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How does the racing differ from country to country?
Amateur racing in Italy is full on from the gun, they start hard and finish hard and as these athletes in Italy are basically professional anyway, ie it·s their job, it·s a damn hard school. Professional racing in Portugal is similar to that style of racing, but they go harder, even the ·sprinter· stages are damn hilly and they like to race the riders over cobblestone and rough roads just to make sure you have a bit of everything. In other countries it is generally a bit different as it starts slower (unless you are one of the crazy guys trying for the early break) but finishes really, really fast. Spain is mountainous like Italy, whereas France is more power-climbs, not including the Alps and Pyrenees.
 
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