With the Pyrenean stages over, the Tour now begins its journey across to the Alps. This stage features just one fourth category climb as it descends steadily towards the Mediterranean and so is a prime opportunity for the sprinters to reopen their accounts after a hard few days.
Lavelanet, situated in the heart of Cathar country with its hilltop castles, has hosted the start of a Tour stage once before: in 2002. That day saw a very similar course profile – although an entirely different route – and finished not far from today's Narbonne finish in the Herault department's capital Beziers. The stage was won by Scot David Millar (then Cofidis, now Slipstream-Chipotle) from a breakaway group that finished almost ten minutes ahead of the peloton.
Narbonne, with its 13th century Saint-Just cathedral, has been in existence since 118BC when the Romans settle there. The city has hosted the Tour seven times before, most recently in 2003 as it saw the start of the stage to Toulouse that was won by Juan Antonio Flecha. The last stage to finish here – or more accurately at Narbonne-Plage – was the second of five stages won by Belgian sprint legend Freddy Maertens in 1981.