July 9 Stage 8: Aigurande to Super-Besse, 189km (117.5 miles)
As it did in 2008, this year’s Tour will head into the hilly terrain of the Massif Central with an almost identical stage from Aigurande to a summit finish at Super-Besse. This is where Riccardo Riccò (later disqualified for doping) sprinted home ahead of Alejandro Valverde (who is suspended this year for another doping offense) and Cadel Evans. One difference is that the finale is preceded by a much harder climb, the Cat. 2 Col de la Croix St. Robert (6.2km at a 6.2-percent average grade), followed by 19km of winding back roads before the last climb begins in the town of Besse.
THE SCOOP: The climb to the finish is in two parts: a 2.5km haul out of Besse town at almost 7-percent grade and, after a downhill section, a 1.5km kicker to the line at almost 8 percent. It’ll suit a mixture or GC contenders and those seeking stage wins at hilltop finishes.
OVERALL RATING: ***