Back to the Mountains. This time, we're in the Pyrenees. Lance Armstrong is leading, and he is strongest in the mountains. There could be a problem for the Discovery Channel team with the loss of Manuel Beltran, a mountain specialist. Someone else on the team will have to step up and fill in for the great job he was doing setting pace early in mountain stages. Lance will also have to keep his eye on Michael Rassmussen. Rassmussen must make any move he's going to make in the next two days. He's not a good time-trialist. If Rassmussen wants to challenge Armstrong for yellow, he will have to try to do so this weekend.
Stage 14 - Agde to Ax-3-Domaines -- 220.5km
Course: This stage could be a killer. After riding for more than four hours on mostly hilly back roads under a (probably) burning sun, the riders face two of the toughest climbs in the Pyrénées: the 15km, 8-percent Port de Pailhères (that's finally been given an hors-catégorie rating) and the 9km, 7.3-percent climb to the Ax-3-Domaines summit finish.
History: The Pailhères-Ax-3-Domaines combo has been used only once before, in 2003, when it saw a dehydrated Armstrong almost cede his yellow jersey to Ullrich. CSC's Carlos Sastre took that stage.
Favorites: After a two-day "break," the main contenders will need to be at the top of their form to tackle the very difficult finale. Those out of contention will try to go with the early break, which could gain enough time for its best climbers to fight out the finish. Maybe the likes of Botero or Mayo will take the stage.
Links for following the race...