Friday July 20th, 2012

Stage 18Blagnac / Brive-la-Gaillarde

Start 11h20 GMT 2+

Key moments

video20.07.2012 in 23:00Summary of the race

video20/07/2012 

Summary of the race

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Stage summary20.07.2012 in 16:31Suspense to the very end - but Cavendish wins... again!

The profile begged for a sprint but at the end of three weeks of racing there are plenty of ambitions yet to be fulfilled. There were 14 teams without a stage win and all of them worked hard to make amends in the race from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde but ultimately their hopes were destroyed by a magnificent sprint by the Manxman who only blasted into contention in the final kilometre. And it was none other than Bradley Wiggins who started the lead-out, then an early escapee - Edvald...

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video20.07.2012 in 16:00Interview - Stage Winner

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Interview - Stage Winner

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:49One more for Sky Procycling

For one day at the end of the 2012 Tour de France, Mark Cavendish was given a lead-out for the sprint by Bradley Wiggins and Edvald Boasson Hagen. And it was a winning combination. Once again Sky Procycling occupies the top of the team classification for the stage as not only did it win the stage but the two lead-out men were also in the top 20.
“It shows how remarkable our team is," said the principal of the Sky Team, Dave Brailsford. A gain for four seconds granted by the...

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:44Wiggins: He left them for dead, didn't he?»

On any other team Mark Cavendish would be the undisputed leader but at Sky he's one of a crew of formidable men who are dominating this year's Tour de France.

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:32Alexandre Vinokourov: I showed I could come back

“We tried all day to animate the stage. I lacked a bit, but I did everything I could and I have no regrets. We took advantage of the break, and the public of the Tour! I found that I've been able to come back with good condition, even if I do not play it out for the general classification anymore. Now there are still two days to try, and then I hope I can do something good in London, although we have only two representatives of Kazakhstan at the Olympics.”

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:29Thomas Voeckler: I had the full panoply

He has two more days until official crowned the King of the Mountains but Thomas Voeckler is milking the moment all the way from the Pyrenees to Paris.

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:10Van Garderen: I'll just empty the tank

“We did 220 kilometres today and we did it in under five hours. It was just crazy. I don't know what to expect from the time trial. I'll just empty the tank and see where I'll end up. I had a good one last time and maybe I can go even better.”

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interview20.07.2012 in 17:05Cavendish: I've enjoyed every minute of it

When he's the protected rider he wins almost every time it's flat. But this year Mark Cavendish has had more of a support role for a greater cause. Still, he proved once again that he is the «fastest man in the world»...

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video20.07.2012 in 11:45Analysis of the stage

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Analysis of the stage

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Sporting stakes20.07.2012 in 11:00Many elements may be decided but glory is still on offer...

For days now, the focus has been on how the Pyrenees would influence the race for overall honours but stage 18 is different. Even the race leader Bradley Wiggins allowed his mind to wander in the closing kilometres of stage 17 because, finally, he dared let the thought that he was actually going to win the Tour de France enter his mind. Sky has effectively been on the front of the peloton most of the way for the 1,520km from La Planche des Belles Filles to the final summit finish of the 99th...

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video20.07.2012 in 10:30The day's route

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The day's route

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video20.07.2012 in 10:00Jean-François Pescheux's analysis of the course

video20/07/2012 

Jean-François Pescheux's analysis of the course

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Newsflashes

16:21Wiggins home in 19th place

The yellow jersey was 19th over the line. He had two team-mates ahead of him - Cavendish and Boasson Hagen... and the Wiggins will wear the yellow jersey for the time trial tomorrow.

16:20The top five of stage 18

Mark Cavendish has given his team a fourth stage win in the Tour that it's poised to win. The top five in stage 18 is:

1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) SKY

2. Matt Goss (AUS) OGE

3. Peter Sagan (SVK) LIQ

4. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) RAB

5. Nicolas Roche (IRL) ALM

16:19Cavendish claims his 22nd stage win!

With 1km to go, the six had a lead of 10" but the lead-out by Wiggins, that finished inside the final kilometre then set Boasson Hagen up for a stunning piece of work... but it was the world champion who absolutely stole the show by taking an emphatic win well ahead of Matt Goss...

