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Did you think it was over? Exploring Stage 18

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This thing isn't fully baked yet.  Certainly it was in a hotter than hot oven yesterday, and upon retrieving it from Der Backoffen the Cafe members this afternoon stuck their toothpicks into the middle and pulled out little bits of uncooked Brioche, so back in we go.  Let's have a look at this thing...

In keeping with the flavor of this edition of the Tour, this stage has a certain classics feel to it... in fact, it tastes so classic that I'm predicting a breakaway tomorrow that will include Flecha and Jens!

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We start out in the shadow of L'Alpe d'Huez, just beyond the river that the riders crossed earlier this afternoon on their way up the 21 hairpins to the summit of Mount Sastre (I'm writting a letter to Governor Schwarznegger asking that Mount Shasta be officially renamed Mount Sastre... or maybe I'll just change the signs... it's subtle... no one will know).

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Taking a leisurely chicane through what remains of the Alps.  Fortunately, they're going around them today in a sane fashion, not over them in some fetishistic tribute to Hors Categorie.

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Out of the passes south of Grenoble... and then doing a valley run up towards the first intermediate sprint of the day...

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After the sprint, it's a slight jog west around a ridge and then onto the slopes of the Cat.3: Col de Parmenie (5.3k at 7%)

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A gentle descent that Periero could ride even in his current condition.  At the end of that purple line is the feeding station.

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And then into some agricultural lands where the most exciting thing that could possibly happen is probably echelons.  That would be a cruel, cruel thing to make these poor guys go through after the past few days.

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Then across the glorious Rhône River (on whose corresponding hills some of my favorite wines are made) to the Cat.2:Croix de Montvieux.  At this point they cross into Loire from Isère.

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They say it's a category 2 climb... looks might flat to me... I suspect it's from the length rather than the height... 13.7k at an average of 4.7%

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Off the descent and into another valley (Loire perhaps?  I have no deep knowledge of French geography) and to the second intermediate sprint in St Chamond.

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Done with your sprinting, how about a nice aperitif of Category 4 Côte de Sorbiers... it's wafer thin at 4.3k averaging 3.2%.  No descent after it either... it just climbs up and dumps you on the plateau.

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And finally, on down into Saint-Etienne where we will see Jens! pick up his breakaway stage win of this tour, even though (or because) I left him off my VDS team.

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Here's the video for the entire stage... and guess what... I got a cute little note from Universal Music Group saying that they had instantly fingerprinted the song and were licensing me to use it. How sweet of them...