There was a small group including the riders in first and second in the youth classification just ahead of the peloton which finished 6’53" behind Burghardt.
The escapees have won the day. Marcus Burghardt accounted for the challenge of Barredo in the final meters. The top five in stage 18 is:
1. Marcus Burghardt (GER) COL - 196.5km in 4h30’21" (43.61km/h)
2. Carlos Barredo (ESP) QST - at same time
3. Roman Feillu (FRA) AGR - at 3’33"
4. Christophe Le Mevel (FRA) C.A - at 3’33"
5. Mikel Astarloza (ESP) EUS - at 3’35"
Feillu has claimed third place in the stage. It’s the third time this year that he’s finished in this position in a stage (following Nantes and Nimes).
Roman Feillu has attacked the counter-attack in the final kilometer but he has been reeled in by Astarloza and Le Mevel. These three are about to contest the sprint for third place.
Before the Tour, the Columbia team’s management said it would be happy with a rider in the top 10 and two stage wins. It now has five stages - with Burghardt beating Barredo for honors in St-Etienne.
Burghardt has led out the sprint and held off a late surge from Barredo. It is Marcus’ first stage victory in the Tour de France.
Burghardt continues to lead Barredo less than 400m from the line. No one wants to start the sprint...
Burghardt and Barredo are less than 1,000m from the finish of stage 18. It could be the slower final kilometer of the 2008 race. They are insisting on the other opening up the sprint and Burghardt is currently at the front and keeping a close eye on Barredo.
Burghardt has jumped ahead of Barredo but each surge is easily matched by the other. They are 1.2km from the finish with Burghardt currently in the lead.
Le Mevel and Feillu are being subjected to surges from Astarloza in the chasing group that’s 4’30" behind Barredo and Burghardt who are 2km from the end of the stage.
The end of this stage is starting to look like the end of the stage to Fribourg in Germany in 2000 when Salvatore Commesso and Alexandre Vinokourov had such a lead over the peloton that they came to a halt on the final turn while trying to get the other to lead-out the sprint. Barredo and Burghardt are still playing games but each is able to respond to the surge of the other.
Barredo is trying to drop Burghardt but it’s just not happening. These two are less than 5km from the end and have a lead of 4’35" on the three counter-attackers. Astarloza has just surged ahead of the chasing trio.
Barredo has been able to reel in Burghardt and their pair are riding together again with 7km to go in the 18th stage.
The first attack by Burghardt has been a good one. He has been able to gain a good gap on the Spaniard.
Barredo and Burghardt realize that the stage is theirs for the taking and they are already starting to play games with each other in an attempt to make one or the other lead... but now Burghardt has decided to attack.
Barredo has attacked Burghardt again. The only real reward was three points at the top. The German is able to react to every surge from the Spaniard.
As expected, Barredo has attacked Burghart near the top of the final climb but it was little more than a few fast pedal strokes before the German caught him. They are 10’30" ahead of the peloton.
Burghardt and Barredo have just ridden under the 10km to go banner. That means they are essentially on the ascent of the cat-4 cote de Sorbiers.
The points for the second sprint of the 18th stage were won by:
1. Marcus Burghardt (COL) 6pts
2. Carlos Barredo (QST) 4pts
3. Mikel Astarloza (EUS) 2pts - at 4’20".
The last climb of the 18th stage is the cote de Sorbiers. This is a 4.3km long ascent with an average gradient of 3.2 percent. The top is 8.5km from the end of the stage.
The peloton is 10’20" behind B&B with 20km to go in the 18th stage.
Damiano Cunego (LAM) has just reached the summit of the 2nd climb with a deficit of 12’20" to the peloton.
Marcus Burghardt has taken the six points for first at the 2nd intermediate sprint of the stage. Barredo took four and must now be considering when he’s going to attack the tall German... there has already been one surge from the Spaniard (17km from the finish) but the Columbia rider was quick to respond.
The two stage leaders are about to contest the sprint in St-Chamond. They are 10’10" ahead of the peloton and have less than 15km to go in the 18th stage.
This is the second Tour de France for Carlos Barredo. The Spaniard’s best result in a stage until today was 19th in the final stage of the 2007 Tour. He turned 27 on 5 June this year and this is his fourth three-week race. His best result in the general classification was 10th overall in the Vuelta a Espana last year.
The second intermediate sprint of the 18th stage is in St-Chamond. This is near where the accident that claimed the life of Andrei Kivilev (4th in the Tour in 2001) during a stage of Paris-Nice in 2003.
