This stage preview is available in the following languages:

(We are looking for translations in ALL other languages. Please submit your translation with the stage no. and language in the subject title. If you don't see your preview posted within 12 hours then please resend your preview as an attachment if you didn't already do so because we've had problems with some inline character sets like German.)

Also follow steephill on Twitter for the latest race info and video updates.
July 13 post: Andy Schleck said on Monday's rest day that ‘The Tour begins in the Pyrenees’. I'm sure all the riders at home now nursing broken bones and other injuries wish they knew that because otherwise they wouldn't have shown up until Thursday's first mountain stage in the Pyrenees. Of course, what Andy was saying is that Thursday's mountain stage to Luz Ardiden is the first chance for the general classification favorites to make their mark on this race. Other than the odd quote, like the one above, we haven't heard much from Leopard-Trek, but their team is fully intact and they've managed their resources well in the first week. At the same time, they've quietly put three riders into the top 10.

Stage 12 is very similar to stage 17 from 1985, the first year the Tour finished at Luz Ardiden. Thursday's start host is Cugnaux just outside of Toulouse which is where the 1985 stage started and both stages are 210 km long ending with the double hors categorie combination of Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden (profile) and this year the cat 1 Hourquette d'Ancizan will precede these two climbs. (In 1985, Col d'Aspin was used). All three climbs average about the same grade (7.4%) over a cumulative 40 km of climbing (see details above) with Luz Ardiden being 13.3 km long. In 1985, this stage took almost 7 hours to complete and it had much drama.

1985 was the year Benard Hinault won his fifth and final Tour de France title, but if it wasn't for teammate Greg LeMond holding back on Luz Ardiden at the request of their team director, LeMond may have won his first Tour de France title that year. All the drama can be relived in the video clips below if you aren't familiar with the story.

2003 was the year Lance Armstrong while attacking on Luz Ardiden crashed suddenly after hooking his handlebars on a fan's bag. He would then gather himself and went on to win the stage and his fifth of seven consecutive titles. The race also did the the double hors categorie combination of Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden that year as well.

In total, the Tour has finished at the Luz Ardiden ski resort seven times since its first visit in 1985. This year, we can expect Alberto Contador to attempt to gain back some of the time he lost in the first week of the Tour due to the crash on the first stage and the TTT on stage 2. Frank Schleck and Andy Schleck may also use this stage to gain time on Cadel Evans which they need to do over the six mountain stages before the long TT on the next to last stage.

Often a break succeeds at Luz Ardiden so it's certainly possible a good climber well done on general classification like David Moncoutie (+17:06) could win this stage. He and other Frenchmen will have special impetus on this stage because it falls on Bastille Day and there will be huge crowds along the roads. — Steve

Col du Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden photo report: our most popular touring report to date —