A crucial Pyrenean stage

Hautacam finish promises drama

More high mountains in this stage which, despite being just 156 kilometres in length, should prove to be one of the toughest of this year's Tour.

Despite a reasonably flat start, the stage finishes with the legendary ascents of the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam. This stage should see some real gaps appear between the overall contenders as the favourites for victory in Paris start to show themselves.

Outside Paris and Bordeaux, Pau is the most-visited town for the Tour de France, featuring on the course no less than 61 times before. The first time was in 1930 too, meaning that have only been ten Tours since then that haven't called in at Pau. Last year – as this – the city was host to a stage start and a rest day, but the last time a stage finished here, in 2006, Spain's Juan Manuel Mercado (Agritubel) bested Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) in a two-up sprint. The Frenchman was consoled though by taking the yellow jersey for a few days.

Hautacam, a ski resort nestled above the pilgrimage centre of Lourdes, has been a stage finish three times before. The most recent, and most famous occasion was in 2000, when the late Javier Otxoa (Kelme) took the biggest win of his career. All the headlines went to the rampaging Lance Armstrong though as he stormed away from his rivals in the rain, taking the yellow jersey that he would hold all the way to Paris for his second victory.

This stage route will be the one used on the Etape du Tour, which will be run over a week earlier on Sunday, July 6th.

Route map from bikely.com

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