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2010 will mark 100 years since the French Pyrénées were first used by Tour de France. Here's our Col du Tourmalet report, our most popular touring report to date.

July 21 post: This stage may not have as much climbing as stage 16 but it is definitely the Queen Stage. Not since 1974 has the Tour de France finished on the Col du Tourmalet, the highest paved col in the French Pyrénées although it is often passed over on route to a mountaintop or flat finish near by. It is also the highest point of this year's Tour.

There are three climbs in France that stand out for their difficulty and illustrous connection with the Tour de France: Alpe d'Huez, Mont Ventoux and the stage 17 finishing climb to Col du Tourmalet. We first climbed Col du Tourmalet on a gorgeous, quiet September afternoon back in 2005. It was one of our most memorable days on a bike.

Needless to say, the atmosphere will be much different for the stage 17 finish compared to a recreational ride. The Tour could very easily be decided on the 18 km 8-9% relentless slopes of the Tourmalet and there will be an absolutely massive crowd along the sides of the road. The last km in particular will be exciting where it averages 10.5%.

With all the attention focused on Col du Tourmalet, it is easy to overlook the importance of the two cat 1 climbs that precede it. Col de Marie-Blanque and Col du Soulor (this time from the north side) could see a successful break get away. You can bet Saxo Bank will do everything to help Andy Schleck gain time on Alberto Contador. "I will attack on the Tourmalet" says Andy Schleck. Only six riders have won the Tour de France without winning a stage so current race leader, Alberto Contador, will be motivated to win on the Tourmalet as well. This will be a memorable day in Tour history, I'm sure. — Steve

Stage 17 climbs
Km 13.5 - Côte de Renoir - 2.2 km of 6 % - Category 4
Km 56.5 - Col de Marie-Blanque - 9.3 km of 7.6 % - Category 1
Km 117.5 - Col du Soulor (D 126-D 918) - 11.9 km of 7.8 % - Category 1
Km 174.0 - Col du Tourmalet - 18.6 km of 7.5 % - Category HC

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Col du Tourmalet photo report, our most popular touring report to date —
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(Y! 2010 Edition)