Once again, Mark Cavendish has won the stage on the final Friday of the Tour de France (as he did in Aubenas last year). The top 10 in stage 18 is: 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR 2. Julian Dean (NZL) GRM 3. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM 4. Robbie McEwen (AUS) KAT 5. Oscar Freire (ESP) RAB 6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY 7. Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) OLO 8. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) GCE 9. Grega Bole (SLO) LAM 10. Ruben Perez (ESP) EUS
Alessandro Petacchi hit out the moment that Lancaster dropped Hushovd off to start his sprint. The Italian went down the left side of the road and it prompted Cavendish to hit the turbo button. Once he did that, it was daylight in second place... the HTC-Columbia rider is simply the best sprinter in the Tour. He has taken his fourth victory this year and his 14th from four starts.
Mark Cavendish has rewarded his troops for all the work they did throughout the stage. He has won his 14th Tour stage by beating Julian Dean and Alessandro Petacchi.
Lancaster is now leading Hushovd out for the sprint... but Cav has gone and appears unstoppable!
Barry is now leading Lovkist, Wiggins, Flecha, Thomas and Boasson Hagen at the front of the peloton which is less than 2km from the finish.
With less than 3km to go there are six Sky riders at the front of the peloton.
There has been an attack from a Milram rider with about 3km to go in the stage. He has realised it’s not going to work and now Martin (THR) is at the front of the bunch again..
Oss has been caught by the peloton which now has a Cervelo rider at the front.
Oss refuses to concede even though the peloton has the Italian in its sights. He is just 12" ahead of the HTC-led bunch with 5km to go.
Oss is riding his first Tour and he’s trying to earn Liquigas its first victory in the 2010 race. He is 18" ahead as the peloton arrives on the streets of Bordeaux. The 23-year-old rider earned his first national title as a junior in the 3,000m pursuit...
There are four Euskaltel riders trying to hold position near the front of the peloton which is now 23" behind Daniel Oss.
Daniel Oss (LIQ) is still in the lead by over half a minute. He has just been voted the winner of the ’Fighting Spirit’ award so he’s assured of some podium time at the end of the stage... and perhaps even a meeting with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise who are on the Tour today.
Oss is inside the final 10km of the stage. He has a lead of 32".
Oss is less than 12km from the finish and insisting with his attack. He is 35" ahead of the bunch which now has HTC and Lampre at the front on the right side of the road and Rabobank leading on the left.
There has been a puncture for a Cervelo rider but we don’t know who. It mustn’t be Hushovd as he would have been recognised in his green jersey.
Breschel, Vaugrenard and Pineau are waiting for the peloton.
The pace of the peloton is spitting a few riders out the back. Basso and Nocentini are two have have recently lost contact...
Oss has dropped his escape companions and is now committed to a 13.5km time trial to Bordeaux...
With 14km to go, Pineau has attacked the lead group. Breschel leads the chase and now Oss is having a go....
The peloton is moments away from capturing the four who escaped at the 11km mark. The maximum gain of the quartet was just 3’35" around the 45km mark... they are now just 37" ahead of the peloton that’s dominated by HTC-Columbia riders at the front. Cavendish has been a little ill these last few days but the team clearly has confidence in its leader, for they’ve been working almost all day to limit the gains of the escapees.
Today’s poll on the official site of the Tour de France asks:
Of the leaders of the points classification, who will win today?
Jose Joaquin Rojas
The peloton is speeding along at 60km/h and is just 1’00" behind the four escapees who are less than 20km from the finish.
One Caisse d’Epargne rider has dropped behind the peloton to help LL Sanchez make his way back to the bunch after his puncture.
The leader of the Caisse d’Epargne team has just received a new wheel after a puncture.
The peloton is now strung out in one long line and the speed is up over 50km/h with the wind blowing it towards Bordeaux. The latest check has the four escapees 1’25" ahead.
The escapees have been at the front of the stage for almost 160km. They are less than 28km from the finish but the peloton has never given them much leeway. Oss has consistently been spending a little longer at the front of the breakaway than Pineau, Vaugrenard or Breschel but the quartet have been fairly even with the pace setting. There is yet to be an attack either form the peloton of the lead group which broke free at 11km.