The Kazakh rider was based in St-Etienne and there is a roundabout near the site of today’s finish named in his honor.
Barredo has initiated the first attack at the front of the race. Burghardt quickly chased him down and the pair are together again.
The peloton was led over the top of the Croix de Montvieux 10’10" behind Barredo and Burghardt. The sixth place points (5) went to Cyril Dessel (A2R).
The first hour of stage 18 was the fastest of the 2008 Tour de France.
The average speeds for the first three hours are:
1st Hour - 55.7km/h
2nd Hour - 41.5km/h (48.6km/h - two hours combined)
3rd Hour - 43.7km/h (46.9km/h - three hours combined)
The results of the second climb of stage 18 are:
1. Carlos Barredo (QST) 10pts
2. Marcus Burghardt (COL) 9pts
3. Mikel Astarloza (EUS) 8pts â at 4â15â
4. Christophe Le Mevel (C.A) 7pts
5. Roman Feillu (AGR) 6pts
Astarloza has been doing the most work of the counter-attack group since breaking free of the peloton at the 80km mark. The Euskaltel rider is ranked 18th overall after 17 stages (23’22" behind Sastre). He is now out of the saddle and trying to increase his advantage on the peloton which is roughly six minutes behind at the moment. Le Mevel (C.A) and the former yellow jersey wearer Feillu (AGR) are able to match the pace of the rider who finished 10th overall last year.
Barredo has led Burghart over the top of the Croix de Montvieux (33.5km from the finish). This pair is 4’05" ahead of the three chasers and 10’00" ahead of the peloton.
The last time a stage of the Tour de France concluded in St-Etienne was on the penultimate day of the 2005 race. The winner that day was Lance Armstrong. In sixth place was Cadel Evans 2’06" behind. The current leader of the general classification Carlos Sastre was 12th, 1’04" behind the Australian...
Barredo and Burghardt are 1km from the top of the 2nd climb. The Quickstep rider who instigated the move has been setting the pace but the Columbia recruit who is better known as a sprinter or lead-out man, is able to match the Spaniard’s pace.
The two leaders are almost 5km from the second summit. Their advantage over the peloton is 9’55". Barredo and Burghardt have been sharing the work evenly since joining forces at 118km from the finish.
As the base of the 13.7km Croix de Montvieux, the peloton is 9’35" behind B&B. This climb is 100m shorter than the ascent to L’Alpe d’Huez but its gradient is over three percent less than the final ’HC’ mountain of the 2008 Tour.
The ascent that the peloton is currently on is the final cat-2 test of this year’s race.
The peloton is in Chavanay at the 48km to go mark. It is 9’40" behind Barredo and Burghardt and has arrived in the Loire department. CSC still leads the peloton and there’s no hint of any of the sprinters teams showing any interest in chasing the escapees today.
Le Mevel, Astarloza and Feillu are 3’55" behind as they begin the ascent of the Croix de Montvieux.
Barredo and Burghart have begun the ascent of the Croix de Montvieux climb. It is 13.7km long with an average gradient of 4.7 percent. The summit is at the 163km mark. The climb is ranked category-two, meaning there are 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points awarded to the first six across the line.
The two escapees are within the final 50km of the 18th stage. Their advantage over the chasing trio is 4’10" and 10’15" over the peloton.
The average speed for the third hour is 43.7km/h. The combined average for the first three hours is 46.9km/h.
At the 131km mark, Cunego is still fighting to rejoin the peloton. He is still 11’50" behind. The Italian crashed at the 28km mark, sustaining cuts and abraisons in a fall that happened when the bunch was riding at about 60km/h. He has the support of three Lampre team-mates and is insisting on trying to catch the peloton that’s 10’10" behind Barredo and Burghardt at the 133km.
Burghardt and Barredo are now at the 137km mark. They have been in the lead since joining forces at 80km. Their lead is now 10’23" to the peloton while three others pedal along in between with a deficit of about 4’25".
The mother of Adam Hansen, who is riding his first Tour as part of the Columbia team, contacted LeTour.fr this morning to tell a little story about the 17th stage. Gelma Hansen was a guest at a barbecue hosted by her son’s team at the 3km to go mark of the stage to L’Alpe d’Huez. When Adam saw her, he stopped and took the video camera she was holding. With greetings exchanged, he then decided to film the final 3km of the stage and carried the camera with him to the top of the 13.8km long ascent.
