Col Agnel (Colle dell'Agnello)
After a steady 80km of ascending out of the Italian town of Pinerolo they hit this beast of a climb. This is the fiercest and toughest climb in this Tour. Such is its reputation it has only ever been visited by Le Tour once before in 2008 but only then by the French side rather than the Italian side that they will be battling up this stage. Egoi Martinez got the honour of cresting this mountain first but Simon Gerrans won the stage.
As the mostly intact peloton hits the start at Sampeyre they should mostly be intact, those that aren't might as well give up hope of making the time limit. The innocuous starting ramp of 3% over the first 3km will lull the unwary of the rides into false-confidence. Then they go past Casteldelfino and it will start to ramp up to 8-9% gradients.
6km gone, they get a momentary reprieve, again the mountain will be taunting those who think they have the legs, "come on, attack and try to best me". BAM! An 11% ramp will suck the life out of their legs and many will start hanging onto the peloton to dear life. The gradient for the next 4-5km will then ease into 4% before the mountain unleashes its worst: a wall of 9-11%, a terror that will last for over 7km.
When the peloton (and those stupid enough to be in the breakaway) finally crest the top they will be relived...till they remember, they've only just done 1/3 of the day's climbing. For those unhinged, the day is going to be even longer.
Then its the Izoard! The scene of the great battles between Coppi and Bobet in the 50's, this is a "treat" the peloton would have liked to politely refuse. Only 20km of descending to recover the legs and then its to the base of this climb.
Ascending this will torture the riders, they can not ride it at tempo, with the gradient varying from a false flat of 1% through to 8% for the first 7km.
Then the mountain will let you know what it thinks of the riders "surviving" its Alpine sister. It will ramp to 10%, varying little up until La Casse Déserte, which barren rocky landcaspe, which leads to a small descent will seem like very much like an oasis to the riders.
There is more, just as the legs begin to say thanks for the rest they have to go another 2km of 7% and 9% gradients, after Agnel and what they have done so far, it might as well be 20km, it will feel like it for those poor souls. Getting over this, their day is almost done, until they cry a little inside as they realise what is next on menu. Do they give up? Do they f***.
Col du Galibier
Oh how the legs must be screaming by now. There will be no one hiding in the peloton now. Those left will be those with the strongest legs. 23km is the length of this climb, today the South side of Galibier, mocking referred to as the "easy" side. It is so long, it incorporates another col, the Col du Lautaret.
The finale for this stage, a shrine and homage to the mountain that has been at the heart of the Tour for a century, ramps slowly out of the city of Briancon, at gradients between 2.5% to 5%. After 17 other days in the saddle as well the climbs they just went over, every kilometer will be felt in the legs.
Still they will press on, and at the 14km they pass Col du Lautaret, knowing that now, this is now where the climbing becoming more unrelenting as it starts to get up to 6% through to 8%. 4km now for those in the lead and as they turn right, it will lead onto the road that will make them immortal. 9% ramp wont be steep enough for Andy but it will hurt everyone else and few (including the wonder boy) will be riding away now.
The penultimate 2km will see it at 5% before finally the last km ramps back up to 9% and the winner will have fittingly deserve Souvenir Henri Desgranges
Who will be the first person ever in 98 editions of Le Tour? It is likely to be a breakaway winner but just as likely, it is likely to be one of our Magnificent 7, one of the leaders looking to prove himself and show that his is indeed, a champion among his peers.