The peloton is 1’55" behind the four escapees who are inside the final 30km of the stage.
The wind is behind the riders as it has been for much of the day. Tony Martin’s data on the SRM live streaming reveals that the peloton is moving along at a touch over 48km/h. But he’s surging to over 50km/h when he ups his power output to over 300 watts.
There are now 170 riders in the Tour de France. Quickstep’s Francesco Reda has just abandoned the race.
The stage leaders have contested the intermediate sprint in Hostens (150.5km). The points were won by: 1. Daniel Oss (LIQ) 6pts 2. Jerome Pineau (QST) 4pts 3. Matti Breschel (SAX) 2pts
Andy Schleck has dropped behind the peloton to consult the race doctor. He is not happy about the cameras catching the consultation and is asking the cameramen to stop taking shots. It seems he has some issues with his left hand but he’s finished with the doctor and is now riding back to the peloton.
Milram is yet to win a stage of the Tour de France. The team has just moved two guys forward and they appear prepared to start cooperating with HTC-Columbia and Lampre in the pace setting at the front of the peloton. So far, the team’s sprinter, Gerald Cioleck has finished 11th in stage 4, 2nd in stage 5, 5th in stage 6 and 10th in stage 11...
The advantage of the escapees has grown to 2’35". The riders who attacked at the 11km mark are:
Daniel Oss (ITA) LIQ
Matti Breschel (DEN) SAX
Jerome Pineau (FRA) QST
Benoit Vaugrenard (FRA) FDJ
The winner of the 15th stage of the 2001 Tour de France, Rik Verbrugghe, celebrates his 36th birthday today.
Contador is yet to win a stage in the 2010 Tour. Since the first post-WWII race (in 1947) only five riders have won the title of the race without taking a stage in the same year.
Roger Walkowiak (FRA) in 1956
Gastone Nencini (ITA) in 1960
Lucien Aimar (FRA) in 1966
Greg LeMond (USA) in 1990
Oscar Pereiro (ESP) in 2006
The bunch is about to take a right turn and we can expect the speed to increase a little as the wind will be coming from behind again.
The riders have enjoyed a tailwind earlier today but right now the breeze may have turned. The peloton has eased the pace of its chase a little but Grabsch (who was recently at the front of the bunch) is traveling along at 38km/h.
With the leaders 63km from Bordeaux, their advantage over the peloton is 2’15".
How difficult is it for the guys to switch back to sprint mode after a few days in the mountains? “They’ve all had it in their heads,” said Allan Peiper of the HTC-Columbia team earlier today. “They know that it’s back to the office today. “As far as the time trial tomorrow, Tony Martin has a good chance of winning. Bert Grabsch hopes to do a good ride there and today we’ll be trying to bring it all together for ‘Cav’. They’ve known that the last three days are going to be crucial for the team."
The maximum gain of the escape was 3’40" at the 45km mark and since then the peloton has been closing in steadily. The latest check has Oss, Vaugrenard, Pineau and Breschel ahead by just 1’50".
Contrary to a recent newsflash posted on LeTour.fr, the last rider to win the title of the Tour but not a stage of that year’s race was Oscar Pereiro in 2006, not Greg LeMond in 1990. (Apologies for the error.)
The average speed for the third hour is 40.3km/h. The first three hours were raced at an average of 42.0km/h.
So far this year, Alberto Contador has finished in the top 10 of seven stages but he’s yet to win a stage. The Spaniard who wears the yellow jersey has won four stages from his three previous starts in the race - at Plateau de Beille in 2007, the team time trial last year (in Montpellier), at Verbier in 2010 and the time trial in Annecy last year. He could yet become the first Tour winner since Greg LeMond in 1990 not to win a stage in the year of his overall victory.
"Of course, we do not have the same structure as the big teams of sprinters," continued Lavenu about Lloyd Mondory. "He is forced to be more autonomous. But we still Christophe Riblon and Nicolas Roche, both powerful runners, and they took her as far as possible." Mondory has finished in the top 10 in four stages this year.
