Five key stages of the 2013 Tour de France

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That hurts... Chris Froome cracks in tough day, behind Cadel Evans (Image supplied)

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This year’s Tour de France promises to be one of the most open contests in years, with at least ten men capable of stepping on the podium in Paris.

To decide who steps on the podium however, there lay the small task of twenty one gruelling days in France. Here are five stages you might want to watch out for.

Stage 8 – Castres to Ax 3 Domaines
The first summit finish of the Tour de France always gives us an idea of who is on form, and who has not quite turned up.

Last year it showed us that Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali were the men to watch out for. This year, it could be any number of men reaching the top together.

My prediction is for a win for Joaquim Rodriquez.

Stage 11 – Avranches to Mont-Saint Michel
The first individual time trial of the race is a tough one, and at 33 kilometres in length, is enough to bring about a large shake up in the General Classification.

It is likely that Cadel Evans, Christopher Froome and Alberto Contador will do well here, whereas Joaquim Rodriquez and Pierre Rolland might be left wanting. It will also be interesting to see how Alejandro Valverde fares too.

Stage 15 – Givors to Mont Ventoux
This is a mammoth stage measuring at 242 kilometres, which is the longest in the Tour.

Riders have expressed their concerns over such a long stage followed by what could be considered as the hardest climb in the Tour, but the organisers and fans are no doubt looking forward to it.

The moon-like landscape of the Ventoux always provides a spectacle, and will be no different this year. My prediction? I have a feeling this is where we will first see Contador play his hand.

Stage 17 – Embrun to Chorges
The second individual time trial certainly looks more unpredictable on paper, with two categorized climbs – the Cote de Puy-Sanieres and the Cote de Reallon.

As we saw in the 2012 Vuelta, Joaquim Rodriquez is much better in a hilly time trial, and this is unlikely to suit world time trial champion Tony Martin.

Stage 18 – Gap to Alpe d’Huez
This is billed as the main event of this year’s Tour, and it is the first time the race will climb the historic alp twice in one day.

This promises to be a breathtaking spectacle, and in my opinion, the man who summits the alp first at the end of the stage, will be the man who steps on to the top step of the podium in Paris.

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