Neil Stephens analyses the Tour

A veteran of seven Tours de France, Australian Neil Stephens has a very good idea of what it takes...

From Fromentine to Briançon...

A veteran of seven Tours de France, Australian Neil Stephens has a very good idea of what it takes to complete La Grande Boucle. Now employed as a Tour guide and professional cycling coordinator within the Australian Sports Commission, 'Stevo' provides Cyclingnews with his unique take on the 2005 race route, spiced with plenty of his own experiences of Tours gone by. The first part covers stages 1-11, while the second part will cover stages 12-21.

The Tour is the biggest annual sporting event in the world. Just look at the crowds on the mountain stages, especially Alpe d'Huez over the past two years where the number of spectators have been estimated as the largest ever to watch a sporting event live. I have been lucky enough to have participated in seven Tours as a rider, and now work for a travel company that organises trips to the Tour and most other major cycling events.

One of the great pleasures of my job is sitting in the bar at the hotel each night chatting with the clients and reviewing the day's stage and what might have been. I get lots of questions about what it is really like in the pro peloton. As we were going through the Tour route for 2005 and planning our trips, my mind began flooding back with memories of the days in the peloton. For once I decided I would put the words down on paper. For what they are worth here they are. I hope they give you a bit of an insight in the life of a pro and the buzz I still get when I think of the magnificent event.

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