One hundred years ago today the first of the big mountains* were included in Henri Desgrange's vision of the Tour de France, the Porter-d'Aspet and the Col des Ares were on that first day. He had been reluctant to include the big mountain passes fearing that the riders would die in the mountains from over-exertion, exposure, brigands or bears. His assitant Alphonse Steinès persuaded him otherwise, of which more tomorrow, that it would be doable.
Today both those original climbs are merely category 2 climbs at 1069 and 797 metres respectively. However, today they will be drawfed by the 1755m Port de Balès, though it was only first used in 2007, it will be the third Hors Catégorie climb on this year's Tour.
Here what an amateur cyclist made of the ascent of the Port de Balès prior to that first ascent of this hill.
The 21.5 km descent into Bagnères-de-Luchon is full of twisting bends as this video of Sky's recognisance of the stage shows.
Yesterday after seeing Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador marking each other and almost playing games on the ascent to Ax-3 Domaines I suspect there may be a little bit more of a test from Schleck today. He still needs to gain some further time over the next three days 31 seconds may not be enough for him in the final time trial. Yesterday he merely showed he is able to take anything that Contador could lay at his feet.
* The Ballon d'Alsace had been included in 1905