Sanchez was the first of the escapees and he finished fourth with Roche in fifth.

16:17Magic Manxman!

Cavendish has done the sprint of his life to destroy the hopes of the escapees. The world champion has won his second stage in the 2012 Tour in absolute style!

16:16Wiggins leading out Cavendish...

Inside the final kilometre, Wiggins is ahead of Boasson Hagen who is starting the lead-out for Cavendish... Sagan is on the wheel of the world champion but they haven't yet caught the six stage leaders...

Roche is starting the sprint.

16:152km to go

The peloton can see the six stage leaders inside the final 2km. Roche is at the front, followed by Kloden then Sanchez and Paolini... Hansen is at the back of the lead group and about to be caught by the peloton that has Wiggins near the front.

16:143km to go

The six in the lead inside the final 3km of stage 18 are:

Sanchez (RAB), Vinokourov (AST), Kloden (RNT), Hansen (LTB), Roche (ALM), and Paolini (KAT). They are just 10" ahead of the bunch led by Vande Velde (GRS) and Froome (SKY).

16:12Raining for the finish: Hansen in the lead

With 4km to go, it's started to rain. Hansen is at the front and he's been chased down by Roche.

They are just ahead of the four others and they have a lead of 12" on the peloton.

16:11Six lead by 12"

The six at the front of the stage have a lead of 12" on the peloton that's now led by the Sky team.

Kiryienka, Oss and Gerrans have led the peloton under the 5km to go mark and this trio is forming a chase group...

16:10Six in the lead

Roche (ALM), Kloden (RNT), Sanchez (RAB) have caught Hansen (LTB), Paolini (KAT) and Vinokourov (AST) with 5.5km to go.

16:09Three chasing three

Roche, Sanchez and Kloden are 6" behind Hansen's trio.

The peloton is at 16".

16:08Vinokourov wins Fighting Spirit award

Vinokourov will appear on the podium today. He and Paolini and Hansen are ahead by 8".

The RadioShack rider with Roche is Kloden not Zubeldia (as reported earlier).

16:07Vinokourov leads over final climb

Vinokourov has taken the point for the final climb of the stage. He is driving group of three at the front and they are being chased by Zubeldia and Roche on the descent inside the final 10km.

16:05Three lead by 14"

Roy has been caught by the peloton and now we see Vinokourov, Hansen and Paoliniin the lead by just 10".

Roche has attacked the peloton and he has Zubeldia on his wheel.

16:03Weening leading the peloton

Weening and O'Grady (OGE) are now at the front of the peloton that is 30" behind the three stage leaders.

16:02Three in the lead...

With 12km to go, Hansen is at the front of the stage with Vinokourov and Paolini.

16:01Vinokourov attacks

Vinokourov has attacked the lead group and Hansen and Paolini are responding. Roy is trying to bridge the gap too but it seems like Nuyens is finished...

16:00Sky at the front of peloton...

Vinokourov, Nuyens and Paolini have caught the two stage leaders. There are now five men with a lead of 25" on the peloton.

Mate (COF) has just attacked the bunch with 14km to go.

15:59Duo leads by 20"

Arashiro, Gretsch and Popovych have been caught by the peloton.

Roy and Hansen are only 20" ahead of the peloton.

15:58Three chasing three chasing two...

Roy (FDJ) and Hansen (LTB) are still at the front of the stage.

Boasson Hagen and other escapees have been caught.

In pursuit of the stage leaders are two groups of three: Vinokourov (AST), Paolini (KAT) and Nuyens (STB) at 4".

Then comes another group of three: Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC) and Gretsch (ARG) at 20".

The peloton is inside the final 15km and is 30" behind the Australian and French stage leader.

15:55The current situation...

With 18km to go, Hansen and Roy lead Vinokourov and Paolini by 10". Gretsch is at 20". The other escapees are at 25". The peloton is at 40".

15:53Two in the lead...

With 20.5km to go Hansen (LTB) began his move. He has been caught by Roy (FDJ) and they lead the other escapees by 15". The peloton is at 40".

15:52Hansen surges ahead...

Hansen is now on the attack at the front of the stage. He is less than 20km from the finish and he has 8" lead over the other escapees. Roy is right on the wheel of the Australian...

