BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE, France — Every Tour de France seemingly has a stage that doesn't necessary appear via its profile like the most difficult, but nonetheless the stage riders discuss the most.
The designation this year is stage 17 on Wednesday, a 169-kilometer (105-mile) journey that starts from the village that combined with Les Arcs is part of the huge ski resort. It ends in another major winter sports resort, Le Grand-Bornard.
The course won't feature a beyond category climb and likewise there are few flat stretches. Instead, the field will negotiate a roller-coaster route that will include one category 2 climb and four category 1 efforts spaced throughout the day.
The climbs in order:
18km, Comet de Roselend, category 1 (elevation: 1,968 meters), 18.1 km, 6.1 percent grade;
56km, Col des Saisses, category 1 (elevation, 1,650 meters)
111.5km, Cote d'Araches, category 2 (elevation, 964 meters)
140.5km, Col de Romme, category 1 (elevation, 1,297 meters), 8.8 kilometers, 8.9 percent grade.
154.5km, Col de la Colombiere, category 1 (1,68 meters), 7.5km at 8.5 percent grade.
It's the kind of stage in which climbers in contention for the overall title could make attacks. The Tour has only had two lead pack attacks to date, both by Alberto Contador (Astana), the race leader.
If any of the riders are still interested in winning or gaining a podium position, this the first of only three stages during which they can make a difference. The others are the stage 18 time trial in Annecy and the stage 20 ascent to Mt. Ventoux.
The starting and finishing cities in stage 17 have brief, notable Tour de France history. Evgeni Berzin of Russia won a 30.5-kilometer individual from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Val d'Isere in 1996 just after assuming the race lead.
Lance Armstrong, en route to surprisingly winning the Tour de France for the first time in 1999 after his battle with cancer, won his second straight stage, a trek from Le Grand-Bornard to Sestrieres. Armstrong also claimed a 2004 road stage from Bourg-d-Osians to Le Grand-Bornard.
James Raia is reporting live from the Tour de France for everymantri.com. James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online publications. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike -- to nearby coffeehouses.
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