After the fastest start of the 2008 Tour de France, an attack was allowed by the peloton to gain some time. Carlos Barredo insisted on being in the escape and he was chased down by Marcus Burghardt who would spoil the Spaniardâs hopes of a stage win in a curious display of sprinting much like what weâre used to seeing on the velodrome. They amassed an unbeatable advantage and toyed with each other in the final kilometer and it wasnât until the final 200 meters that the German stepped on the gas to give his Columbia team its fifth stage victory in the 95th Tour de France. There was no change to the top order of the general classification and Carlos Sastre retains his overall lead after 3,198km of racing.
The Progress Report
The 18th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, a 196.5km journey from Bourg dâOisans to St-Etienne, began at 12.28pm. There were 150 riders in the race. The final Thursday of the 95th edition featured 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 were in Grenoble (at 43km) and St-Chamond (181.5km). The conditions were warm with a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius at the start and over 30 degrees by the second hour of racing. The sun was shining over the Isere and Loire departments.
Fastest First Hour This Year
Burghardt (COL), Pozzato (LIQ), Lang (GST), Bichot (AGR), Schroder (MRM), Auge and Monfort (COF) attacked at the 2km mark. They reached a maximum gain of 55â at the 18km mark. Quickstep and Bouygues insisted on chasing them down. Bichot, Schroder and Auge claimed the sprint points in Grenoble and the four others were caught by the bunch. At the 48.5km mark, the other three were also gobbled up by the bunch. Cunego (LAM) crashed at the 28km mark. By the site of the sprint, he was 7â30â behind the bunch. The average speed for the first hour was the fastest so far this year at 55.7km/h!
Two Escapees; Three Counter-AttackersâŚ
Barredo (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. The average speed for the second hour was 41.5km/h. At 96km, the peloton was 10â20â behind the two stage leaders â this was the maximum advantage for the escapees. Caisse dâEpargne had led the peloton but at the 100km CSC took control.
At 133km, the two led three by 4â20â, the peloton by 10â20â and Cunego by 23â20â. The average speed for the third hour was 43.7km/h. At the top of the Croix de Montvieux, the two leaders were 4â15â ahead of Astarlozaâs trio and 10â10â ahead of the CSC-led peloton.
Burghardt Wins The Sprinting Game
The two escapees knew they had the chance to contest the stage. The first to attack was Barredo, who tried a little surge with 18km to go but it was easily accounted for by Burghardt. From there until the finish they did enough to maintain a decent advantage on the chase and, in the final kilometers eased off the gas and started toying with each others like sprinters on the velodrome. Burghardt drew the front position for the final sprint and stomped on the accelerator 200m from the line to hold off a frustrated Barredo. They finished 3â33â ahead of the counter-attackers, 6â39â ahead of a group containing the two leaders of the youth classification â Andy Schleck and Roman Kreuziger â and 6â50â ahead of the peloton.
Carlos Sastre finished 37th in the stage and will wear the yellow jersey in stage 19.
After tapping out the tempo behind the escape for the final three hours, Andy Schleck had to respond to an attack from his closest rival in the youth classification. It made for an interesting end to what was otherwise a rather rudimentary stage for the young CSC recruit.
âI have just one guy to really watch out for now and thatâs Roman Kreuziger and when he went I was not quite on his wheel. I got close and then had to work because I just donât want him to take back any time on me now.
âIt wasnât cheeky; this is a bike race and everybody can take their chance every day. Why shouldnât he try today? Thatâs racing and I was concentrating on the job I had to do. I was there, I followed him and did what I had to do.
âIt was very fast at the beginning but once the break was gone it was relatively easy until the final. And for me, when Kreuziger went, I followed and it was a pretty hard final as well.â
It took him a while to find his rhythm after a fast start but Carlos Sastre enjoyed his first day in yellow, insisting that the compliments from his peers helped his realize that he was no longer dreaming of being in the yellow jersey.
âIt was a nice day. Itâs the first time Iâve worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and I spent the day where I want to be: in a race with my team-mates. They controlled the pace very well and there were no problems. I have once worn the leaderâs jersey in the Vuelta a Espana and that was a nice time but the Tour de France is special, itâs different. Iâm happy. I got a lot of congratulations from the guys in the peloton and it was something that helped make it seem real. No longer is leading the Tour just part of my dreams.
âThe beginning of the stage was really fast and it was not easy because my legs were a bit heavy after the last couple of days in the mountain but later it was okay.
âIâm looking forward to tomorrow. Iâll think about the time trial on Saturday. Weâll see the course and Iâll do what I can. All I can do is to be my best. Thatâs what I have and Iâll try with what Iâve got.â
The manager of the Columbia team seemed rather dazed at the finish of the 18th stage. Bob Stapleton had grown used to attending the podium protocol in the first week but he quietly and concisely sang the praise of one of the true workers of his line-up after Marcus Burghardtâs victory against Carlos Barredo in St-Etienne.
âIt was exceptional to see Marcus do what did today. He was injured in January and missed all the Spring Classics â which is really what he lives for â and he fought hard to come back and be ready for the Tour. Heâs only got about 35 days of racing in his legs and he worked super hard the whole race to defend the yellow jersey, help the lead-outs for âCavâ and then he gets to do something here and he pulled it off. Itâs just great for the team. It lifts the motivation of everybody involved. Itâs what every worker needs; to believe that some day heâll get a chance to winâŚ and he did, and he did it.
âThe other thing is, âBoogieâ is exhausted. Heâs been riding at the front for the whole race. Heâs probably been on television more than any single athlete in the Tour because heâs been at the front so much. I was just nervous that there was just too much accumulative work over the course of the Tour. And Barredo tested him; we saw it. There were repeated, sharp attacks and theyâre really painful for a tired rider and Carlos did everything he could to win but âBoogieâ was just too strong. On television it looked kind of funny, it looked like Marcus could have eaten him; the size difference between the two was pretty significant.â
He had been the freight train that steamed along at the front of the bunch on the days when Kim Kirchen was in yellow and Mark Cavendish was winning stages. Near the end of the Tour, Marcus Burghardt earned a reward for himself.
âItâs amazing because we have had such success already in this team and now I canât believe it that I have also taken a victory in the Tour de France. The first attack came at kilometer zero and I was in the first group with seven riders that was caught after the first hour of racing. I didnât give up and attacked again and was pleased to be able to make the selection
âNear the end of the stage, Carlos [Barredo] and I exchanged a few words and he said that he wouldnât work anymore because he thought that I am faster in the sprint and it turns out that I had better legs in the end.
âIt was important that, in the first two weeks that I helped Kim [Kirchen] and Mark [Cavendish] and maybe that was also the reason that we had so much success in the first days. Our management is really good, we have a really nice team and a great spirit in our group and I think thatâs the key to how weâve achieved the success we have at this yearâs Tour de France. We came here knowing that we could be strong but Iâm very happy to have contributed to success in the early stages and to get a win for myself is something Iâll remember for a long time.â
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.