15:49Millar and Popovych...

Millar is the most aggressive of the lead group. He attacked briefly with 43km to go and now he's at the front again and setting the pace of the escape. He is swapping turns with Popovych and Albasini but the peloton is closing in on his group...

15:4825km to go

The 14 escapees are putting on a good show of strength for François Hollande who is in the car with Christian Prudhomme just behind the stage leaders.

They are now less than 25km from the line and have a lead of 43" on the bunch that's led by Saur-Sojasun, Rabobank, Cofidis and Katusha riders...

15:42Super-Combative from 2011 in escape today...

Jeremy Roy is the FDJ representative in the escape today. He was a regular aggressor in the race one year ago and was voted the most aggressive rider of the 98th Tour de France.

His group of 14 is just 1'00" ahead of the peloton with 28km to go.

15:41Narrow handlebars for two of the escapees

Of the 14 in the lead of stage 18, there are two who are using handlebars that are signifcantly narrower than has been common for road racers in recent years. Adam Hansen (LTB) enjoys experimenting with equipment and he's been riding with 34cm wide bars for a couple of years now. (The standard is more like 40 or 42cm.)

You can see the difference in style that these narrow bars put him in.

David Millar's are also narrow but perhaps not as extreme as what Hansen's are...

15:38Peloton at 1'20"

At the 190km mark, the peloton is 1'20" behind the 14 escapees...

15:36Recent winners of Paris-Corrèze

The stage finish today is in the department of Corrèze. There is a race early in August that's called Paris-Corrèze; it's a three-day competition. Here are the winners of the title there in recent years:

2011: Samuel Dumoulin (FRA)

2010: Mickael Buffaz (FRA)

2009: Francisco Ventoso (ESP)

2008: Miyataka Shimizu (JPN)

2007: Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR)

2006: Didier Rous (FRA)

2005: Frederic Finot (FRA)

2004: Philippe Gilbert (BEL)

15:2914 in the leads

Boeckmans in back in the peloton and Fouchard has been unable to match the pace of the attacks at the front. Boasson Hagen's move has been reeled in and there are now 14 men 1'35" ahead of the peloton. The lead group is composed of these men:

Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG).

15:27Boeckmans caught

There are now 15 men in the lead group as Vacansoleil's Kris Boeckmans has been caught by the peloton.

15:27Average speed of 4th hour

The average speed for the fourth hour of stage 18 is 45.5km/h. The average speed of the first four hours today is 45.0km/h.

15:26Peloton at 1'30"

At the top of the third climb, the peloton is 1'30" behind the Boasson Hagen group.

15:25Boasson Hagen on the attack!

Boasson Hagen has attacked the lead group just after the cote de Souillac. He has been chased down by Paolini who doesn't seem happy about the move by the Norwegian.

15:24Escape over third climb

The points for the cote de Souillac were won by:

1. Arashiro (EUC) 1pt

15:23Millar on the attack

As the 16 leaders approach the top of the third climb, Millar (GRS) has surged ahead of the break. He has been followed by Vinokourov and this pair is now back in the group but Arashiro is going on ahead... he's being followed by Costa (MOV).

15:22Boasson Hagen a winner in Corrèze before...

Back in 2007, a year before he joined a top-tier team, Edvald Boasson Hagen won two stages of the Paris-Corrèze stage race as well as the overall title while a member of the Joker-Bianchi team.

15:18President of the Republic on Tour today

Mr François Hollande has joined the race director, Christian Prudhomme, in the number-one Skoda car that follows the lead group.

15:16Cipollini at winner in Brive-la-Gaillarde in 1998

The sixth stage of the 1998 finished in the same city that hosts the finish today. The winner here in the year of "That Tour" was Mario Cipollini who beat Nicola Minali and Jan Svorada in a sprint.

15:1350km to go

The 16 are inside the final 50km of the stage and they have a lead of just 1'40".

15:12Albasini earned GreenEdge's third European win

On 19 March this year, Michael Albasini claimed the first of his two victories in the Volta a Catalunya. The Swiss rider would also ultimately win the title of that WorldTour event in Spain. The success came after a team time trial win in Tirreno-Adriatico earlier that month (the first victory for the team in Europe), followed by Simon Gerrans' triumph in Milan-San Remo.

