Tour de France at a glance

July 4, 2009
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The 96th Tour de France starts today in Monaco and ends in Paris July 26, covering 2,175 miles on a counterclockwise trip through France.

Stages: There are 21 daily stages, including 10 flat stages, seven mountain stages, one medium mountain stage, two individual time trials (today in Monaco, July 23 in Annecy), and one team time trial (Tuesday, Montpellier).

Last year’s winner: Carlos Sastre became the third consecutive Spanish winner (following Oscar Pereiro in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2007).

Top five riders to watch: Contador of the Astana team, who is especially hungry because he was unable to defend his 2007 title when his team was barred from the 2008 race because of past doping issues; seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong of Astana; Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, a good mountain climber competing for Saxo Bank; Russian Denis Menchov, a consistent stage racer for Rabobank; two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans, an Aussie who rides for Silence-Lotto.

Miscellany: There are seven Americans expected to be among the contenders: Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, Danny Pate, and Tyler Farrar from Garmin-Slipstream; Levi Leipheimer and Armstrong from Astana; and George Hincapie from Columbia-HTC . . . Menchov is hoping to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year . . . Belgian Tom Boonen was cleared by the International Cycling Union to compete after winning his appeal of a ban for testing positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test in April. “I didn’t have much time to think about the race, but I’ll try to give my best,’’ said Boonen, who rides for Quick Step and has won six Tour stages in his career.

Television: Versus will have live coverage each morning, as well as nightly recap shows at 5 and 8 p.m.

Compiled by the Los Angeles Times