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Lee's Blog No 3  

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The 99th Tour de France has been elaborated to include two long time  trials and 'only' three summit finishes, so this year's winner will have to be an even more complete rider than in previous years.

The first week of racing, starting in Belgium, will have plenty of  opportunity for the fast men to shine after the traditional prologue in  Liège. But stage three to Boulogne-sur-Mer will also carry some  challenging hills for opportunistic attackers to the liking of race  director Christian Prudhomme. A first test day for the climbers and GC  contenders will come on stage seven, when the Tour hits the medium  mountain range of the Vosges in Eastern France and its ski station La  Planche des Belles Filles at 1,148m of altitude.

This first summit finish comes after a 5.5km climb at an average  gradient of 9.5 percent, with some parts exceeding 15 percent - a short  but steep climb that should reveal the state of the favourites' legs.

After a tricky stage eight to Porrentruy, again perfect for  breakaways, the next decisive day will be stage nine's 41.5 km time trial  from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon, setting up the potential candidates for  the overall victory on a hilly parcours.

Stage 10 in the medium mountain range of Jura will feature the  difficult Col du Grand Colombier, located 40 kilometres from the finish. Then, the second of the three summit finishes will take the riders to La Toussuire - Les Sybelles on July 12 via the mythical Cols de la  Madeleine et de la Croix de Fer.

Coming down the Alps,  the bunch will cross Southern France via  another certain bunch sprint finish in the Mediterranean seaside resort  Cap d'Agde on Bastille Day before entering the Pyrenees. There, the Cols of Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde on stage 16 could shake  up the classification even one day before the third and final mountain  top finish in the ski station of Peyragudes on stage 17.

Moving up north again, the Grande Boucle will stage a second time  trial, this time covering 53km, in Chartres on the penultimate day.

This parcours should see even more fireworks from the climbers on the mountaintop finishes to gather a maximum advantage over the better time triallists on GC. A total of 25 climbs will count for Cat 2, Cat 1 or  HC points for the mountains classification. Again, Prudhomme has  elaborated a route which he hopes will "expand the riders' possibilities and give more importance to the medium mountain ranges."

There will be nine flat stages, four medium mountain stages  (including one summit finish), five mountain stages including two summit finishes (one on stage 11 in the Alpine La Toussuire, and one on stage  17 in Peyragudes in the Pyrenees), two individual time trials and one  prologue.