Albasini beat Anthony Delaplace (SAU) by 42" to win that opening stage of the Catalan race. The next day he...

15:07Peloton at 2'00" at 167km

There is no apathy in today's long, flat stage. The 16 escapees are speeding along trying to hold off the strong chase by the peloton that is now just 2'00" behind at the 167km mark.

15:06Hansen in the escape today...

The Australian rider in today's escape is Adam Hansen. His mother, Gelma, flew over to France to see the Tour and was on hand to see the third victory by her son's team-mate André Greipel. But, two days later, she slipped over and broke her ankle. "I'll be operated on in Toulouse hospital," she told LeTour.fr two days ago, "but hopefully I'll be in Paris to see the final stage... but I'll be using crutches."

15:03John Lelangue: The dog was stronger than him...

The BMC team manager recently offered some news on Philippe Gilbert who was involved in an accident with a dog at the 120km mark of today's stage. “His hand has been injured a little as well as his elbow and knee,” said John Lelangue. “The dog was stronger than him – and it won that bout – but the important thing is that he could return to his place in the peloton. The goal today is to have a steady tempo, be up to the front and in particular to protect Cummings, who is not feeling...

14:58Rabobank assist with the chase

There may be only four Rabobank riders left in the race but three of them are now at the front of the bunch and assisting with the pursuit of the 16 escapees who are just 2'10" ahead.

14:56Pinot calls race doctor

The advantage of the escapees is down to 2'25" and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) has just called for the race doctor at the back of the peloton that is strung out in a long line because of the fast pace. It seems Pineau has taken a blow to the head... either that or he's been stung by an insect as the doctor is tending to a wound on his face.

14:54Arashiro the 'Fighting Spirit' winner of stage four

Yesterday's stage winner, Alejandro Valverde (MOV), wears a red race number today as he was voted the most aggressive rider of stage 17. The winner of this prize in the stage to Rouen in the first week was Yukiya Arashiro, the only Japanese rider in the race this year. He is part of the escape group once again today...

14:51Vino chasing another stage win...

One of the multiple stage winners who is in the escape today enjoyed his most recent success at the Tour in 2010 when he won stage 13 in Revel. "This is the new Vino'," said Alexandre Vinkourov after his victory two years ago. "With my victory here, I ask why I always must prove my reform. This is the new Vino and I think everybody understands that now. I must win my popularity in France and I think this victory in the Tour helps… but I don't want to talk anymore about 2007.

“I...

14:42Lead grows to 2'40"

The Omega Pharma has four riders at the front of the bunch and they are sharing the workload of the chase with Saur-Sojasun, AG2R and Euskaltel. The latest check has the 16 leaders ahead by 2'40".

14:40White: I can??t actually see the peloton bringing them back

Matt White;

LeTour.fr heard this morning that Orica-GreenEdge was going to chase today unless it got someone in the move. We just spoke with Matt White and asked if he's happy with the selection that includes Michael Albasini. “I don't mind rolling the dice with Albasini,” said the directeur sportif. “And we're also happy to do the sprint with Gossie if it comes back before the finish. We're in a good position.”
It was a fast hour and a half today. Was White surprised...

14:25Average speed for 3rd hour

The average speed for the third hour is 41.5km/h. The average for the first three hours is 44.8km/h.

14:21The escapees, their nations and their teams...

With the peloton at 2'30" ahead of the peloton that's led by Euskaltel, Omega, and BMC riders (all teams without a stage win yet), here's a reminder of the escapees, their nations and their teams:

- Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) RNT

- Yukiya Arashiro (JPN) EUC

- David Millar (GBR) GRS

- Julien Fouchard (FRA) COF

- Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY

- Adam Hansen (AUS) and Jelle Vanendert (BEL) LTB

- Kris Boeckmans (BEL) VCD

- Luca Paolini (ITA)...

14:14Omega Pharma lead the peloton

Menchov is still trying to rejoin the peloton after the incident with a dog.

The bunch is currently being led by riders from the Omega Pharma team. The deficit of the peloton to the 16 stage leaders is 2'25". The maximum gain of the break was 3'30" at 102km.

