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July 17 post: The final week of the Tour begins the phase everyone has been waiting for with the first of four mountain stages in the French Pyrénées. Most of stage 14, the first of these stages, is actually a flat run to two Pyrénées climbs at the end of the day.

Starting from the stage 13 finish in Revel, the climbing starts out gradual at km 120 in quiet Axat, the east end of the route, before swinging west into the Ariège Pyrénées. The landscape is lush at this point as the peloton heads upstream through very narrow Gorges de St. Georges (). The climbing continues to get steeper until Usson-les-Bains where the hors catègorie Port de Pailhères really kicks in, averaging 8% for the next 15 km with some nasty sections.

Port de Pailhères is the second highest paved pass (2001m el) in the French Pyrénées and very steep from the east side () from which the peloton will ascend. Often shrouded in fog, we should see a select group go over the top before the long descent down to Ax-les-Thermes, the busy border town to Andorra.

The finishing climb to Ax-3-Domaines, the ski resort on the other side of the valley, is half as long as Port de Pailhères but slightly steeper (7.8 km of 8.2%). The Tour has finished at Ax-3-Domaines three times most recently in 2005. In 2003 Carlos Sastre won by over one minute having enough time to take a pacifier out of his pocket and putting it in his mouth () to dedicate the win to his two year-old daughter at the time. This is the second of three mountaintop finishes at this year's Tour, a chance, needless to say, for the pure climbers to reshuffle the general classification. — Steve

 Cycling Ariège Pyrénées: Ax-les-Thermes, Port de Pailhères,
  Four Part History of the Tour de France and the Pyrénéesversus
  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 14 in english and en français (01:48) —
  Bob Roll Previews Stage 14 (01:36) — versus

Stage 14 climbs
Km 155.5 - Port de Pailhères - 15.5 km of 7.9 % - Category HC
Km 183.0 - Ax-3-Domaines - 7.8 km of 8.2 % - Category 1

(Y! 2010 Edition)