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MUNSTER, France — He’s back in the game. Lance Armstrong is riding in his 12th Tour de France and by the end of this week the tour will come within a couple hours’ drive of many Americans stationed in southwestern Germany.

Friday’s 200-kilometer stage 13, from Vittel to Colmar in France, is a medium mountain course that, according to the Tour’s official Web site, "has all the makings of a tricky stage," with multiple climbs and sprint sections.

Munster, a scenic town best known for its Munster cheese, lies in a valley about 10 miles north of the steep 7.6 percent-grade climb to Col du Platzerwasel, the stage’s highest point.

Riders should pass through Munster after 3 p.m., nearly 120 kilometers into the stage, then climb to the Platzerwasel summit at around 3:45 p.m. The stage is scheduled to end in Colmar just after 5 p.m.

So why drive the distance to see a few seconds of racing? Maybe come for the looming drama that many expect between Armstrong and Astana team member Alberto Contador of Spain, who won the tour in 2007 and is considered the favorite for 2009. Since the opening stage on July 4, both riders have finished seconds apart in the overall standings.

Otherwise, the Alsace region of France is beautiful with lots to see. Colmar produced French ambassador and sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who created the Statue of Liberty. There is even a pint-size statue in town.

Munster offers a couple of camping sites and hotels only 20 minutes west of Colmar, where stage 14 kicks off. Spectators could easily watch the grueling climb one day then head over to the city for the big stage start on Saturday. Stage 14 is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

The tourism office expects roads to shut down the day of the race, so plan ahead. Your bike may make for the perfect mode of transport once in town.

Go to http://www.letour.fr/us/ for more information, including a live feed from each stage .


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