14:09Gilbert racing again...

The crash was at the 120km mark. Gilbert, with his opinions having been heard, is now back on the bike and racing to rejoin the peloton.

All those who came down are racing again.

14:09Menchov also involved

Menchov (KAT) and Vichot (FDJ) were also involved in the crash. They are racing again.

14:08A dog has caused a crash in the peloton

There has been an accident in the peloton that's been caused by a dog rushing on to the road. Gilbert (BMC) is one of the riders involved and he's just made a point of walking over to the owner of the dog to give them a piece of his mind...

14:05Gap drops to just 2'10"

At the 119km mark, the peloton is just 2'10" behind the 16 escapees... which, really, means we should do a reminder of who got in the move that started at the 71km mark. The riders involved are:

Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Fouchard (COF), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Boeckmans (VCD), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG).

13:58Result of second climb

The cote de Cahors is a 1km long ascent with an average gradient of 7.8 percent. Michael Albasini has led the 15 other escapees over the top and collected one point for his effort.

13:55Result of the Cahors intermediate sprint

The points for the intermediate sprint of stage 18 were won by:

1. Boeckmans (VCD) 20pt

2. Roy (FDJ) 17pts

3. Gretsch (ARG) 15pts

4. Boasson Hagen (SKY) 13pts

5. Vinokourov (AST) 11pts

6. Paolini (KAT) 10pts

7. Albasini (OGE) 9pts

8. Kroon (STB) 8pts

9. Millar (GRS) 7pts

10. Hansen (LTB) 6pts

11. Popovych (RNT) 5pts

12. Arashiro (EUC) 4pts

13. Nuyens (STB) 3pts

14. Costa (MOV) 2pts

15....

13:50Leaders about to contest sprint

The escapees are approaching the site of the intermediate sprint. This is at the 115km mark. They are 3'25" ahead of the bunch (which is now at 111km).

13:48Millar already a stage winner this year

Riders who are registered as Brits have already won four stages in the 2012 Tour (one each for Cavendish, Froome, Wiggins and Millar) and the Scotsman is in the escape group of 16 now.

Millar won the stage to Annonay last week and his group of 16 is now 3'30" ahead of the bunch that is near the site of the intermediate sprint in Cahors.

13:45Boasson Hagen in the top 10 five times already this year

The Sky representative in the escape today is Edvald Boasson Hagen. At the end of the stage to Le Cap d'Agde we saw the yellow jersey himself give the Norwegian champion a lead-out in the final kilometre and he finished third (behind Greipel and Sagan).

Boasson Hagen won two stages last year.

This year he has been fifth in the prologue, third in stage one, second in stage three, ninth in stage four and third in stage 13.

13:42Survey on LeTour.fr today

The poll on the official website of the Tour today asks:

Of the five at the top of the points classification, who will be the best in stage 18?

- Peter Sagan

- André Greipel

- Matt Goss

- Mark Cavendish

- Edvald Boasson Hagen...

Only one of these sprinters is in the escape today...

13:39Peloton at 102km

The 16 escapees are slowly but surely increasing their advantage over the peloton which is at the 102km mark. The stage leaders are 10km from the intermediate sprint of stage 18 and have a lead of 3'30".

13:37The 18th stage of the 2007 Tour started in Cahor

On 27 July 2007, Alberto Contador wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for the first time. It was the day of the 18th stage and the former race leader, Michael Rasmussen, had been excluded from the race after stage 16.

There was a day with no yellow jersey in the peloton (stage 17) but the Spaniard assumed leadership and eventually went on to beat Cadel Evans by 23 to claim his first title.

The 18th stage began in Cahors (near where the peloton is now) and it ended in...

13:26Average speed for 2nd hour

The average speed for the second hour in stage 18 is 44.8km/h. The average for the firist two hours combined is 46.5km/h.

13:2391km raced...

The gap continues to drop: 2'45" at the 91km mark.

13:22BMC keeping the escape in check...

BMC and AG2R are two teams sharing the pacesetting duties at the front of the bunch. The latest time check has the 16 escapees ahead of the peloton by 2'50".

