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The final two km of stage 18 has three corners (two of them tight) so positioning will be important before the finish straightens out for the final 500m

July 19 update: This is a tough stage to call. The lumpy terrain should produce a legitimate breakaway, but it could be pulled back together for a sprint finish in Brive-la-Gaillarde where Mario Cipollini won in 1999.

Starting from Blagnac, a suburb of Toulouse, the peloton will head north over rolling/lumpy terrain featuring four modest categorized climbs for 223 km, the second longest stage of this year's race. Based on recent, similar stages like stage 15 in Pau, the tired peloton may allow the break to succeed. But, we haven't had a field sprint since stage 5 and with the mountain stages done there is no reason for a winless sprinter team like Orica-GreenEdge to hold back especially since it still has eight of their nine riders left in the race. Or, Orica-GreenEdge may feel they have a better shot at finally getting a stage win by putting Michael Albasini in the break.

The last cat 4 climb (1.9 km @ 5.7 %) crests 11 km from the end of the stage. If the finish in Brive-la-Gaillarde comes down to a sprint finish, positioning will be especially important given the turns in the final two km (see finish map above). — Steve