The 2011 Tour de France makes its way into the always treacherous Alps as the "real Tour" begins in the mountains. The peloton will make its way 179 kilometers from Gap to Pinerolo in Italy. Let's hope the cyclists have their passports in hand. The stage is relatively flat for the first 70 or so kilometers before starting the first of five categorized climbs as high as 2,035 meters.
The difference-maker in Stage 17 could actually be the descent following the fourth categorized climb. That climb will get the cyclists up to 2,035 meters at the 117 kilometer mark before they begin a 46 klick descent to Villar Perosa. After Cadel Evans used the descent in stage 16 to swing past Alberto Contador, look for the BMC Racing cyclist to try and make up more ground in Stage 17. Yellow jersey leader Thomas Voeckler has said he expects to crack in the Alps, but nobody takes much of the talk seriously at this point.
Stage seventeen begins at 5:00am pacific on VERSUS. NBCSports.com will continue to provide a live online stream via subscription service.
We'll be here for the entire race providing news updates and stage previews and recaps, particularly as they relate to Bay Area cyclist Levi Leipheimer and Bay Area-based BMC Racing. For more in-depth discussion on the 2011 Tour De France, head over to Podium Cafe. For more general Tour coverage, head over to the SB Nation story stream.