13:16Peloton at 3'10" as it exits the final feedzone of the 2012 Tour

The bunch is at 3'10" as it leave the feedzone. That is the last time we'll see one of those setups in the 2012 race as tomorrow there's a time trial and Sunday's stage to Paris is so short that there is no need for a feedzone on the final day.

13:13Brajkovic rejoins the peloton

It has been a fast start to stage 18 and, at 74km, Janez Brajkovic (AST) crashed. He has rejoined the peloton as it makes its way through the feedzone (84km).

13:11BMC lead the bunch...

BMC has led the peloton to the feedzone. The team of the defending champion, Cadel Evans, has two in the top six overall after 17 stage: Tejay van Garderen (5th at 8'30") and Evans (6th at 9'57").

13:10Leaders in feedzone

The advantage of the 16 escapees as they reach the feedzone in Castelnau-Montraitier (84km) is 3'15".

13:09Different Dan Martin is 31 today...

Earlier today we posted that today is Dan Martin's 31st birthday... d'oh! There is a Canadian rider with the same name as the Irishman in the peloton today.

Apologies for the error...

Garmin-Sharp's Dan Martin is 25 and he turns 26 next month.

13:06Seven former stage winners in escape

Of the 16 at the front of the stage by 3'10" (79km), seven have previously won a stage of the Tour de France. Those riders are:

Popovych (RNT), Millar (GRS), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Vanendert (LTB), Costa (MOV), Vinokourov (AST) and Kroon (STB).

13:02Sky now leading the peloton

Saur's brief chase is over and now we see Sky at the front of the bunch that is 2'45" behind the Boassan Hagen group of 16.

13:01Brajkovic the fallen Astana rider

The Astana rider who crashed at 74km was Janez Brajkovic. He is riding again and has the support of three team-mates as he chases the peloton.

13:00Saur-Sojasun lead peloton

There are eight teams without a rider in the 16-man lead group. Saur-Sojasun is one of them and that's why they are currently at the front of the bunch that's 2'30" behind the escapees.

12:59Crash in the peloton

There has been a fall in the bunch involving a rider from Astana.

12:56Costa the best on GC

The 16 escapees are now 2'10" ahead of the peloton.

The best of the break on GC after 17 stages is Rui Costa (MOV) who is ranked 18th overall, 29'43" behind Wiggins.

12:54This is the break...

Riders in the peloton are now taking the chance to answer the call of nature. And that means that they seem content with who has made the front group which is composed of the follow riders:

Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Fouchard (COF), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Boeckmans (VCD), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG).

The peloton is now at the 72km mark.

12:5170km raced... another escape group forms

There are 16 men in the lead at the 70km mark. We wait for the names but can confirm that Arashiro and Nuyens - who claimed the points of the first climb - are in the lead.

12:50Two in the lead

After the cote de Saint-Georges there was a group of 13 with a small gain on the peloton but now we have Nuyens (STB) and Arashiro (EUC) 20" ahead of a group of 14 counter-attackers that includes Vinokourov and Millar.

The peloton is at 30".

12:47Result of first climb

The points for the first climb of stage 18 were won by:

1. Nick Nuyens (STB) 2pts

2. Yukiya Arashiro (EUC) 1pt

12:47Two in the lead

The nine seems to have been reduced to a break of just two: Nuyens (STB) and Arashiro (EUC).

12:45Quinziato out of lead group

Quinziato (BMC) has dropped out of the escape group and Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) is attempting to take his place - he's currently on a counter-attack.

12:44Composition of escape group

The selection of nine is: Quinziato (BMC), Arashiro (EUC), Fouchard (COF), Hansen (LTB), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Nuyens (STB), Albasini (OGE), Gretsch (ARG).

12:43First climbing coming up...

There are now nine in the lead at the 65km mark. We don't have the names (yet) but can report that they are about to start the climb of hte cote de Saint-Georges, a steep 1km climb with an average gradient of 10.3 per cent.

12:41Peloton not content with the selection

At the 62km mark, the bunch is still in hot pursuit of the (un-named) six who are at the front of the stage.

12:39Two join the four stage leaders

Two others have bridged the gap to the lead group. Exactly who they are, we don't know but it's taken almost an hour and a half for the peloton to decide who is allowed to be in The Escape today.

