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June 12, 2005
Course: After a long transfer and rest day in Grenoble, therace heads into the Alps with the usual excitement and expectation swirlingthrough the peloton. With almost 100km of flat roads preceding the firstof two Cat. 1 climbs (the picturesque Cormetde-Roselend), there will beplenty of time to contemplate the task ahead, particularly the long (22km)haul to the 6561-foot summit finish at Courchevel.
History: Only two Tour stages have finished at Courchevel. In1997, Richard Virenque was “gifted” the win by race leader Ullrich at theend of a difficult day that saw Virenque’s Festina team attack on the firstof three monster climbs. And in 2000, the late Marco Pantani scored thelast major victory of his career with a solo attack to beat Spanish climbersJosé Maria Jimenez (also deceased) and Roberto Heras.
Favorites: Defending six-time champion Armstrong will want totake control at Courchevel, which could be more destructive than usualfor a first mountaintop Tour finish. The questions that will be answered:Are Armstrong and Ullrich ready for this early challenge? Or are they goingto have to fight to control Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Heras and the otherclimbers?