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July 15 post: This is going to be a fun stage. It's a hilly, twisting route through the old villages of the north Ardeche with an uphill finish outside Mende. So much for a respite after the difficult alpine stages. Mende is on the north edge of the Parc National Des Cévennes, a great unheralded cycling area. (Ride reports are in the backlog)

This is the first stage on our southwest journey to the Pyrénées where the serious GC battle will resume. The start for stage 12 is Bourge-de-Peage near yesterday's finish in the suburbs of Valence. The action will start right away with two cat 3 climbs before we head over the cat 2 Montivernoux which peaks at 1315m just before the halfway point of this 210 km stage. I've been on these roads. They are not steep, but are very twisty. Someday, a descent into Valence on these roads would make for an entertaining stage finish.

The second half of this stage continues over more curvy roads which aren't quite so hilly. That is until the finish where we'll be treated to a steep (9 to 11%) 3 km hill climb starting from Mende and ending with a 2 km plateau finish on Montée Laurent Jalabert to the south. This is the steepest climb of this year's Tour. Alberto Contador will know this finish well because he dropped his competitors on this climb in March on his way to winning the overall title at Paris-Nice.

The finishing climb used to be called Côte de Croix-Neuve but was renamed Montée Laurent Jalabert after Laurent Jalabert won a Tour de France Bastille Day stage on this climb in 1995. (Jalabert was born in Mazamet southwest of Mende.)

Tour de France 1995 : Laurent Jalabert à Mende:

This should be a classic stage that suits a guy like Damiano Cunego. Maybe he'll finally get the Tour de France stage win that has eluded him. — Steve

  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 12 in english and en français (1:28) —

(Y! 2010 Edition)