“Right now he’s fit,” Vincent Lavenu of AG2R told France Televisions about the team’s sprinter Lloyd Mondory. “He even ended fourth in a mountain stage (15). In the sprint it is not quite as strong as the best, but it is not so far. We will do everything possible to bring in the best positions, hoping that it happens to go in the top five."
There are four HTC-Columbia riders near the front of the peloton but all remaining members of the Lampre team are sharing the work. Simon Spilak was the only rider to quit the Tour during yesterday’s stage to the col du Tourmalet so the Italian squad is down to eight men.
With Bert Grabsch participating with the pace setting duties at the head of the peloton, we checked his power output to see that he’s riding at around 40km/h with an output of 305 watts. This is well above the power of team-mate Bernhard Eisel who is saving his legs for the finale when he will be the last lead-out man for Cavendish. The Austrian is riding further back in the peloton and his output is just 140 watts...
The winner of the youth classification at the Giro d’Italia, Richie Porte, was recently in touch with LeTour.fr. We asked him for a couple of sentences with an appraisal of the leader of the youth classification at the Tour de France, Andy Schleck. The Tasmanian is frugal with his words and he offered just two words: "He’s skinny."
Sivtsov is one of the HTC-Columbia riders that’s at the front of the peloton. To maintain the same speed as his team-mate Martin (who is further down the paceline) the Belorussian is generating around 280 watts, 40 more than his German team-mate.
Tony Martin is traditionally one of the later lead-out men for Mark Cavendish. He is currently in the peloton that’s rolling along at 41.1km/h, about two and a half minutes behind the escape. To maintain this tempo, his power output is at 214 watts.
One of the riders in the lead group, Matti Breschel, is part of a band with two of his Saxo Bank team-mates - Kasper Klostergaard and Anders Lund. "I’ve heard he’s pretty good," said a source from inside the team, "and I think he’s the singer..."
As the peloton arrives in the feedzone, it is just 2’20" behind the four-man escape.
Andy Schleck is poised to become the second rider to win the youth classification at the Tour de France three times. He has contested the race three times, winning the white jersey in his debut (2008 - when he was 11th overall). Last year he was the runner-up overall and first in the under-26 category. Already this year, Saxo Bank has won one white jersey - Richie Porte, a Giro debutant was the best young rider in that race in May.
Oss, Breschel, Pineau and Vaugrenard are at the feedzone at the 91.5km mark. They are 2’25" ahead of the peloton.
The average speed for the second hour is 40.6km/h and the average for the first two hours 43.0km/h.
The bunch is led by riders from both Lampre and HTC-Columbia and is 2’50" behind at the 83km mark.
None of the four men in the lead of stage 18 have previously won a stage of the Tour. Benoit Vaugrenard is a regular attacker but his best place was 8th in stage 18 of the 2006 Tour. He was part of a 15-man escape group that attacked early in the stage to Macon (on the eve of the final TT). The winner that day was Matteo Tossato and another from today’s escape was in the move, Jerome Pineau...The peloton finished eight minutes behind on the day that Leipheimer won the ’Fighting Spirit’ prize.
LeTour.fr’s interview with Robbie McEwen concluded with a question about his future plans... You’ve got an amazing Tour de France record but at the next three days the last of your participation in the race? “I don’t know," said the 38-year-old. "If you asked me a week ago, I’d have said that I never want to come back. But I haven’t made any decision on my future. I’m not thinking any further than this afternoon – or the end of this race.”
Three Astana team-mates have joined Contador to help pace him back to the peloton after a quick bike change.
The yellow jersey has recently stopped to change his bike. He had a Specialized frame with a funky paint job but now he’s back on the one he used yesterday.
Of the four in the escape, Daniel Oss (LIQ) has spent more time at the front than the others. In the last 10 minutes he’s been setting the pace for 27 per cent of the time.
“I basically suffered all the way this year," McEwen told LeTour.fr earlier today. "My injuries made me go much deeper into my reserves than I otherwise would have so I’ve gotten through those. I’m suffering from not sitting straight on the bike, and the pain from the wounds themselves. I had to hurt myself a lot just to get to the finish so I’ll see how I come up today and hopefully in the final I’ll have decent legs and will be able to push out a good sprint.”
