Enter the Alps! It has been a crazy week for the riders in the world’s greatest cycling race. Although the maillot jaune has been in Fabian Cancellara’s possession since the Prolouge, the Tour has been surprisingly eventful so far, which is both good and bad. Good, obviously, due to the entertainment value of the race – bad, because some of these events included the brutal crashes of Team Astana-chiefs Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden, which just might put an end to the podium dreams for these two riders, who otherwise happened to be among the top favourites for the GC (general classification). Sure, it’s somehow exciting in a strange, sadistic manner to watch a rider giving it all that he’s got, with deep contusions on both knees, a bleeding elbow and abrasions on hip and buttocks. But then again: if that sight means the exit of Vinokourov, well… not good at all.

But as everybody knows, the Tour REALLY starts today, with the first mountain stage going 197.5 kilometers from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand-Bornand. Hopefully, the stage will give some real indications of who to look out for in the remaning stages. Should this, the first mountain stage disappoint, it’s almost certain that the next stage won’t: The 165 kilometers from Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes will most certainly be an ab-so-lu-te blast, with three cat. 1 climbs as well as finish line on the top of Montée de Tignes. Pain, pain and pain awaits the riders on the next stages, and drama, drama, drama awaits us, the happy audience. Watch, and feel the shiver run up your spine!

Illustration by the great Franquin, from Spirou et Fantasio 8: La mauvaise tête (1957). If you got it in your library, you really ought to re-read the cycling race sequence, it’s pure joy!