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Riders set off on 18th stage of Tour de France

Updated: July 21, 2011, 05:54

PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Three-time champion Alberto Contador tried to cut his deficit in the Tour de France as the riders set off on the demanding 18th stage.

The punishing stage Thursday from Pinerolo features three tough climbs so difficult they are considered "beyond category,'' including the Col Agnel - at 9,000 feet the highest peak in this year's race. It finishes atop the Col du Galibier at 8,700 feet the highest race finish in the event's 108-year history.

Thomas Voeckler took the overall lead into the 125-mile stage over the Alps back into France.

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