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  Stage-by-Stage Look at the Tour De France
Wednesday, July 8, 1998; 6:14 a.m. EDT

DUBLIN, July 8 — Stage-by-stage look at the Tour de France which begins on Saturday:

Prologue (Saturday, July 11): Speeds close to 52 kph are expected when the 189 riders rush individually through the centre of Dublin in a short race against the clock to find a leader. The 5.6-km course starts outside Trinity College and finishes in O'Connell Street.

Stage 1 (Sunday, July 12): A picturesque and painful 180 kilometres take the Tour through the Wicklow Hills where Mel Gibson filmed Braveheart. The race begins in Dublin's O'Connell Street and finishes in Phoenix Park. Thousands are expected to line the route.

Stage 2 (Monday, July 11): Enniscorthy hosts the start of a stage which will salute the Tour triumphs of Sean Kelly with a sprint counting towards the green jersey which he won four times. The sprint finishes at Sean Kelly Square in his home town of Carrick-on-Suir. The 200-km race ends in Cork. Next stop: France.

Stage 3 (Tuesday, July 14): The Tour is in Brittany, the home ground of five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, and it is Bastille Day. After starting from the ferry port of Roscoff the race chases 169 kms to the south to finish in Lorient, France's biggest port.

Stage 4 (Wednesday, July 15): Start town Plouay will host the world road championships in 2000. This stage to Cholet is the longest of the Tour, covering 252 kms of flatlands which will offer another chance to those with a fast finish.

Stage 5 (Thursday, July 16): This 228-km stretch from Cholet to Chateauroux passes through the area where last year Cedric Vasseur became a surprise Tour leader with a solo of 147 kms.

Stage 6 (Friday, July 17): This sixth stage over 204 kms takes the Tour from La Chatre, the town of novelist George Sand, to the ruggedness of Brive-la-Gaillarde, home of the 1997 European Rugby champions.

Stage 7 (Saturday, July 18): This could be a key day for the contenders as the Tour pits them against the clock on 58 kilometres of country roads between Meyrignac l'Eglise and Correze deep in a land of gastronomic delights.

Stage 8 (Sunday, July 19): Brive gets a second visit as the start for a 190-km leg to Montauban over roads where Switzerland's Hugo Koblet made a 40-km solo break that left the big names struggling and helped him to win the 1951 Tour.

Stage 9 (Monday, July 20): The Pau finish has happy links with Ireland. Sean Kelly (1982) and Martin Earley, seven years later, joined an illustrious band including Fausto Coppi and Bernard Hinault who have won at this threshold to the Pyrenees. The stage is more than 210 kms from Montauban.

Stage 10 (Tuesday, July 21): The Pau to Luchon leg has provided pages in Tour history. Its major mountains, the Tourmalet and the Aubisque, have been climbed more times than any other Tour peaks and this day is sure to provide drama.

Stage 11 (Wednesday, July 22): Out of the spa town of Luchon to the cross-country skiing site of Plateau de Beille this 170-km route takes the riders through the Ariege with its prehistoric sites and caves.

Thursday, July 23: Rest day.

Stage 12 (Friday, July 24): The Tour reaches the Mediterranean coast via the Cevenne region after leaving another pre-history site, Tarascon-sur-Ariege, for a 222-km race to Le Cap d'Agde whose beach was originally a harbour founded by the Phoenicians.

Stage 13 (Saturday, July 25): Carpentras, the conclusion for stage 13, was the finish point that British rider Tom Simpson was aiming for when he collapsed and died on the Ventoux mountain in 1967. The 196-km leg through Provence starts from Frontignan la Peyrade.

Stage 14 (Sunday, July 26): Grenoble has been a Tour finish since 1905 but the start, Valreas in the Cotes de Rhone vineyards, is receiving only its third visit.

Stage 15 (Monday, July 27): Les Deux Alpes is a new peak for the Tour, hosting the finish of a gruelling first day in the Alps. The Galibier, one of three mountains on the 189 kms from Grenoble, is, at 2,646 metres, the highest of this Tour.

Stage 16 (Tuesday, July 28): New Tour venue Vizille was the cradle of the French Revolution. The riders take on more mountains to reach Albertville, site of the 1992 Winter Olympics, which has been granted its first Tour finish this year.

Stage 17 (Wednesday, July 29): Aix-les-Bains with its Roman baths has hosted 20 stages since 1930 but best remembered is the 1958 victory of Luxembourger Charly Gaul who raced through fog, wind, and glacial rain. The 149-km leg starts in Albertville.

Stage 18 (Thursday, July 30): The Tour breaks into Switzerland for its 18th stage which takes the survivors of the Alps over one final mountain, Col de la Faucille, on their way from Aix-les-Bains to the watch-making centre of Neuchatel.

Stage 19 (Friday, July 31): Another trip into the unknown as two towns unfamiliar to the Tour are hosts for the 242-km stage. La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland sends off the race towards the Burgundy wine country and its destination, Autun.

Stage 20 (Saturday, Aug. 1):Saturday August 1 — Montceau-Les-Mines and Le Creusot are the last of the new venues on a day that could be crucial. A 52-km time trial will be raced between the reclaimed mining area, where 300-million-year-old fossils have been discovered, and the industrialised Le Creusot.

Stage 21 (Sunday, Aug. 2): Melun sets the Tour off on its 147-km ride to a Champs Elysees finale. Among those seeing it off from Melun will be its mayor Jacques Marinelli who finished third in the 1949 Tour after holding the yellow jersey for five days.

© Copyright 1998 Reuters

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