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Course: This stage could be a killer. After riding for morethan four hours on mostly hilly back roads under a (probably) burning sun,the riders face two of the toughest climbs in the Pyrénées:the 15km, 8-percent Port de Pailhères (that’s finally been givenan hors-catégorie rating) and the 9km, 7.3-percent climb to theAx-3-Domaines summit finish.
History: The Pailhères-Ax-3-Domaines combo has been usedonly once before, in 2003, when it saw a dehydrated Armstrong almost cedehis yellow jersey to Ullrich. CSC’s Carlos Sastre took that stage.
Favorites: After a two-day “break,” the main contenders willneed to be at the top of their form to tackle the very difficult finale.Those out of contention will try to go with the early break, which couldgain enough time for its best climbers to fight out the finish. Maybe thelikes of Botero or Mayo will take the stage.