July 21, 2005
Course: Unlike the easy finish in 2003, up the Atlantic coast, this year’s Tour sees a series of difficult stages through the Massif Central. The last 60km of this stage includes a challenging Cat. 2 climb out of the Tarn Gorge, a Cat. 3 climb at 15km to go, a swift downhill into the Lot valley at Mende, and a severe 14-percent Cat. 2 climb in the final 1.5km.
History: In the only Tour stage finish at Mende, in 1995, Laurent Jalabert used the closing Croix-Neuve climb to drop his longtime breakaway companions and score a memorable Bastille Day stage victory.
Favorites: Depending on the state of the race for the yellow jersey, riders like Vinokourov, Landis or Valverde might make it into the day’s winning move. But look for a rider like David Moncoutié to be strong on the finishing climb. Also, the tough climb at Mende will sift out any of the weaker elements in the GC standings.