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What to look for in the 2010 Tour de France: Lance Armstrong, 'clean' squads, and cobblestones

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Eric Gaillard/Reuters

(Read caption) Lance Armstrong cycles on a cobblestone sector during the third stage of the Tour de France Tuesday.

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The Tour de France promises to lift the spirits of French sporting enthusiasts from Paris to the Pyrenees this month, after their vaunted soccer team was booted from the World Cup.

The storied Tour, dogged in recent years by doping scandals and a post-Lance lull, returns with not only Mr. Armstrong himself, but also strong teams that have pioneered a new "clean" culture.

The peloton – composed of 219 riders from 22 teams – started July 3 in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, then headed south. The first week includes stops in Wanze, Belgium – distinguished for turning beetroot into bioethanol – and Épernay, the capital of Champagne. It also includes an unusual number of bike-rattling cobblestone sections, which are normally reserved for one-day races, not a taxing three-week event like the Tour.

From northeastern France, the 2010 Tour then follows the Loire River toward Geneva. There the alpine climbing begins, taking riders past the 1992 Olympic site of Albertville and continuing clockwise around France to the Pyrenees before ending in Paris.


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