The ‘queen’ stage of the race comes with three climbs, each getting notably tougher.
The Marie- Blanque isn’t high but its last 4km average 10 per cent. The Soulor is longer, higher and tackled from its toughest side. Then to the Tourmalet, the highest climb of this year’s race. It’s debatable whether this side is the tougher of the two ascents, but there’s no doubt it’s tough enough to make a real difference. Steepest in the town of Barèges and then towards the summit, the Tourmalet offers little respite to what will be very Tour-weary legs.
Procycling’s favourite to win:
Alberto Contador has said that, compared to last year, the mountains offer more opportunities for longer attacks that will allow the best climbers to gain more time. The Spaniard is sure to have been thinking about today’s stage in particular. If he repeats his climbing form of the early part of this season, Andy Schleck may be the only rider able to stay with him, and even then the Luxembourger may have to yield before the summit unless he has his very best legs on. The greatest likelihood is that Contador will take a big stride towards his third Tour title on the Tourmalet.