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The crayon-box hierarchy of Tour travel

Updated: July 15, 2006, 1:56 PM ET
By Bonnie DeSimone | Special to ESPN.com

BOUZIGUES, France -- I woke up in a small Spanish village in the ski area of Val d'Aran that could have been mistaken for a Swiss valley, covered thickly with evergreens and dotted with stone chalets and waterfalls. I just ate dinner by the Bassin de Thau, a somnolent inland salt lake in southeastern France, separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a slim sandbar.

In between, I drove a mountain pass that the Tour de France peloton rode the previous day, reading the fervent messages fans ...

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