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July 14 update: It's a shame that Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) crashed out earlier in the race because this is a stage that was designed for him. It features a few medium mountains in the latter half with a narrow descent to a flat finish in an area that borders the Spanish Pyrénées which traditionally brings out the fanatic orange Basque Country fans.
Stage 14 starts in Limoux and heads west through the Ariège Pyrénées and features two category 1 climbs near the finish before entering Foix through the backdoor. The first category 1, Port de Lers (11.4 km @ 7 %) has been used often by the Tour de France while the last one, Mur de Péguère (9.3 km @ 7.9 %) is being used for the first time. (It was suppose to be part of the 1973 Tour but the peloton refused to descend it. This year they will climb it.)
Mur de Péguère (profile) is very narrow (video), about the width of a golf cart path, and gets very steep, hitting a maximum grade of 18% (photo). This is where a rider like Vincenzo Nibali (3rd overall + 2:23) could make an attack. Race leader Bradley Wiggins prefers a steady climb so he could be put into a spot of bother here. From the top of Péguère, it's 39 km to go the finish featuring a technical descent and then one small slender circuit in Foix. Nibali is a worthy candidate to win this stage in the absence of Sammy Sanchez. It's hard to make up a lot of time on a descending finishing, but you can put your opponent under serious pressure and force a mistake (a missed corner or even a crash). If Nibali and Cadel Evans are feeling good they may even attack on Port de Lers because there two technical descents and a narrow climb in the following 40 km before a flat 15 km circuit in Foix.
Foix is an interesting city in a picturesque setting with a lot of history. It makes a great recreational cycling base camp for those that don't want to be too far removed from civilization. See our reports below for more on cycling this fantastic area. — Steve
Cycling Foix and Montségur — The castles of the heretics ride (part 1)