The bunch is content to limit its losses to the two stage leaders who are now 10’30" ahead.
The three counter-attackers are now losing ground on the two stage leaders. The latest check has Le Mevel, Astarloza and Feillu 4’15" behind Barredo and Burghardt.
Just as was the case for the first 100km of the 17th stage, Stuart O’Grady has planted himself at the head of the peloton and is tapping out the tempo at the front of the bunch that is now 10’00" behind Burghardt and Barredo.
The peloton is 12’00" ahead of Cunego and his Lampre colleagues now.
The current situation has the peloton at the 108km mark, 9’40" behind Burghardt and Barredo. The counter-attackers - Le Mevel, Astarloza and Feillu - are at 3’40".
The bunch is now being led by the CSC team and is 9’30" behind Barredo and Burghardt. (The maximum gain was 10’20" at the 96km mark.)
Caisse d’Epargne has been at the head of the peloton since Astarloza escaped the bunch around the 70km mark. Now a rider from Cofidis is also contributing to the pacesetting duties at the head of the bunch.
Le Mevel (C.A), Feillu (AGR) and Astarloza (EUS) are in Penol (105.5km) with a deficit of 3’40" to Burghardt and Barredo. The peloton is now 9’20" behind the stage leaders.
The rider who finished 10th overall last year, Mikel Astarloza is currently part of the counter-attack. He is almost seven minutes ahead of the peloton that’s currently being led by Caisse d’Epargne.
The Euskaltel rider began the 18th stage ranked 18th overall, 23’22". With the 14th best rider after 17 stages, Cunego, now 10 minutes behind the bunch, Astarloza is definitely moving up the general classification today.
Barredo and Burghardt are 3’30" ahead of Le Mevel, Feillu and Astarloza. The peloton has just reached the 96km mark, 10’20" behind the two stage leaders.
The peloton is being led by riders from the Caisse d’Epargne team followed by troops from Christian Vande Velde’s Garmin-Chipotle squad. They are now 10 minutes ahead of Cunego.
The third stage of the 2008 Paris-Nice race was a 165.5km journey from Fleury to St-Etienne, where today’s stage concludes. The winner was a Finnish Liquigas rider, who beat the young French rider who would go on to claim the King of the Mountains title, Clement Lhotellerie. The top 10 of that stage, when Sylvain Chavanel claimed the yellow jersey was:
1. Kjell CarlstrĂ¶m (FIN) LIQ
2. ClĂ©ment Lhotellerie (FRA) SKI
3. Pierre Rolland (FRA) C.A 43"
4. Davide Rebellin (ITA) GST
5. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) A2R
7. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB
8. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM
9. Luis LeĂłn SĂĄnchez (ESP) GCE
10. Gorka Verdugo (ESP) EUS
Barredo and Burghardt are now 10’50" ahead of the peloton. They are at the 97.5km mark.
Contrary to the previous flash, the average speed for the second hour is 41.5km/h and the average of the first two hours 48.6km/h.
The average for the second hour in stage 18 is 45.5km/h.
The peloton has arrived at the feedzone, 11’10" behind Barredo and Burghardt.
Barredo and Burghardt are 3’25" ahead of Feillu, Le Mevel and Astarloza.
The peloton is now 11’40" ahead of the 2006 youth classification winner Damiano Cunego who crashed at the 28km mark. (We don’t have a time check on the bunch to the stage leaders at the moment.)
Barrdeo (QST) attacked at the 68km mark. Two riders â Burghardt and Feillu (AGR) â also escaped the bunch and pursued the Spaniard. At the Col de Parmenie, Barredo led Burghardt by 10â and Feillu by 1â30â. Astarloza (EUS) and Le Mevel (C.A) attacked the peloton on the approach to the first climb and the Frenchman was fourth at the summit, 3â40â behind Barredo. The peloton was 7â45â behind at the 78km mark. Feillu was caught by Astarloza and Le Mevel at 83km.
Feillu has been caught by Astarloza and Le Mevel. This trio is 3’30" behind Barredo and Burghardt.
The bunch has arrived at the top of the Col de Parmenie (78km) 7’45" behind Barredo.
The rider who is currently at the front of the stage after attacking at the 68km mark is Carlos Barredo. The Quickstep rider won the Sisteron stage of Paris-Nice earlier this year and has been aggressive early in several stages in the second and third weeks of the Tour de France. He is ranked 100th after 17 stages, 2 hours 35 minutes and 55 seconds behind his compatriot Carlos Sastre.
