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July 21 post: Andy Schleck's Stage 18 long-distance attack has reshuffled the general classification with the top four riders only separated by 74 seconds. The three HC epic climbs will be hard to match, but Friday's mountain stage will again feature Col du Galibier, this time from the more difficult north side and the famous summit finish at Alpe d'Huez. At just 110 km in length featuring two hors catégorie climbs plus the cat 1 Col du Telegraphe, Friday's stage actually has more bang for the buck. By the way, this is the 27th time for Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France since its first appearance in 1952.

Cadel Evans is still in the driver's seat with just one stage to go before the Grenoble time trial where he's expected to put at least two minutes into the Schleck brothers. As things sit right now, Andy Schleck is 57s up on Cadel and Frack Schleck is 4s only ahead of Cadel Evans. So, Cadel Evan's main concern is Andy. Meanwhile, Thomas Voeckler still clings to the Yellow Jersey; he can't possibly keep it?

Being such a short stage with the first climb right out of the gate, look for an early attack. Will Leopard-Trek send Frank Schleck up the road this time? On stage 17 in 2008, the last time Alpe d'Huez was featured at the Tour, Andy and Frank Schleck's teammate at the time, Carlos Sastre, won by more than two minutes putting him in Yellow where he stayed. That year, Frank Schleck was tied with Cadel Evans on GC heading into the stage 20 TT in Cérilly before Cadel Evans beat him by more than three minutes. Expect one of the Schleck brothers to be in Yellow going into the deciding stage 20 Grenoble TT.

In 2006, I cycled this route as part of the annual Marmotte sportif. You can learn more about Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d'Huez from my ride report below. — Steve

Cycling L'Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier — The Marmotte and Etape du Tour — July