“You don’t always have the ability to manage who is in the break. There’s a lumpy [hilly] start to the stage and there are plenty of attacking opportunities early and if a group of more than five or six get away, it can be more than a handful to manage. And at this end of the race, it’s hard to feel good. Some guys are super, some are absolutely on their hands and knees… it depends on who goes up the road and who is chasing.”
“It’s one of those days that, on paper, everyone thinks is a day for the sprinters but you still have to control everything so that it all comes together," said McEwen about the 198km stage to Bordeaux. "I remember the last time we finished in Bordeaux, [Servais] Knaven won solo and he was in an escape that went from kilometer zero.”
There are still many teams that haven’t won at this Tour and they’ll surely go out on the attack. It’ll be very tactical today because the green jersey is also up for grabs between Hushovd and Petacchi and, who knows, maybe even Cavendish," McEwen told LeTour.fr earlier today. “There’ll be two teams that will want to bring it together for a sprint to get the points: HTC and Lampre. Cevelo will NOT want it to come down to that… and there’ll be plenty of teams on the attack."
“I’m still in the race so everything is possible," Robbie McEwen responded to LeTour.fr when asked if he could win today. "The reason I’ve tried so hard to stay in the race is to get to this stage and to Sunday. First, it’s got to come to a sprint and, secondly, I’ve got to be able to manage it well. “It’s not that obvious that a stage like this will end in a sprint and at the tale end of a three week race, when we’ve just had hard mountain stages, it’s not easy to keep it all together."
The escape is just three minutes ahead of the peloton at the 63km mark.
True to the predictions from Allan Peiper of the HTC-Columbia team earlier today, the Lampre team is assuming responsibility of the pursuit of the escapees who are lingering around 3’30" ahead after an hour and a half of racing in stage 18.
The peloton hasn’t led Oss, Pineau, Breschel or Vaugrenard gain any real advantage. The maximum so far today for the four escapees was 3’40" at 45km. They latest check has the four escapees ahead by 3’15".
Although 16 riders would finish ahead of the field in stage 18 of the 2003 Tour by 24’05" the peloton was still together at the 50km mark when three riders jumped ahead in the quest for sprint points (and time bonuses). Robbie McEwen led Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong to the intermediate sprint line in Montendre at the 50.5km mark. Ullrich would begin the final time trial just 1’05" behind the Texan in the general classification.
Just as it was in stage 18 seven years ago, there is a tailwind for the riders who are tracing a northern trajectory on the eve of the time trial. Back in 2003, when Ullrich and Armstrong were battling for time bonuses, the winner of the stage was Pablo Lastras who was the best of 16 riders who had attacked earlier in the day. The Spaniard finished the 203.5km stage in just four hours, 3 minutes and 18 seconds, the second fastest stage of the Tour at 49.938km/h.
At the end of the 2003 Tour de France, first and second overall were Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. Only 1’07" separated the pair at the top of the general classification. It was the closest anyone had come to Armstrong during his reign as Tour winner and time bonuses were awarded at intermediate sprints at the time. In the 18th stage, from Bordeaux to St-Maixent L’Ecole, the two GC leaders raced for bonuses... (to be continued...)
The peloton is being pushed along at a rapid pace by a tail wind today.
The escapees have covered 45.4km in the first hour of racing in stage 18.
The peloton is at the 41km mark of the 18th stage and is 3’35" behind the four escapees who have been at the front of the race for 30km now.
In the Tour of Missouri last year, Daniel Oss was fourth in the 184km third stage which was won by Thor Hushovd. JJ Haedo was second, Dario Cataldo third... then Oss, ahead of Cavendish. The next day the neo pro from Liquigas was fourth again, behind the same guys (different order). Two days later he acted as lead-out man for Francesco Cicchi who won the stage ahead of Hushovd and Haedo.
When he was still a junior, Daniel Oss was a versatile rider capable of winning medals at the national level in Italy in a wide variety of disciplines. In 2004, he was the gold medalist in the individual pursuit (3,000m for juniors), 3rd in the team pursuit, 3rd in the scratch race, 2nd in the road time trial... and 3rd in the team sprint at the European championships. These days his role is a lead-out man but he may become a sprinter in his own right...
