Tour de France - Stage 12 guide: Contenders, ready!

Thu, 14 Jul 05:17:00 2011

The overall contenders for the Tour de France title start their battle as the race enters the Pyrenees with the 12th stage, a 211-km trek from Cugnaux.

Tour de France - Stage 12 guide

Stage 12 – Thurs, 14 July – Cugnaux-Luz Ardiden – 211km

Type: High mountains

Difficulty: *****

Details: A straight-forward opening 120km will be brought to life with three high-category climbs – the new La Horquette d'Anzican climb (10km at 7.5 per cent), the legendary ascent of the Col du Tourmalet (17.1km at 7.3 per cent) and then the final slog to the summit finish at Luz Ardiden (13.3km at 7.4 per cent).

Watch out for: Spectators – this is just the kind of stage which encourages the mapcap fans to run alongside their idols, and who can forget the little boy's bag which caught the handlebars of Lance Armstrong's bike back in 2003?

Prediction: With all three gruelling climbs coming in the final 75km of the long 211km stage, there should be fireworks in this opening Pyrenean test. Anyone with serious aspirations for the Tour will have to have a good day today – failing that and the race could well be lost. Provided he's in the race and showing the same form that he produced in May's Giro d'Italia, Alberto Contador will be the man to beat, along with his big rival Andy Schleck. Out and out climbers could take the spoils, so don't discount Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez. Of course, it's also Bastille Day so expect a French climber such as AG2R's Jean-Christophe Péraud having a pop – but in vain.

History: The last time the Tour came to Luz Ardiden was in 2003 when Armstrong was floored by that spectator's bag strap. The scenes which followed were bizarre, with the American's rivals Jan Ullrich and Iban Mayo hesitating, then slowing to wait for Armstrong. High on the adrenaline, the then four-time Tour champion caught and passed his sporting colleagues on his way to winning the stage and setting up his record-equalling fifth title in Paris.

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