July 21, 2005
Stage 18 profile
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Today's kind of a sneaky-hard stage thrown in between the Pyrenees and the time trial.
The Tour visits France's other mountain range, the volcanic Massif Central, which isn't nearly so high as either the Alps or the Pyrenees, but which offers a few tactical opportunities, and a finish just below a steep uphill.
It's 189 km from Albi-Mende with two intermediate sprints and 5 categorized climbs: two 2nd Category, 2 3rd Category, and a 4th Category. Two of the climbs are in the last 20 kms, so this is not a stage for the sprinters.
If the breakaway is caught, this is a stage where one of the team leaders could take a victory (including Armstrong, who would extend his remarkable July 21st streak), or Alexandre Vinokourov, who excels on explosive climbs like this.