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The greatest show on the road starts this Saturday the 3rd of July. The 2010 Tour de France is already shaping up to be a fantastic Tour and with Lance Armstrong announcing this will be his last ever Tour and Cadel Evans firing on all cylinders, it would take a very brave man to put money on the result.

We’ve scoured the internet and all of this years Tour guides to bring you a fact packed A-Z which will hopefully teach you something new.

A: Armstrong. The Tour wouldn’t be the Tour without the legend that is Lance Armstrong. Like him or loathe him, he is an icon of this era of cycling. He has brought so much to the sport of cycling and he deserves a good last Tour. We we wish him well.

B: Breakaway. The early stages are always a chance for a solo rider from a team wanting some TV time to escape and stay-away for as long as possible. Who will it be this year we wonder? We reckon it will be a French rider from either Cofidis, FDJ or AG2R – care to bet against that?

C: Contador. He dominated last year and won in 2007. He can climb, TT with the best of them and has been getting special tuition on how to ride cobbles. If his team can work for and with him he’s going to be up there. Definitely the bookies favourite.

D: Domestique.

A discreet army of riders are there purely to serve the team leader. A thankless job perhaps, but the feeling you must get when your guy wins makes it worth your while.

Employed to create a draft for the team leader to ride into and set the pace on a climb. Also often seen with 6 or 8 water bottles held in all sorts of places while drafting the team cars to deliver the drinks to the front – it takes an awful lot of skill and is one of the most important positions.

E: Eddy Merckx. The Cannibal. We could go on to list why but you’ll have to trust us on this one. 5 Tour wins, 5 Giro wins and just about everything else. Like Lance his name is synonymous with the Tour and deservedly so, we’d write a whole blog on him if we had time!

F: Fans. Mountain stages on the Tour wouldn’t be the same without the masses of hollering fans cheering their favourite riders and teams and whoever happens to be riding past them up the mountain. There have been fights, clashes and some famous scenes involving crowds. Then there is the Devil himself; Didi Senft who has become a Tour mascot in his red devil suit. Look out for the Borat ‘mankini’ costumes as well. Class!

G: Galibier. 2645m

H: How do they do it?! For us mere mortals just riding on both Saturday and Sunday has us desperate for food, sleep and sympathy. These guys ride for 3 weeks with just 2 rest days (which always involve an hour or two of easy spinning) and over this time will ride over 2000 miles. Calorie intake is off the scale and weight loss overall is quite alarming. Hats off to anyone who arrives at the Champs Élysées.

I: Injury. Tom Boonen is out of this years Tour due to a knee injury – sad to see, as his style and personality are something which the peloton needs. Some will drop-out during from sickness and from bad falls. This amount of exertion puts so much stress on the body that some just can’t cope.

J: Joop Zoetemelk. You may not have heard of this guy but he has started and finished 16 Tours. More than anyone else, he’s won the GC (1980) once and had 12 top ten finishes.

K: King of the Mountains. The KOM Polka Dot jersey is much coveted and worn by the rider who gains the most points at the mountain top check-points. Last year Pellizotti for Liquigas finished wearing the maillot a pois rouge, who will it be this year?

L: Lanterne Rouge. Adorned by the unlucky last rider in the GC the ‘red lantern’ is a small model/pendant which is often hung on the saddle rails of the rider. Although it does signify that you’re last, everyone in the office would be more than happy to be holder!

M: Col de Madeleine. 1600m of height gain over 28km make this one of the stages to watch this year. Following a rest day in Morzine, the riders head south and have this massive stage ahead. With 3 climbs before the Madeleine it will test even the best climbers. Will Euskaltel shine here?

N: No cheating please. The recent furore and frenzy over Fabian Cancellara’s supposed BB motor will have this years officials on the lookout for any signs of unfair advantage. Take a look also at the many ‘sticky bottle’ moments, when a rider gets a bottle from the team car and holds on for a while…!

O: Oh mon dieu! Will probably be said by most riders at some point during the race. The Tours massive mix of fast flat stages and hideous mountain climbs all done at lung busting and leg breaking pace are going to be painful to all competitors.

P: Pyrenees. The collection of mountains which separate France and Spain. For the 100th time the Tour visits this area, with the Tourmalet, D’Aspin and d’Aubisque climbs all featuring in just one day.These stages come late on and with Paris not far away this could be make or break time if you really want the Yellow jersey.

Q: Quick Step. We didn’t have a massive choice of Q’s to be honest, this Belgian team are surely going to put the pressure on in the early cobbled stages. With Tom Boonen out, this leaves Frenchmen Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau wanting to do their country proud and this could be their chance.

R: Rotterdam. The Grand Depart heads out from Rotterdam and sticks around for some cobble and classics’ climbs action. Watch out here for a huge swathe of Spanish riders off the back when the cobbles arrive or it rains or there is some tricky road furniture…

S: Sprinters. We can’t wait to see Cavendish re-affirm to the world just how fast he is. Stage 5 will be one to watch for a mass sprint finish. A bad crash in the Tour of Suisse may have shook him up but we don’t think there is any stop the young Manx man – lets hope he can stay out of trouble and hold onto the Green for Paris.

T: ‘That look’. When Lance rode away from Jan in the 01 Tour on Alpe d’Huez. A classic stage of cycling when Lance displayed his prowess on the bike. Many of you have experienced ‘the look’, mainly from your partner when you tell them you’re off out on the bike…… again!

Can he do the same again? We’d like to think so but we’re not 100% sure.

U: System U. What is now essentially the BBox Team. Laurent Fignon road for this team and is the last Frenchman to have won a Tour in 1984.

V: Vendee. Already the 2011 start has been announced as in the Vendee. The Tour has been here before and the flat surrounding area suits the early stages of the Tour. Starting on the Passage du Gois, a road which is covered by the tide twice a day this is sure to be a true scenic start.

W: Wiggins. Last years golden boy, he received much hype after bagging 4th place and deservedly so, but since joining Sky some would say he’s been molly coddled and given it too easy. This Tour is going to be a test for him and more importantly the Sky Team. Can they work together and bring him up to hold the Yellow jersey?

X: X-rays. Both riders and steeds will be subject to these this year. As we said after Cancellara and his motor issue X-rays are now going to be used to ‘see’ inside of the riders’ frames to check for anything suspicious. Crashes are also a fact of racing and no-doubt some unlucky rider will break a collar bone at some stage.

Y: Yellow Jersey. The Maillot Jaune is what every cyclist dreams of wearing in Paris. To win the biggest race on earth brings with it massive respect (and money) and is something most cyclists would love to wear just once. Lance has worn it 7 times! Will a Brit be wearing it after the first stage and its prologue or will Cancellara come along and spoil the party?

Z: Zabel. A special mention has to go to this man. He’s won the Green sprinters jersey 6 times and has to be put down in history as one of the best sprinters ever. The German also had the Sprinters jersey at the Vuelta 3 times and won Milan San-Remo 4 times – we’re all a little bit jealous here.

So that’s our thoughts of the Tour de France, if you have any more please let us know and add them below. We’re now off to make sure the Eurosport is working and that the sofa’s have been positioned just right…We’ll be on facebook and twittering throughout so make sure to keep an eye out for any news and special Tour offers there.

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