Marcus Burghardt (COL) has caught Carlos Barredo (QST) at the 81km mark. These two are ahead of Feillu by about one and a half minutes and about 3’40" ahead of Le Mevel (C.A) and Astarloza (EUS).
Christophe Le Mevel (QST) has taken fourth place at the first climb, 3’40" behind Barredo.
The points at the top of the first climb in stage 18 were won by:
1. Carlos Barredo (QST) 4pts
2. Marcus Burghardt (COL) 3pts - at 10"
3. Roman Feillu (AGR) 2pts - at 1’30"
...we await the arrival of the fourth placed rider at the top.
The first climb of the 18th stage is the Col de Parmenie which is 5.3km long with an average gradient of seven percent. Barredo is still in the lead of the stage with a 20" advantage over Burghardt with 1km to climb. Feillu is at 1’00".
There are five riders ahead of the peloton at the moment. Barredo was 40" ahead of Feillu and Burghardt at the last check. Also in pursuit of the escapees are Astarloza and Le Mevel who are 3’55". The peloton is at 4’55" as they ascent the Col de Parmenie.
On the approach to the first climb of the 18th stage, Barredo’s advantage over the counter-attacking riders Feillu and Burghardt is 40".
Cunego has the support of three Lampre team-mates but he’s losing time quickly today. Contrary to the previous flash, his 13’40" deficit is to the main bunch, not the escapee (Barredo).
Cunego is currently 13’40" behind the escapee (Barredo) after crashing at the 28km mark.
At the base of the climb, the peloton is 2’45" behind Barredo.
Barredo leads Feillu and Burghardt by 35" as they begin the ascent of the Col de Parmenie.
Barredo (QST) leads Burghardt (COL) and Feillu (AGR) by 15" and the peloton by 1’00".
Carlos Barredo is insisting with his move. He leads a counter-attack by Feillu and Burghardt but we don’t have any time checks yet.
Carlos Barredo has been an early aggressor in numerous stages this year. He is currently trying to escape the bunch at the 65km mark.
After 3,000.5km of racing, Damiano Cunego was ranked 14th overall. His deficit to Sastre was 12’26" at the start of the day. He crashed at the 28km mark and is racing again with the help of three Lampre team-mates but the last time check had him 9’40" behind a fast moving peloton.
The bunch is stil together at the 63km mark despite several recent escape attempts.
The seven riders who escaped the peloton at the 2km mark were all reeled by 48.5km. There have been a number of riders trying to break free since but no move has yet been successful.
Cunego has the support of three Lampre team-mates after his crash at the 28km mark. The Italian who finished second at L’Alpe d’Huez in 2006 (and won the youth classification that year) is now 9’40" behind the peloton.
The rider who finished outside the time limit after being dropped right at the start of the first climb in stage 17 was Jimmy Casper. He finished 48’47" behind the stage winner but, curiously, posted a time that was the 41st fastest for the final ascent. Mmm, somehow Mr Casper ascended Alpe d’Huez eight seconds faster than Stefan Schumacher. The Frenchman was eliminated from the race yesterday.
The average speed for the first hour of stage 18 is 55.7km/h.
Before the end of the first hour, the bunch has arrived at the town of Noyarey at the 54km mark.
The peloton is past the 50km mark already. The official start of the stage was 52 minutes ago and clearly the bunch is showing no sign of being tired despite the two previous days of racing in the Alps.
Cunego is back on his bike and racing after falling earlier today. He is 7’30" behind the peloton at the moment.
The peloton has caught the last of the early escapees at the 48.5km mark. Now it’s time for another selection to be made. Who’s your money on? Credit Agricole, Quickstep and the Bouygues boys were most intent on catch the attacking riders...
Bichot (AGR), Auge (COF) and Schroder (MRM) are about to be swallowed up by the peloton that is being led by three riders from the Liquigas team.
The three riders who claimed points at the sprint in Grenoble are still insisting with their escape. They are 12" ahead of the peloton now.
Monfort, Pozzato, Lang and Burghardt have been caught by the peloton.
1. Freddy Bichot (AGR) 6pts
2. Bjorn Schroder (MRM) 4pts
3. Stephane Auge (COF) 2pts
The first time that the race organizers presented a yellow jersey to the leader of the general classification was in 1919 when Eugene Christophe earned the honor. That presentation was conducted in Grenoble, the city where the peloton is now.