At the end of March the young Italian from Liquigas who is in the escape today, Daniel Oss, made a big impression with his work as a lead-out man. The 23-year-old was the last lead-out man for Daniele Bennati in the one-day Classic, Milan-San Remo... he led the peloton under the ’flamme rouge’ and paced his team’s sprinter for over 500m as the pack charged towards the line. He has a history as a track pursuiter and is riding his first Tour this year. He was sixth in stage one.
One of the riders in the lead of stage 18 is the winner of stage five of the Giro d’Italia in May. Jerome Pineau was on the attack on the second day the Italian race in 2010 was in Italy (after a Dutch start). He was joined by compatriot Julien Fouchard and Japanese Bbox riders Yukiya Arashiro on the road to Novi Ligure. They held off the peloton by just four seconds and the Frenchman gained his first win since 2004...
As the peloton crosses the line for the intermediate sprint (29.5km) it is 3’25" behind the four escapees.
The HTC-Columbia team has conceded that the green jersey is probably out of reach but a few more stage wins for Cavendish are still on offer and Peiper told LeTour.fr how the team will contest the stage. “Today the tactics for us will be to use a couple of the climbers first – like Monfort and Sivtsov – to control the group. Then we’ll call on Grabsch and Martin and Rogers as late in the final as possible. And then Eisel will pilot him to the sprint.”
The result of the intermediate sprint at the 29.5km mark is: 1. Matti Breschel (SAX) 6pts 2. Daniel Oss (LIQ) 4pts 3. Jerome Pineau (QST) 2pts
We should have an ally in Lampre today that will help us control a group that goes away,” Peiper continued. “We have to see what we can do with the guys who we’ve got. Cav copes well yesterday. He got dropped early but descended cleverly to get back with the main group on the backside of the Marie-Blanque and he stayed in the bunch until the next climb and he was never in trouble after that and this is a good sign. He looks good."
Contrary to what Allan Peiper told LeTour.fr this morning, they are doing the work in the chase of the escape group. There are four from the HTC-Columbia team now at the front of the peloton that is 2’50" behind the four escapees at the 25.5km mark.
“Petacchi needs the points and I think he needs it to go to a bunch sprint today to make it safe," said Allan Peiper about the incentive of teams to police escapes. "Thor is not sprinting so fast these days so if it goes to a ‘bunchie’ and Cav wins, then Petacchi is probably going to be second and, in that scenario, Thor is usually there for sixth or seventh. That will give Petacchi the advantage, and a reason for Lampre to ride today. They have more reason than us to chase down the break."
At the 21km mark, the peloton was 2’10" behind the four escapees.
Allan Peiper told LeTour.fr this morning that he didn’t mind if a small group of riders gets an advantage on the peloton in stage 18 but the directeur sportif of Mark Cavendish’s team didn’t want a big group to race ahead. "It’s too hard to control that and do the sprint as well. Four or five or six riders… that’s fine, I think we can control that."
“How we ride the stage depends a lot on how Cavendish is feeling," Allan Peiper told LeTour.fr this morning. "He’s been a bit sick these last few days so I don’t know if he’s quite on his game but I thought he got through yesterday really well. "“The other thing is, Petacchi’s team still needs to get points for the green jersey so they really have a reason to ride as well. The most important thing is that we don’t let a big group go because if we do, our chances are ruined."
The polka-dot jersey has punctured his rear tire.
The four escapees are increasing their advantage. Vaugrenard (FDJ) was the man who sparked the action and he was joined by three others. The peloton is at the 20km mark 1’15" behind.
The peloton is at the 18km mark and 30" behind the four escapees: Oss (LIQ), Breschel (SAX), Pineau (QST) and Vaugrenard (FDJ).
Burghardt and Ballan have been reeled in by the peloton which is now 20" behind the four who jumped ahead at the 11km mark. Garmin, Lampre and HTC have come to the front of the peloton.
Both Ballan and Burghardt are involved in a counter-attack that’s 15" behind the four stage leaders.
The four in the lead of the stage by 20" are:
Daniel Oss (LIQ)
Jerome Pineau (QST)
Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ)
Matti Breschel (SAX) The peloton is at the 14km mark.