12:38Four in the lead at 60km

There are four men at the front of the stage at the 60.5km mark. We await the names of the men involved in the second escape of stage 18.

12:35Peloton at 59km mark...

FDJ-BigMat is at the front of the bunch and trying to put another guy in an escape. The bunch is all together at the 59km mark.

12:34Voigt a winner 11 years ago after a stage start in Castelsarrasin

As the bunch leaves Castelsarrasin behind, here's a little history into the first stage win for Jens Voigt in the Tour de France. Towards the end of the 2001 edition, in which Voigt had worn the yellow jersey for a day, he was in an escape with seven men in a 227.5km stage that started in Castelsarrisin.

It was a scorching hot day and the break split up on the approach to the finish in Sarran (which boasts the honour of having the second smallest population of a town to host a stage...

12:29Peloton in Castelsarrasin

The bunch is all together as it passes through Castelsarrasin at the 50km mark.

12:26Average for first hour: 48.2km/h

The escape is over after 49km. The average speed for the first hour of stage 18 is 48.2km/h.

12:22Fofonov out of escape

Fofonov (AST) started today's escape but he's now back in the peloton after a mechanical incident. There are now five just 10" ahead of the bunch.

12:20Bennati a winner in Castelsarrasin

At the 50km mark of today's stage is the town of Castelsarrasin. This is where the 17th stage of the 2007 Tour finished and the winner was Daniele Bennati who was with the Lampre team at the time.

Eight riders went on the attack that day when the start was in Pau. The Italian would go on to win the stage on the Champs-Elysees but in Castelsarrasin he beat Markus Fothen (remember him?), Martin Elmiger and Jens Voigt in a four-man sprint.

Also in The Escape that day was David...

12:14Peloton splits...

The speed of the chase has caused the bunch to split momentarily. It's all back together again and the escapees are just 12" ahead.

12:1238km raced

The break doesn't look like it's going to happen today. After 38km, the six escapees are just 15" ahead. The rapid pace is taking its toll and some riders are drifting behind the main bunch...

12:11Taaramae doesn't get his way...

The six are now just 15" ahead. The move by Taaramae lasted all of about 25 seconds before he was swallowed up by the peloton again...

12:10Taaramae tries to jump across

Ah yes, the counter-attack has come from Rein Taaramae (COF). He is now in pursuit of the six escapees.

12:09Ready for a counter-attack...

Righto fellas, the time is right for the teams that are missing from the break to send a few off on a counter-attack. The six escapees are 20" ahead - that's not a huge gap is it? Surely there are going to be some riders jump off the front and attempt to chase down the move. The maximum advantage of the six who escaped at the 21km mark was just 50".

12:06Lead down to 40"

The six escapees are not being given any room to move. After 12km on the attack they are just 40" ahead. The riders involved are:

- Ruben Perez (EUS)

- Julien Simon (SAU)

- Cédric Pineau (FDJ)

- Michael Morkov (STB)

- Dmitri Fofonov (AST)

- Matthieu Sprick (ARG)

12:0231km raced...

It's not easy for the leaders to gain ground. They have been on the attack for 10km now and only lead the peloton by 50".

12:00Katusha leading peloton

With the group of six 55" ahead, Katusha is helping Omega Pharma at the front of the bunch; neither the Russian team nor the Belgian team has a rider in the move today.

11:58Ladagnous punctures

The peloton isn't exactly allowing the six escapees to just roll ahead without any challenge. After seven kilometres at the front of the stage the Morkov group has a lead of just 50".

At the back of the peloton Ladagnous (FDJ) has stopped to get a new wheel after a flat.

11:55Peloton led by Omega Pharma-Quickstep

There are six teams represented in the six-man break that is 40" ahead. Omega Pharma-Quickstep hasn't go anyone in the move today and so they are chasing the escape that's now at the 27km mark.

11:53Fofonov best on GC of escape

The Astana rider in the selection today is the best on GC... but it's hardly going to upset Wiggins: Dmitri Fofonov is 64th overall after 17 stages - 1h56'26" behind the yellow jersey.

11:52Six lead by 40"

At the 23km mark, Perez, Pineau, Simon, Morkov, Sprick and Fofonov are 40" ahead of the peloton.

