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Tour de France: The Course Flips Upside Down in 2009

Ok, Tour de France fans, the time has come. The official route map is out and Lance Armstrong wants back in on the action. With talk of the first week being the toughest ever and a summit finish on Mount Ventoux the day before the Paris finish, there is certainly plenty of speculation and drama. Add into the mix the former 7-time Tour de France champion wanting back in the race after retiring in 2006 and a longer than usual time trail opener in Monte Carlo and you’re guaranteed to have one hell of a show this summer.

This year will mark the 96th Tour de France and the 3435km route is sure to challenge the riders in new ways and delight cycling fans across the country as they watch the battle for the yellow jersey with the world’s top cyclists battling across France. The race kicks off July 4 and goes through July 26, with plenty of big hill climbs and fast time trails in between. This is also the first race since 1981 to start on the Cote d’Azur (the “Blue Coast”). The last time the race started along the Mediterranean in 1981, the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France, Bernard Hinault, claimed victory. Does this mean the French might have a chance at taking back their race this year, or will Armstrong once again trump his competition and end up wearing the yellow jersey at the end of the race?

96TH TOUR DE FRANCE, JULY 4-26, 2009

July 4: Stage 1, Monaco TT (15km)
Hilly time trial

July 5: Stage 2, Monaco—Brignoles (182km)
Hilly stage through Provence with flat finish

July 6: Stage 3, Marseille—La Grande Motte (196km)
Flat stage across the Camargue to flat finish on the Mediterranean coast

July 7: Stage 4, Montpellier TTT (38km)
Rolling, technical team time trial on city streets with short hills in wine country

July 8: Stage 5, Le Cap d’Agde—Perpignan (197km)
Flat to rolling stage with flat finish along the Mediterranean coast

July 9: Stage 6, Girona—Barcelona (Spain) (175km)
Hilly stage along the Costa Brava with an uphill finish in Montjuich Park

July 10: Stage 7, Barcelona—Arcalis (Andorra) (224km)
Mountain stage via Port d’Oliana with summit finish at Arcalis in the Pyrénées

July 11: Stage 8, Andorra-la-Vella—St. Girons (176km)
Mountain stage via Port d”Envalira, Col de Port and Col d’Agnès with flat finish

July 12: Stage 9, St. Gaudens—Tarbes (160km)
Mountain stage via Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet with flat finish

July 13: Rest day in Limoges

July 14: Stage 10, Limoges—Issoudun (193km)
Rolling to flat stage through French heartland with flat finish

July 15: Stage 11, Vatan—St. Fargeau (192km)
Rolling stage across Loire Valley with flat finish

July 16: Stage 12, Tonnerre—Vittel (200km)
Rolling stage through Burgundy and Champagne regions with flat finish

July 17: Stage 13, Vittel—Colmar (200km)
Mountain stage in Vosges via Col de la Schlucht, Col de Platzerwasel and Col du Firstplan

July 18: Stage 14, Colmar—Besançon (199km)
Rolling stage

July 19: Stage 15, Pontarlier—Verbier (Switzerland) (207km)
Mountain stage through Jura and Switzerland via Col des Mosses to summit finish at Verbier

July 20: Rest day

July 21: Stage 16, Martigny— Bourg St. Maurice (160km)
Mountain stage via Grand St. Bernard and Petit St. Bernard passes through Italy to flat finish

July 22: Stage 17, Bourg St. Maurice —Le Grand Bornand (169km)
Mountain stage via Cormet de Roselend, Col des Saisies, Côte d’Arèches, Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière to uphill finish after final descent

July 23: Stage 18, Annecy TT (40km)
Hilly time trial counterclockwise around Lake Annecy

July 24: Stage 19, Bourgoin-Jallieu—Aubenas (195km)
Rolling stage across Lyonnais region to flat finish on edge of Massif Central

July 25: Stage 20, Montélimar—Mont Ventoux (167km)
Rolling stage through alpine foothills with summit finish on Mont Ventoux

July 26: Stage 21, Montereau-Fault-Yonne—Paris (160km)
Flat stage to traditional circuit finish on Champs-Élysées

Total distance: 3.435km

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While I have watched the Tour de France whiz past me in the Alps, I do not claim to be any kind of cycling expert. In that vein, if you are interested in reading more about this year’s Tour de France route, you should check out the Steephill TV site for course info, player reactions to the course and more.