We’re still waiting to see if there’s any life in the escape... the peloton is responding quickly to the attacks. It could be that the latest selection is the right one but we don’t yet have the names of those involved.
At 11km there are four men ahead of the peloton.
There was an early attack but it’s gone no where. The peloton is all together at the 9km mark of the 198km 18th stage.
The breakaway was caught by the peloton at the 7km mark.
The riders who are 10" ahead of the peloton are:
Di Gregorio (FDJ)
With his 2nd stage victory, Andy Schleck put time into every rider except for his main rival Alberto Contador. The Luxembourger is going to win the white jersey for a record-equaling third time – all he has to do, really, is make it to Paris without any incident and he will be the youth classification winner. He is 6’33” ahead of Robert Gesink (RAB) and 10’04” ahead of Kreuziger (LIQ). Julien El Fares (COF) is the only other young rider less than an hour behind Schleck in the overall rankings.
The weather report from Sebastien Piquet of Radio Tour for the start is a confusing one. "It’s sunny and cloudy," he just told LeTour.fr. Pushed for further explanation, he explained that there is no rain in Salies-de-Bearn and above are blue skies with patches of high cloud. We all okay with that appraisal? Right. So let’s move on and wait for the names from Mr Piquet of the seven escapees...
There is a group of seven riders with a lead of 15" on the peloton at the 3km mark. It has been a rapid start to the 18th stage.
Anthony Charteau (BTL) has an unbeatable lead in the mountains classification with the 143 points he’s collected during the first 17 stages. Second is compatriot Christophe Moreau (GCE) who has 128 points. Today is effectively a day off for Charteau who will wear the polka-dot jersey for the eighth day in the 2010 Tour;l there are no climbs and all he has to do is make it to Paris and he’ll stand on the podium as the King of the Mountains of the 97th Tour.
The peloton has arrived at the site of the official start. Racing began at 1.02pm. There are 171 riders at the start with no one retiring overnight.
“There’ll be two teams that will want to bring it together for a sprint to get the points: HTC and Lampre,” said McEwen earlier today. “Cervelo will NOT want it to come down to that… and there’ll be plenty of teams on the attack.” Lampre has the most motivation because Petacchi needs only four points to take back the green jersey that is worn by the winner of stage three, Thor Hushovd.”
This is the classification that is likely to dictate how stage 18 is raced. There are two intermediate sprints – in Castelnau-Chalosse (29.5km) and Hostens (150.5km) – and then a good dose of points are on offer in Bordeaux. There’s no climb on the course and the consensus is that it should be a day for the sprinters, but Robbie McEwen said, “It’s one of those days that, on paper, everyone thinks is a day for the sprinters it has to be controlled so everything so it all comes together."
The stage to the col du Tourmalet confirmed the dominance of the riders in first and second overall in the 2010 Tour. Andy Schleck was unable to gain any time on his main rival, the defending champion and race leader Alberto Contador. But the two increased their buffer over those in third and fourth overall. Samuel Sanchez crashed early in the stage yesterday but finished fifth. He lost 1’32” to the yellow jersey and is now 3’32” behind the GC leader.
Points for the green jersey will be awarded in Castelnau-Chalosse (29.5km), Hostels (150.5km) and at the finish in Bordeaux. There are 6, 4 and 2 for the first three over the line at the intermediate primes. And at the end, points go down to the first 25 over the finish line. The allocation of points in Bordeaux is: 35pts for first, then 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
The consensus is that today’s course is one for the sprinters but LeTour.fr spoke with a couple of key people about the stage earlier today and both Allan Peiper, the directeur sportif of HTC-Columbia, and Robbie McEwen, the winner of 12 sprint stage of the Tour over the years, both said it’s going to be an interesting tactical battle. Lampre and Cervelo will be the teams with the most to win or lose as the green jersey could be decided on a day like this...
The mountains are behind the peloton which is about to aim in a northerly direction from Salies-de-Bearn at the foot of the Pyrenees to Bordeaux in the Gironde department. The 198km course for stage 18 features two intermediate sprints but no climbs. The stage is schedule to start at 12.55pm with a short 2.1km neutral zone before the action get underway. This is expected to be at around 1.00pm. Live coverage of the race will commence shortly.