Here is the route of the 2009 Tour de France, which was unveiled Wednesday in Paris. ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford weighs in on the race's key stages:
July 4: Stage 1
• Monaco-Monaco, individual time trial, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles)
Ford's take: Riders will start their engines on a hilly, technical 9.3-mile time trial course that will cover some of the same asphalt as the famous Monte Carlo Grand Prix.
July 5: Stage 2
• Monaco-Brignoles, 182 km (113.1)
July 6: Stage 3
• Marseille-La Grande Motte, 196 km (121.8)
July 7: Stage 4
• Montpellier-Montpellier, team time trial, 38 km (23.6)
Ford's take: Return of the team time trial after an absence of three years. That's a horror movie for some teams and a boon for the more skilled squads who have longed to see the event restored to the Tour itinerary. In a break with recent practice, there will be no arbitrary limitations on time gained or lost in this stage.
July 8: Stage 5
• Le Cap d'Agde-Perpignan, 197 km (122.4)
July 9: Stage 6
• Gerona-Barcelone, 175 km (108.7)
July 10: Stage 7
• Barcelona-Andorra, Arcalis, 224 km (139.2)
Ford's take: The longest stage of the race starts at sea level and culminates with a climb that starts gradually almost 30 miles from the finish and ends at over 7,200 feet of altitude. The last time this mountain was featured in the Tour route, Jan Ullrich soloed his way to a stage win in 1997.
July 11: Stage 8
• Andorre-la-Vieille-Saint-Girons, 176 km (109.4)
Ford's take: Three major climbs in the Pyrenees before a downhill finish 109 miles from the start.
July 12: Stage 9
• Saint-Gaudens-Tarbes, 160 km (99.4)
Ford's take: The formidable Col du Tourmalet is smack in the middle of this 99-mile stage. Riders will give thanks for the upcoming rest day as they pass through Lourdes on the way to the finish.
July 13: Rest day
July 14: Stage 10
• Limoges-Issoudun, 193 km (119.9)
July 15: Stage 11
• Vatan-Saint-Fargeau, 192 km (119.3)
July 16: Stage 12
• Tonnerre-Vittel, 200 km (124.3)
July 17: Stage 13
• Vittel-Colmar, 200 km (124.3)
Ford's take: This is one of those middling mountain mousetraps the Tour course designers like to set for the peloton, much as they did in the Massif Central this year. The up-and-down path through the Vosges range could be tricky as teams jockey for position. Sprinters, with little left to race for on the road ahead, drop out in droves around now.
July 18: Stage 14
• Colmar-Besancon, 199 km (123.7)
July 19: Stage 15
• Pontarlier-Verbier, 207 km (128.6)
July 20: Rest day
July 21: Stage 16
• Martigny-Bourg-Saint-Maurice, 160 km (99.4)
Ford's take: Call this stage Twin Peaks, with two major Alpine mountain passes in the middle.
July 22: Stage 17
• Bourg-Saint-Maurice-Le Grand Bornand, 169km (105)
Ford's take: Five categorized climbs over 99 miles in the Alps come before the short uphill finish that has led to some great racing in previous editions of the Tour.
July 23: Stage 18
• Annecy-Annecy, individual time trial, 40 km (24.9)
Ford's take: The time trial that normally decides the race on the final weekend is placed on Thursday instead. Although it could give some contenders a chance to gain modest time, its short distance (just under 25 miles) and scheduling make it somewhat pre-climactic.
July 24: Stage 19
• Bourgoin-Jallieu-Aubenas, 195 km (121.2)
July 25: Stage 20
• Montelimar-Mont Ventoux, 167 km (103.8)
Ford's take: Prognosticators expected an uphill time trial to be slotted in on this day. Instead, the race leaders will face the hot, windswept and always diabolical climb up the barren "Giant of Provence" at the end of the road stage. This year's Tour was marked by a lack of initiative among the top contenders, but the placement of this stage should guarantee some last-minute attacks.
July 26: Stage 21
• Montereau-Fault-Yonne-Paris-Champs-Elysees, 160 km (99.4)
Race total: 3,445 km (2,141 miles)
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.