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The experts preview the Tour de France for Cyclingnews

The 2011 Tour de France will mark the 100th anniversary of the Galibier's first Tour appearance

The 2011 Tour de France will mark the 100th anniversary of the Galibier's first Tour appearance (Image credit: AFP Photo)

As the Tour de France celebrates its centenary of visiting the Alps, the 98th edition of the Grand Tour will cover 3,430.5 kilometres and Cyclingnews has had a host of experts run their eyes over each and every stage.

HTC-Highroad's road captain for the 2011 Tour de France, Bernhard Eisel will be in the thick of the action in the peloton and takes a typically humorous approach to the opening stage on the Passage du Gois.

"Everybody will say 'I've never seen so many crashes' but of course we have – every year during the first week at the Tour."

While not in the driver's seat at this year's Tour, Australia's Professional Men's Road Coordinator, Matt White has looked over all 21 stages and has offered tactical insights and predictions along the way.

Stage six from Dinan to Lisieux, the Tour's longest stage, has many suggesting it's Philippe Gilbert's (Omega Pharma-Lotto) for the taking but White believes the Belgian will find some resistance in Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad).

Polish climbing ace Sylwester Szmyd will be at the services of Ivan Basso for Liquigas-Cannondale, and points to Bastille Day, stage 12, as a key day in the battle for overall honours but perhaps not quite the day for the French.

"Bastille Day, so French riders will be putting on a show for the sponsors," he explained. "It's too big a day and I'm not sure if any are good enough to win. By the end of it, we'll have a clear idea of the top contenders and we'll definitely know who can't win the Tour."

Stage 14 from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille could prove pivotal in deciding who wears the yellow jersey on the podium in Paris. Sky Procycling Directeur Sportif Sean Yates believes that this is one stage where defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) could find himself under the pump.

"His [Contador's] team won't be the strongest, so he'll be under major pressure on a day like today if Leopard go on the attack early," he said.

Vin Denson rode the Tour de France during the 1960's and while the big favourites won't be showing their hand too early, the Englishman believes that the race can be lost as the race heads into Italy on stage 17.

"Sestriere is a real hard drag up and it will set up the last climb, the Pra Martino," he said. "It's only 7km but they will be hell for leather and I think you'll see gaps of up to two minutes."

There are plenty more discerning views to be had regarding the 98th Tour de France – you can read them all here.