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Tour de France 2009 Kicks off Tomorrow: Course Overview

By Heidi Swift - July 3rd, 2009

Expect Suspense: Course Overview

This year’s course covers 3445 kilometers, visits a total of six nations (Monaco, France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland, and Italy) and includes a team time trial for the first time since 2005.

Tour organizers have done their best to put together a course that will leave us on the edge of our seats until the final mountain stage on Saturday, July 25th. Instead of the usual prologue, things kick off with a full length TT (15.5k) that features almost 7 miles of climbing. The challenging first stage should begin to separate the men from the boys right off the bat.

Watch for Cavendish to come out swinging in the first week when the roads are relatively flat and his legs are fresh – Columbia-HTC will be eager to strike with early stage wins so that they can focus on supporting team leader and GC-contender Kim Kirchen as the tour hits the first of the mountain stages,

In Stage 7, the race heads into the Pyrenees mountains of Spain for three days where the race for the overall lead will begin to take shape. After returning to France, racers will enjoy a few more flat stages during week two before heading back into the mountains – the Alps this time - for a Stage 15 mountain-top finish in Verbier, followed by two more days of mountainous terrain.

The Alps will finish what the Pyrenees started.

For the first time in history, Tour organizers have left the final, decisive mountaintop finish until Stage 20, the penultimate day ahead of the finish in Paris. The infamous Mt Ventoux claimed British cyclist Tom Simpsons life in 1967 and is considered one of the most legendary climbs in the history of the Tour.

Nicknamed “The Bald Mountain” for its stark, desolate landscape at the summit, the climb covers 21.6 kilometers with an average grade of 7.6%. Expect serious fireworks as race leaders battle it out to maintain or improve their position in the overall standings and watch for those trailing behind to go for the hail mary.

2009 Race Quick Facts
Number of Stages: 21
Rest Days: 2
Nations visited: 6
Total distance covered: 3445k (2,150 miles)
Total number of climbs: 64
Highest point: 2473 meters (8133 feet)
Number of teams: 20
Number of riders starting: 180
Number of Spectators Expected: About 15 million
Number of TV Viewers: About 4 million
Average speed: 25mph
Start: Monaco
Finish: Paris

Stage Profiles:
10 flat stages
7 mountain stages
1 medium mountain stage
2 individual time-trial stages
1 team time-trial stage

Tour 101: Race Glossary
Individual Time Trial: In an individual time-trial (ITT), each rider races alone against the clock, without the benefit of drafting or the help of teammates.  Often called “the race of truth”, winning depends only on each rider's strength, endurance and determination. Starting times are at equal intervals, usually one or two minutes apart and the rider with the fastest time is declared the winner. Hint: this is where you’ll see the most technologically advanced (and most expensive) equipment during the tour – be sure to check out the amazing aerodynamic bicycles.

Team Time Trial: The team time trial (TTT) follows the same basic principle of the ITT (teams ride alone and the team with the fastest time wins) but requires each team to work closely together. Riders draft in an aerodynamic line, each member taking a turn at the front while teammates 'sit in' behind. After their turn, the lead rider will swing over, allowing the next rider to take the lead, while the leader goes to the back of the team. By rotating this way, the team is able to maximize recovery and speed, moving far faster than a single rider could on their own. The official team time is clocked when the 5th rider crosses the line.

GC:  Short for General Classification, “GC” refers to the competition for the overall leader of the tour. The leader of the GC wears the yellow jersey out on the road.

Getting ready to watch: Keep Track of Team Columbia-HTC
It can be hard to visually identify riders when they’re bunched together in the pack – use bib numbers to keep track of them while you watch.

71    CAVENDISH  Mark   
72    EISEL  Bernhard   
73    GREIPEL  Andre   
74    HINCAPIE  George   
75    KIRCHEN  Kim   
76    MARTIN  Tony   
77    MONFORT  Maxime   
78    RENSHAW  Mark   
79    ROGERS  Michael   
 



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