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2011 Tour De France Schedule Preview: Levi Leipheimer, Others Face 21 Grueling Stages In World's Most Famous Cycling Race

The 2011 Tour De France kicks off on Saturday July 2 and the Bay Area will be represented by Levi Leipheimer. While Leipheimer has never won the Tour, he has claimed four top-ten finishes and finished third in 2007. Leipheimer is coming off a huge comeback victory in the Tour De Suisse two weeks ago. Leipheimer trailed by nearly two minutes heading into the individual time trial that wrapped up the race. Leipheimer did not win the final stage but he did overcome the 1:59 deficit for first place overall and emerge victorious.

As Leipheimer prepares to do battle in the 2011 Tour De France, he will face a brutal course that will challenge every skill in a cyclist's arsenal. The 21 stages of the Tour will cover a distance of 3,430.5 kilometers, or 2,131 miles. There will be ten flat stages, six mountain stages with four summit finishes, three medium mountain stages, a 42.5 kilometer individual time-trial stage and a 23 kilometer team-trial stage.

Over the course of the 21 stags, the mighty le Galibier will be climbed twice and there will be 23 level two, one or highest level mountain passes or summit finishes. Just to be kind the race will also have two rest days. The longest stage of the race will be stage six when the cyclists race 226.5 kilometers (141 miles) from Dinan to Lisieux. The shortest stage of the race will be the team time trial in stage two at Les Essarts. It will be 23 kilometers (14 miles). The shortest non-time trial stage is the finish from Creteil to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

The NBC Sports Group will be providing around the clock coverage on television and online. VERSUS will be providing the preliminary live television coverage and that will be followed by additional reairings on NBC and VERSUS. The time difference means most stages will be occurring in the morning hours. For Bay Area cycling fans hoping to provide some live rooting for Levi Leipheimer, it will mean wakeup calls of 3:30-5:00 am in the pacific time zone. However, numerous re-airings will occur throughout the day on VERSUS and/or NBC. We'll have a full tv schedule shortly.

In addition to VERSUS and NBC television coverage, will again provide a live online stream through their subscription service Tour De France All-Access. This provides live video of every stage, live GPS tracking of every rider on an interactive map, and a chance to follow your favorite riders throughout the Tour. The subscription service is $29.95 for the entire Tour De France.

We'll be here for the entire race providing news updates and stage previews and recaps. For more in-depth discussion on the 2011 Tour De France, head over to Podium Cafe. In the meantime, here is an official Tour De France preview video of the route riders will face in their bid to win the most famous cycling race on the planet. That is followed by a brief rundown of all 21 stages.

Stage Date Course Distance Type
1 2-Jul Passage du Gois - Mont des Alouettes 191.5 km (119 mi) Flat stage
2 3-Jul Les Essarts - Les Essarts 23 km (14 mi) Team Time Trial
3 4-Jul Olonne-sur-Mer - Redon 198 km (123 mi) Flat stage
4 5-Jul Lorient - Mûr-de-Bretagne 172.5 km (107 mi) Flat stage
5 6-Jul Carhaix - Cap Fréhel 164.5 km (102 mi) Flat stage
6 7-Jul Dinan - Lisieux 226.5 km (141 mi) Flat stage
7 8-Jul Le Mans - Chateauroux 218 km (135 mi) Flat stage
8 9-Jul Aigurande - Super-Besse 189 km (117 mi) Medium-mountain
9 10-Jul Issoire - Saint-Flour 208 km (129 mi) Medium-mountain
  11-Jul  Rest Day    
10 12-Jul Aurillac - Carmaux 158 km (98 mi) Flat stage
11 13-Jul Blaye-les-Mines - Lavaur 167.5 km (104 mi) Flat stage
12 14-Jul Cugnaux - Luz-Ardiden 211 km (131 mi) Mountain stage
13 15-Jul Pau - Lourdes 152.5 km (95 mi) Mountain stage
14 16-Jul Saint-Gaudens - Plateau de Beille 168.5 km (105 mi) Mountain stage
15 17-Jul Limoux - Montpellier 192.5 km (120 mi) Flat stage
  18-Jul  Rest Day    
16 19-Jul Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux - Gap 162.5 km (101 mi) Medium-mountain
17 20-Jul Gap - Pinerolo 179 km (111 mi) Mountain stage
18 21-Jul Pinerolo - Col du Galibier / Serre Chevalier 200.5 km (125 mi) Mountain stage
19 22-Jul Modane - L'Alpe d'Huez 109.5 km (68 mi) Mountain stage
20 23-Jul Grenoble - Grenoble 42.5 km (26 mi) Individual time trial
21 24-Jul Creteil - Paris (Champs-Élysées)... 95 km (59 mi) Flat stage