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July 11 post: Stage 11 starts in Blaye-les-Mines where, as the name suggests and like yesterday's finish in nearby Carmaux, is an old mining town. Just 3,000 people live there now so the Tour visit should be a real boost to this tradition community.

The course is shaped like a 'S' passing through the rolling, farmland hills of the Tarn department just northeast of Toulouse and includes two minor categorized along the way. The course profile ending with a straight, wide flat finish in Lavaur shapes up well for a mass sprint. However, 10 years ago, the last time the Tour finished in Laveur, a break succeeded won by Belgian rouleur Rik Verbrugghe.

As race director Jean-François Pescheux points out, "after this stage the sprinters will not have a lot of chances left to show off their skills. They will have just two stages left on which to shine: in Montpellier and then in Paris with the finish on the Champs-Élysées." — Steve