As we head into the final week of the 2015 Tour de France, the race hits the mountains of the Alps to finally decide who will stand on the top step in Paris on Sunday July 26.
The first foray into the Alps comes with a stage finish into Gap, one of the most popular locations in Tour de France history. Something of a transitional day, the upward sloping and lumpy 201km stage is followed immediately by a rest day.
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Out the back of the rest day, the race hits the Alps-proper with stage 17 finishing on Pra Loup; a climb famed for being where the dominance of Eddy Merckx finally crumbled away. This stage could also see a GC shake-up as riders react differently to the rest day, and those within reach of the podium set out to make their mark.
Stage 18 is another lumpy day, with five low category climbs in the first 85km, and the hors categorie ascent of the Col du Glandon finishing with just under 40km to the finish. As such, this could be the launch pad for a breakaway victory if a small group can crest the climb with a gap and draw out their advantage on the descent.
The following stage once again climbs the Col du Glandon on the way up to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer and finishes with a climb of La Toussuire. This summit is now famed for the internal jostling of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at the 2012 Tour de France.
Stage 20 was designed into the route to keep the race for yellow wide open until the procession into Paris on stage 21. The route was changed when landslides rendered the Galibier too dangerous, so another visit to the Col de la Croix de Fer sets up the race for the final climb of the Tour. However, by the time the GC contenders battle each other on the famous hairpins of Alpe d’Huez the race leader may already have an unassailable margin.