It's only Day 2 of the Pyrenees, but after Chris Froome's master stroke Tuesday it's understandable to feel as if the Tour de France has been won. That's how badly Froome beat his rivals up La Pierre-St. Martin on Stage 10. He now holds a nearly three-minute lead over second-place Tejay Van Garderen and should have a firm grasp on the Maillot Jaune all the way to Paris presuming nothing terrible happens.
However, there are a lot of stages left -- most of them, in fact! -- and if there is to be any more weirdness, it may as well occur in the mountains. Van Garderen, Nairo Quintana and, heck, Alejandro Valverde are still in shouting distance of overtaking Froome. Furthermore, Stage 11 has the right layout for breakaway heroics. If Froome falters at all, there is an opportunity to take back a lot of time.
The Col du Tourmalet is the highlight. A Tour fixture, the summit is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees and will be the second-highest point on this year's Tour. Another 30 kilometers before that, riders will surmount the Col d'Aspin, a much prettier, slightly shorter and still-brutal ascent. The stage is 188 kilometers in total, roughly 20 kilometers longer than Stage 10.
Besides the two big climbs, several other features make this a harder stage than Tuesday's. Flat land is scarce, so riders will be either ascending or descending on smaller hills for much of the day. The sharp descent down Tourmalet before a modest climb to the finish in Cauterets could give riders who handle the mega climbs a chance to gun away from the field. Froome isn't known as the most technical rider, so that'll be to the advantage of someone like Valverde or Alberto Contador (or Vincenzo Nibali in theory, but alas his legs appear to be gone).
Of course, Froome is a favorite to win any mountain stage until further notice, but on Stage 11 there at least appears to be a chance -- chance -- that someone might reel him back in.
NBCSN's live coverage will begin at 8 a.m. ET, at which point the stage will have already been underway for more than two hours. The NBC Sports Live Extra app will have coverage for mobile users, and NBC's Tour de France web package is available to laptop viewers, albeit for a fee.
Coverage begins at 8 a.m. ET. on NBCSN
Announcers: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen
Mobile: NBC Sports Live Extra app with an appropriate cable subscription
Computer: NBC's Tour de France web package is available for a fee