The key Alpine stage

Three big climbs with Alpe d'Huez finish

This is the stage that all climbers want to win. Those mythical 21 hairpin bends have become synonymous with the Tour de France and a year without the Alpe seems somehow to have something missing. 

This is a long stage that takes in the familiar – but no less brutal – Cols du Galibier and Croix de Fer, although as a change they are tackled in a different order from usual.

In all likelihood, the main contenders will sit behind their team-mates for as long as possible and look to make their move on the final steep climb to Alpe d'Huez. The non super-climbers high up in the overall – if there are any left at this stage – will be looking to hold on for as long as possible. For the sprinters however, this will be a day of pure suffering.

Route map from bikely.com

The small town of Embrun must think all of its Christmases have come at once as this is their second stage of the Tour this year (they have been awarded the start of stage 15 due to rock falls in the Alps forcing a course change.) Alpe d'Huez on the other hand has hosted the Tour 25 times since that first time in 1952 when Fausto Coppi won, this equates to almost every other year.

Last time the Tour finished here, in 2006, it saw the emergence of Fränk Schleck (CSC) as a future major force in Grand Tours as he dropped riders like former Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) on the way to victory.

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