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July 20 post: Stage 18 is the biggy, the only stage with three hors catégorie climbs which makes it the Queen Stage of this year Tour in most peoples book.

Starting for the previous finish host in Pinerolo, Italy, we'll head west back into France over Col Agnel (23.7 km @ 6.5 %), Col d'Izoard (14.1 km @ 7.3 %) then the summit finish on Col du Galibier (22.8 km @ 4.9 %) to celebrate the 100th anniverary of the Tour de France's inclusion of the final climb. The Tour has never finished on Col du Galibier before and at 2645m elevation it will be the highest finish in Tour history. In addition, Col Agnel at 2744m be the highest point of this year's race. The Tour has never climbed it from the Italian side and the last 9 km average 10%. Alberto Contador says Col Agnel will be the hardest climb of the Tour.

The weather on Col du Galibier has been (unseasonably?) poor this past week and on Sunday around 200 cyclists had to be rescued from the Col du Galibier while on a "Brevet alpin de cyclotourisme." Snow is forecasted for Wednesday, but Thursday's forecast is partly Sunny with a high of 7C/45F so the Tour organizers may dodge a bullet and cycling fans should get the stage they were hoping for.

This stage will most certainly be an epic battle as mountain goats Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck attempt to crack Cadel Evans who in the past always has one bad day and he hasn't had one yet. As of Tuesday evening, Cadel Evans is in the driver's seat being second on GC and one of the best time-trialists in the top 10. Besides being a great battle among the general classification contenders, the scenery will be majestic. — Steve

Col du Galibier - A Brief History podiumcafe
Tour de France to just avoid snow on Galibier cyclingnews
Snowy Col du Galibier recon photos from this weekvelonews
Big Photos from 2009 Criterium du Dauphine Stage 6: Gap - Briançon (inc. Col d'Izoard) — sirotti
Cycling L'Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier — The Marmotte and Etape du Tour — July