The seven escapees are likely to be caught before the Grenoble sprint. The bunch is now just 15" behind Pozzato’s group.
The last stage of the Tour to conclude in Grenoble was in 1998 when Stuart O’Grady won a close sprint - complete with headbutts in the closing meters - after being part of an escape group.
(COL), Pozzato (LIQ), Lang (GST), Bichot (AGR), Schroder (MRM), Auge and Monfort (COF) are at the 38km mark, 25" ahead of the peloton. They are less than 5km from the first intermediate sprint.
The first intermediate sprint is at the 43km mark. There are now three teams at the front of the peloton that is intent on catching the seven escapees. The squad leading the chase are Credit Agricole, Bouygues Telecom and Quickstep.
Contrary to a previous newsflash, the crash victim Damiano Cunego is not back on his bike (yet). Apologies for the error.
The peloton is at the 33km mark with a deficit of 36" to Pozzato’s septet.
Despite the fast pace of the peloton today, Cunego has been able to rejoin the group that’s now 39" behind the seven escapees despite crashing at the 31km mark.
Alexandre Botcharov (C.A) and Damiano Cunego (LAM) have been caught up in a crash in the peloton.
The bunch has just reached the 29km mark and is 45" behind the seven escapees that include three German riders representing three team - Burghardt, Schroder and Lang. The Quickstep team has joined forces with one Bouygues boy to set the pace of the chase of the move that started at the 2km mark. To quote Sebastien Piquet of Radio Tour, "it’s a very fast pace indeed..."
Of the seven riders who are in the lead of the 18th stage, one has previously won a stage of the Tour de France. Filippo Pozzato was the youngest rider in the 2004 edition and he claimed victory in St-Brieuc while riding for the Fassa Bortolo team. Last year, the Italian picked up a victory for Liquigas in Autun when he outsprinted Freire, Bennati, Kirchen and Zabel.
The winner of the stage to Angouleme last year, Sandy Casar (FDJ) has just crashed in the peloton. He is back up on his feet and ready to race again.
The advantage has stabalized: at the 21.5km mark, the bunch is still 50" behind Burghardt (COL), Pozzato (LIQ), Lang (GST), Bichot (AGR), Schroder (MRM), Auge and Monfort (COF).
The Bouygues Telecom squad is collaborating with the Quickstep team at the front of the peloton that’s at the 18.5km mark with a deficit of 55" to the seven escapees.
Of the seven that are 55" ahead of the bunch at the moment, the best ranked in the general classification after 17 stages is Maxime Monfort (COF). He is 24th overall, 34’48" behind Carlos Sastre.
The advantage of Burghardt (COL), Pozzato (LIQ), Lang (GST), Bichot (AGR), Schroder (MRM), Auge and Monfort (COF) had grown to 50" as the escape group reached the 16km mark. Now Quickstep has come to the front of the bunch to try and limit the gains of the group that has no riders from the Belgian squad represented in it.
The leading septet are 40" ahead of the peloton that is now led by the CSC team of overall leader, Carlos Sastre. The bunch has just arrived at the 13km mark.
Two of the seven riders who are 25" ahead of the peloton early today were part of the first escape group in the 2008 Tour de France. Bjorn Schroder (MRM) and Stephane Auge (COF) attacked in the first 10km of stage one.
Burghardt (COL), Pozzato (LIQ), Lang (GST), Bichot (AGR), Schroder (MRM), Auge and Monfort (COF) are insisting with their escape. They are 27" ahead of the peloton that is being led by riders from the Credit Agricole team.
The peloton appears intent on chasing down the seven escapees. But for the moment we can report that Marcus Burghardt (COL), Filippo Pozzato (LIQ), Sebastian Lang (GST), Freddy Bichot (AGR), Bjorn Schroder (MRM), Stephane Auge and Maxime Monfort (COF) are the riders who attacked at the 2km mark.
Today’s question on the official website of the Tour de France (LeTour.fr) relates to the ’Most Aggressive Rider’ classification. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the poll which asks:
After 17 stages, which of the following riders do you believe deserves to be awarded the âSuper Combativeâ rider of the 2008 Tour?
