The Tour de France is racing's most exciting event, with 20 stages spanning the course of 23 days. While Lance Armstrong is no longer dominating the sport of cycling, the Tour de France is the Super Bowl of cycling, and it's must-see television.
After winning three races this year, Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins is peaking at the right time. He looks like the favorite to win the event in 2012.
Along with Wiggins, Australia's Cadel Evans and British Mark Cavendish are threats to win it all.
The Tour de France seemingly always comes down to a few critical stages. While some like the first and last are pivotal because of timing, others are crucial because of the stage itself.
While every stage is worth watching because the race can chance in an instant, these are the top stages and where to watch them.
Stage 1: Liege to Seraing, 8 a.m., NBC Sports Network (Recap show, 4 p.m., NBC)
The Tour de France can all come down to who wins the first stage. By getting an early lead during the plains you can make up time for slow stages and have a lead heading into the mountains.
July 1 marks the first day of the race and the chance to sprint ahead of the pack and be the race leader for the first time.
A good first stage can be crucial for some riders, and you can bet that there will be a group who takes off right from the start.
Stage 10: Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 8 a.m., NBC Sports Network
Stage 10 is an important stage for two reasons.
First, this is the day after the first rest day. Competitors have to gear up on July 10 to make sure that they come out fast on July 11 for Stage 10.
Second, this is the first day of high mountains. After eight stages of plains and one of medium mountains, this is the stage that will begin to separate the riders who can handle the entire course from those who can't.
Stage 12: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux, 6:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network
July 13 is going to be a long day for competitors. And I mean long.
Stage 12 is the longest in the Tour de France, as cyclists must go 226 kilometers in medium mountains. This stage truly tests the endurance of the competitors and could lead to a huge separation between cyclists.
Stage 20: Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Elysees, 8 a.m., NBC Sports Network (Recap show, 1 p.m., NBC)
The final stage of the Tour de France will decide it all. Competitors will know how much they have to beat each other by to win it all. Desperate ones will be the most interesting to watch, as well as the ones in the hunt for the title.
If you're going to watch one stage, it really should be this one.
In another stage that identifies as plains, there will be no pesky mountains to get in the way of seeing which cyclists are truly the fastest. It all happens on July 22.
For the complete schedule, visit NBC Sports.