Check out her blog Winebookgirl for more.

Wine: Laballe Le Chardonnay des Landes 2014

Again, from Franklywines.

Wine Enthusiast tells me that: This is billed as the only Chardonnay planted in the coastal Landes region (not a difficult claim). It is soft, ripe and easygoing in character with a hint of citrus and acidity. Drink now.

Food: Vallee d'Aspe Ossau-Iraty

One of only two sheep's milk cheeses granted AOC status in France. Made in the French Pyrénées, this cheese is mild, creamy and slightly salty. The

From a producer known for their Armagnac.

Course Features

Well, there's one that immediately springs to mind.

That's the Col d'Aspin, the first category one climb of the Tour. While it's seen as one of the easier Pyrenean climbs, the final kilometres of it are hard enough to cause plenty of damage. However, while this is a mountain stage, it is sort of easing the peloton into things — the Aspin is the only climb of the day.

The descent will be another factor, even more so considering that a thunderstorm is forecast for the region tomorrow. This will suit the better descenders.

Finally, consider the slight kick up to the line, which will mean an uphill sprint if a few guys get to the finish together.

Riders to Watch

Well, first we have to watch out for the yellow jersey, Greg Van Avermaet. How willing will BMC be to look after his lead, considering that they have GC contenders of their own? I don't expect him to lose five minutes to the GC favourites on this stage, but will BMC chase a breakaway down?

Perhaps not. Who could be in that breakaway? Well, consider Jarlinson Pantano, Emanuel Buchmann, Ilnur Zakarin, Ruí Costa and Lawson Craddock. Pantano and Costa were on it at the Tour de Suisse, and Costa does well in the rain. All of them have lost a lot of time earlier in the race.

Back in the peloton, will Movistar be tempted to work? They have Quintana to work for, and this stage is perfect for Alejandro Valverde. He can get over the Aspin, and win the uphill sprint over anyone who will make it to the finish with him. Dan Martin could challenge him, and I would expect him to finish highly, but the 4% slopes on a tough day are really Valverde's area.

Chris Froome could also be expected to give this one a go, he likes to try to demoralise his rivals on the first mountain stage, and has done so in each of his Tour victories. With the rain though, and the less challenging climb, I don't expect him to, perhaps he will wait until Arcalis on Sunday.

Also look out for Alberto Contador, though for very different reasons. If he couldn't withstand an attack on the Côte de Font de Cère, he won't be able to withstand one here. I expect to see him get dropped with 5 kilometres left of the Aspin. The debate has been raging all day about whether Kreuziger should have waited for him when he was dropped on Wednesday, and he was apparently discliplined for not doing so, but if Contador is dropped that early, will Kreuziger really wait for him?

Finally, I'm looking to the French. I don't expect Julian Alaphilippe to finish in the front group, but Pierre Rolland and Romain Bardet might be good for this stage. Rolland looked good on Wednesday, and Bardet is capable of descending like a demon.

Pick to Win

I'm going to say Bardet. Good climber, great descender, and this is a great place for him to kick off his GC challenge.