- Stefan Schumacher (GST)
- Sylvain Chavanel (COF)
- Andy Schleck (CSC)
- Amael Moinard (COF)
- Remy Di Gregorio (FDJ)
The second rider from CSC to wear a jersey of distinction is Andy Schleck. âI will come back one year and try to reach the podium of the Tour. I think itâs possible; why not?â he said after finishing third in the stage to LâAlpe dâHuez, two minutes and eight seconds ahead of the next best rider in the youth classification, Roman Kreuziger (LIQ). Although heâs ranked 12th overall, just over 10 minutes behind his team-mate Carlos Sastre, the younger of the two Schleck brothers in the 2008 Tour is humble about his future prospects. He prefers to downplay his ability rather than talk himself up. âIâm not going to say that Iâm going to win it one day.â
Andy has a lead of 1â58â over Kreuziger while third place in the category open to riders born after 1 January 1983 is the former leader and another Liquigas recruit Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian is 15 minutes 24 seconds behind
At the 2nd kilometer a group of seven riders has broken free of the peloton. We await confirmation of the names of those involved.
By adding 40 more points to his collection in the mountains classification, Bernhard Kohl (GST) has built an unbeatable advantage in the race for the polka-dot jersey. All he has to do is finish the Tour and heâs assured of a place on the podium in Paris to collect the King of the Mountains crown. He has a total of 125 points, 45 more than yesterdayâs stage winner Carlos Sastre (CSC). Even if the Spaniard claimed first place at the top of each climb that remains on the itinerary over the next four days, he can only add another 31 points to his total.
Sastre and his team-mate Frank Schleck, who is currently third in the climbersâ category (also with 80pts) are more concerned with keeping the yellow jersey anyway.
Thomas Voeckler (BTL) tried everything to get within striking distance of the impressive Austrian climber but the Frenchman has almost half the points of Kohl after 17 stages.
The official start of the 18th stage was at 12.28pm. There are 150 riders in the race. The attacks have begun as soon as the race director waved the flag to signal the beginning of action today.
Today could be a day for the sprinters now that the mountains are behind the peloton. The riders at the top of the points classification will be considering their chances in a stage that is suited to the fast men or opportunists. Oscar Freire (RAB) has a 47 point advantage over Thor Hushovd (C.A) while Erik Zabel (MRM) holds down third place, five points behind the Norwegian 2005 green jersey winner. Leonardo Duque (COF) has been consistent in all the flat and transitional stages and is currently ranked fifth (with 137pts) while three other former yellow jersey wearers from this year Alejandro Valverde (GCE), Roman Feillu (AGR) and Cadel Evans (SIL) are still ranked in the top 10 of the points classification.
The rider who finished last in the 17th stage, will not be at the start of the 18th. Jimmy Casper (AGR) finished outside the time limit at L’Alpe d’Huez, crossing the line 48 minutes, 47 seconds behind Carlos Sastre.
The winner of the stage to LâAlpe dâHuez, Carlos Sastre of the might CSC team is the second rider from his squad to wear the yellow jersey in the 2008 Tour de France and the seventh man this year to lead the general classification. His advantage after 17 stages, and 3,000.5km, on the rider in second place â his team-mate Frank Schleck â is one minute, 24 seconds. âI donât know about my gains and how it is for the time trial on Saturday,â said the 11th Spaniard to wear the âmaillot jauneâ after his victory. âI want to enjoy the moment now and celebrate with my team-mates because they did a fantastic job.â
Bernhard Kohl (GST) is ranked third, one minute 33 seconds behind Sastre. Many believe the biggest threat to prince Carlosâ throne is the rider ranked fourth overall at the moment, Cadel Evans. The Australian finished one minute 16 seconds ahead of Sastre in the 29.5km stage four time trial and currently lags one minute 34 seconds behind him in the general classification.
Kim Kirchen is the only rider to drop out of the top 10 after yesterdayâs stage. He is now ranked 11th overall, 8â35â behind Sastre.
The bunch is currently on its way to the start of the 18th stage. The itinerary includes three climbs: the cat-3 col de Parmenie (at 78km), the cat-2 Croix de Montvieux (163km) and the cat-4 cote de Sorbiers (188km). The intermediate sprints are in Grenoble (at 43km) and St-Chamond (181.5km).
The 18th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, a 196.5km journey from Bourg dâOisans to St-Etienne, is due to begin shortly. The riders will leave the village at the base of LâAlpe dâHuez at 12.20pm and pedal through a 3.1km neutral zone before Christian Prudhomme will wave the white flag to signal the official start of the stage.
The sun is shining and conditions are hot for this final Thursday of the 95th Tour de France. Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.