Plateau de Beille Pyrenees
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Plateau de Beille, Pyrenees

July 20, 2004
The annual Tour de France (bicycle race) is well known for its grueling mountain climbs. Stage 13 of this year's race provided an example of how difficult the terrain can be. On Saturday, July 17, the riders of the Tour de France raced 205.5 km from Lannemezan to the mountaintop ski station Plateau de Beille. Along the way the road ascended six different climbs (and descended five), for a total of 4,160 meters of elevation gain. The final climb of the day was the fearsome Plateau de Beille—15.9 km of climbing at an average gradient of 7.8 percent (and a maximum gradient of 9.5 percent) for an ascent of 1,240 meters. To put this in perspective, there are no paved roads this steep and long in the United States. The stage was won by American Lance Armstrong, closely followed by Ivan Basso, a young Italian rider. Armstrong was supported up the climb by his teammates.

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