Parc Municipal, Lodève
Flying Start: 11:21 a.m. on N.9, entry to Soumont.
Course: At 221km, this is the second longest stage of the Tour.
In a way, it is two separate stages: the 200km through the limestone foothills
of the Cévennes and across the wide valley of the Rhône to
Bedoin; and the climb up the mighty Mont Ventoux, rising 5300 feet in the
last 21km at an average grade of 7.6 percent. The so-called Giant of Provence
so dominates the view in this region, that the riders will be able to see
the mountain rising through the haze a couple of hours before they reach
it. The steepest part of the Ventoux, averaging 10 percent, comes between
16km and 6km from the summit.
History: Four road stages of the Tour have finished atop the
Ventoux. In 1965, Raymond Poulidor out-dueled Spanish climber Julio Jiménez;
in 1970, Eddy Merckx came in alone, 1:11 ahead of Vandenbossche; in 1972,
Thévenet won solo, 34 seconds ahead of Merckx; and in 2000, Pantani
crossed the line ahead of a benevolent Armstrong, 25 seconds clear of Beloki.
Favorites: Having given up this stage to Pantani two years ago,
Armstrong is unlikely to give any presents away this time. He would love
to add his name to the list of winners on this prestigious peak.