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The Hills Are Alive at the Tour de France

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The two brutal climbs of today’s 16th stage of the Tour de France did not prove decisive in the overall classification of the race. But the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard and the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard did provide for some true drama with the race now firmly in its third and final act.

Mikel Astarloza of the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team won the 99-mile stage, which started in Switzerland, made a quick foray into Italy, and finished in Bourg-Saint-Maurice in France, while the top three slots on the general classification remained unchanged. Teammates Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong hold the top two positions respectively, with Bradley Wiggins of Boulder’s Garmin-Slipstream squad in third place.

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Christian Vande Velde, who dropped into 12th place after Sunday’s Alpine stage, climbed back into 10th spot with a strong showing today. Veteran Saxo Bank rider Jens Voigt had a horrific crash on the final descent of the day and was taken to the hospital; team officials are expected to make an announcement on his condition later today.

Tomorrow’s stage should offer some real fireworks, with five categorized climbs over 105 miles, the last of which is the tough, classic Col de la Colombiere.

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