Stage 9: Toulouse - Bagnères de Bigorre
This is where the Tour really begins as the roads head upwards into the high passes of the Pyrenees. Leaving the city of Toulouse, the course heads south and east over a number of small hills, until it reaches Luchon where the climbing really starts. The two first category Cols de Peyresourde and Aspin are not the toughest climbs of the Tour, but both are tough enough to punish anyone who isn't on top form. The descent to the finish though, should mean that any gaps between the contenders will be small.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre features on the Tour route on a regular basis, sitting as it does at the foot of the infamous Col du Tourmalet, which the race tackles tomorrow, but has only been a start or finish town nine times before. Recently, the town has tended to feature as a start town, rather than a finish. The last time was that incredible day in 2003 when Lance Armstrong took stage victory at Luz-Ardiden. He stormed away to win alone after being brought down by a spectator's bag at the foot of the final climb, the incident leading to the "did Ullrich wait" debate that kept internet chat rooms buzzing for years afterwards.
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