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Col du Tourmalet is a long 19 km slog which gets steeper (9-11%) for the final kms near the top. Pictured here is the spectacular west side which the riders will be climbing (photo: Steve Hill/ More photos/ride report)

July 17 update: This is a classic High Pyrenees stage featuring two HC climbs (Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet) then two category 1 climbs (Col d'Aspin, Col de Peyresourde). Collectively, these climbs are known as the "Circle of Death." It's expected to be hot (30C/85F) at the start in Pau and the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon, but the top of the cols should be much cooler.

Col d'Aubisque starts 34 km into the stage so it will be interesting to see who doesn't respond well to the first climb coming off of the second rest day. A break with non-GC riders should develop on this climb. On Col du Tourmalet, we should see some big attacks because the two final climbs aren't as difficult. Team Sky will attempt to ride a high, steady tempo to make it difficult for the GC riders to get away as they've done on the previous mountain stages. This will be the 48th time Col du Tourmalet has been used in Tour history and it's the highest point of this year's race.

The 197 km stage finishes with a descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon which has some technical sections where Vincenzo Nibali could gain some time.

This will be spectacular stage, hopefully the racing lives up to the course. See our ride reports below for more on Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque including there long history with the Tour de France. — Steve

Ride Report: Cycling The French High Pyrenees (Col du Tourmalet) - September 2005
Ride Report: Cycling Col du Soulor and Col d'Aubisque - September