Into the Alps, Italian style

Agnello and Prato Nevoso to climb

This stage was to have been a 216-kilometre epic from yesterday's finish town of Digne les Bains. Because of rock falls on the Col de Larche the start has been moved to the ancient town of Embrun, shortening the stage by 33 kilometres.

The stage starts climbing almost immediately up to the vertiginously high Colle d'Agnello at 2744 metres, which surprisingly is not the highest point of his year's Tour. It does mark a first for 2008 though, as the Tour has up until now been entirely contested in France and this is a border crossing into Italy.

The stage descends into the Italian province of Cuneo, part of the Piemonte region, crossing the rather sinister sounding third category Colle del Morte to an uphill finish at the ski resort of Prato Nevoso. The 11.4-kilometre ascent to the finish should provide a platform for the overall contenders to take time out of one another before the second rest day.

This is the first visit of the Tour to both towns, but Prato Nevoso has been a stage finish in the Giro d'Italia. The most recent occasion was in 2000, when Stefano Garzelli (then Mercatone Uno, now Acqua e Sapone) put pressure on race leader Francesco Casagrande (Vini Caldirola) with stage victory. Garzelli went on to take the pink jersey two days later in the mountain time trial to Sestrieres.

Route map from bikely.com

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