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This is very much a transitional stage after two days in the hills of the Massif Central; the Tour...
This is very much a transitional stage after two days in the hills of the Massif Central; the Tour now heads south towards the high mountains of the Pyrenees. The stage has two distinct halves: the first half features four climbs – two third and two fourth category – while the second is mostly flat as the roads descend into the lowlands of the Midi. There are two unclassified bumps in the final 25 kilometres, but not enough to stop the sprinters getting their trains organised in this, their last chance before the roads get really steep.
Figeac has featured in the Tour twice before, most recently when locally raised Cofidis star David Moncoutié won a solo breakaway victory. The town's big claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jean-François Champollion, the man credited with being the first man to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.
As the fourth biggest city in France, Toulouse is a regular host to the Tour, having been a stage town 25 times before. It was one of the original start and finish towns of the original 1903 race where the great Frenchman Hippolyte Aucouturier won his second stage in a row over an incredible 423 kilometres from Marseille. Arcouturier held the race lead (there was no yellow jersey yet!) for those two stages, but lost it on the next leg north to Bordeaux.
The most recent visit in 2004 saw Spanish classics specialist Juan Antonio Flecha (then riding for iBanesto.com, but now at Rabobank) escape his breakaway companions to win alone.