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July 4, 2005
Course: Most of this fairly long stage (212.5km) takes the back roads of the Vendée region before heading northeast to the Loire Valley. The race passes some of the region’s famed châteaux, including the 11th century Chinon and 16th century Azay-le-Rideau. The final 30km are full of twists and turns until reaching the 3km-long Avenue de Grammont, which hosts the finish of theParis-Tours classic every fall.
History: Despite its permanent place in classics history, the town of Tours has seen only six Tour stage finishes. The last was in 2000, when Dutchman Leon Van Bon brought home a small breakaway group and Italian Alberto Elli took over the yellow jersey from Jalabert.
Favorites: The first climbs of the race (three Cat 4s) and three bonus sprints will liven up the racing. But what is sure to be a near-record pace (50 kph?) will result in a sprint finish, fought out by all of the men in the hunt for the Tour’s points jersey,since after Saturday’s time trial, none of the sprinters will have a chance to wear yellow this week.