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'Savage' mountain stages for Tour

Cobblestones, winds and seven mountain stages mark the 2010 Tour de France which climbs the 2115m Col du Tourmalet twice

MOUNTAINS dominate the 2010 Tour de France with a total of seven mountain stages including two ascents of the iconic 2115m Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenées.

The number of climbs will suit this year’s winner, Spaniard Alberto Contador, especially as the final summit is the Col du Tourmalet three days before the race ends in Paris.

Starting from Rotterdam on July 3, the route heads across the wind-blasted dams on Holland’s North Sea coast to Brussels and then four sections of narrow cobbled roads towards Spa.

The Tour misses out the whole of the north-west of France and over the next days heads to: Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, Reims, Montargis, Gueugnon, Station des Rousses, Morzine-Avoriaz, St-Jean-de-Maurienne, Gap, Bourg-lès-Valence, Mende, Revel, Ax-3 Domaines, Bagnères-de-Luchon, Pau, Col du Tourmalet, Bordeaux, Pauillac and finishing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 25.

It covers a total distance of 3,600km, with only one individual time-trial – of 59km.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish was at the launch and the winner of six 2009 stages said he thought it would be “hard, really hard, harder than this year. The mountain stages are savage.” But he added: “I counted five sprint stages I could win and maybe eight.”

Seven times winner Lance Armstrong was sitting alongside Cavendish at the launch and admitted he was disappointed at the lack of a team time trial: "I think it will be much more open than last year because the team time trial really eliminated some people last year and you won't have that again.

"Whereas this year you had three or four guys who could win the Tour, this year you'll go into the tough sections with 10 guys.

"I think the first week is potentially complicating for guys, with the wind and the mix of the Ardennes and also the cobblestones," Armstrong said. "It's a very untraditional start to a Tour. It's going to be a hard Tour."

Deadly rival Contador will have plenty chance to show his climbing skills – especially on the two ascents of the Col du Tourmalet. The double honour for the stage is to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tour's first visit to the Pyrenées and it will be a killer finishing point as the Tour nears its end.

The 19km climb is at an average gradient of 7.4% and the first to reach the summit in 1910, Octave Lapize, bawled at the organisers "Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins," “You are assassins. Yes, assassins.”

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