Five cyclists to watch
Country: United States
Need to know: Has won the tour an unprecedented seven straight times (1999-2005).
Need to know: Won the tour in 2007; team wasn't allowed in last year because of previous members' connections to doping scandals.
Team: Silence Lotto
Need to know: Finished a close second in the tour in 2007 and 2008.
Team: Saxo Bank
Need to know: Best young rider in last year's tour; supported former teammate and winner, Carlos Sastre.
Need to know: Fourth in last year's tour; won this year's Giro d'Italia.
Five days to watch
Stage 1, Saturday. Individual time trial (9.6 miles) in Monaco.
Stage 9, July 12. Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes (99.7 miles). Last of three straight days in the Pyrenees; includes the classic climb of the Col du Tourmalet.
Stage 17, July 22. Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand (105.3 miles). Five grueling mountain climbs.
Stage 18, July 23. Individual time trial (25.2 miles) in Annecy. Scenic course around Lake Annecy likely would be decisive were it not for …
Stage 20, July 25. Montelimar to Mont Ventoux (103.8 miles). The penultimate stage ends with a daunting beyond-category climb.