11:51Pineau, not Pinot

The FDJ rider in the escape is Cédric Pineau, not Thibaut Pinot. Excuse the error but the pronunciation of both surnames is similar... especially with radio static.

Onward...

11:50Six in the lead by 35"

Perez (EUS), Simon (SAU), Pinot (FDJ), Morkov (STB), Fofonov (AST) and Sprick (ARG) are the men who have put themselves in the escape at the 21km mark.

11:48Five in the lead at 21km

The bunch chased every escape down in the first 20km of the 18th stage. There is a new attack involving five men at the 21km mark... if it's successful we'll post the names as soon as they're announced.

11:47Dan Martin: 31 today...

The Irishman who was in the early escapes of both stages in the Pyrenees in his debut Tour, Dan Martin (GRS) celebrates his 31st birthday today. He is ranked 36th overall after 17 stages.

Happy birthday Dan!

11:4317km raced already...

The bunch is still all together after 17km of racing in stage 18. The speed is fast at the start.

11:41Three with a small advantage

There are three men with a little lead on the peloton after 14km mark... oh, hang on - no, that escape is now over too. The Tour is about to leave Haute-Garonne and arrive in the Tarn-et-Garonne department. Then it's onward to Lot before the 18th stage finishes in Corrèze.

11:39148.25km between first and last place

As we wait to see who is able to make the escape happen today, LeTour.fr has been doing some sums and we've calculated that, after 78 hours, 28 minutes and 22 seconds of racing (for Wiggins - plus another three hours, 45 minutes and 23 seconds for the rider in last place overall, Jan Ghyselinck) the difference in distance between first and last overall translates to 148.25km.

11:35All together at 10km

The attacks keep on coming but the peloton is still all together after 10km of racing in stage 18.

11:341,370m between first and second overall....

With a gap of 2'05" between Wiggins and Froome at the top of the general classification after 17 stages, the distance separating them after 3,096.9km of racing is 1.37km.

11:294km raced... no escapees yet

The right selection hasn't yet been made and still the peloton is chasing down every attack that's come early in stage 18. The bunch is all together at the 4km mark.

11:27Gates: "All the boys are motivated"

“It's going to be a hard stage to control and how it's raced depends on a couple of teams – Sky, Orica-GreenEdge, and Lotto – and how they want to play the day,” said Nick Gates earlier today when asked about what he expects will happen in stage 18.

What about setting up a sprint for JJ Haedo today... or Jonathan Cantwell even? “If it comes to a sprint, sure," said Gates. "Those two will be our men but a lot can happen. It's a long stage, everyone is tired. We'll just have...

11:252km raced: all together

The speed of the peloton is fast at the start. There have been some attempt to form escape groups but nothing has been successful in the first 2km.

11:23Racing in stage 18

The official start of the 222.5km 18th stage was at 11.22am. There are 153 riders still in the race.

The attacks began immediately with the first to jump ahead being a rider from Argos-Shimano.

11:22More on Sorensen's injuries...

LeTour.fr asked Nick Gates about the treatment of Sorensen's wound: what did they have to do? Were there fingertips missing or what exactly is the wound?

“Basically his small finger was ground down to the bone all the way up the side. They stuck a splint on there and that'll get him through until the end of the Tour and on Monday or Tuesday he'll have to go to a hospital and get it really fixed up. He's a tough guy! The way he got through the stage.

“The accident happened...

11:21Sorensen still plans to race...

We saw Chris Anker Sorensen really having a good go in the Pyrenees. He was 24th in stage 17 and second in stage 16 but he rode most of yesterday's stage with blood dripping from a wound on his left hand. We asked Saxo Bank's Nick Gates what happened yesterday... did he put his hand in his spokes?

“Yeah," said the directeur sportif, "a newspaper had been thrown out for a rider to put down his jersey for a descent and it went into Chris' wheel. He tried to rip it out and he got his...

11:17Prize classification review: part 04 ?? white jersey

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) pulled back some time in the general classification yesterday when he finished stage 17 in fourth place. The youngest rider in the race is 3'06” behind Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in the youth rankings. The American was eighth at Peyragudes. To date, only two men have worn the white jersey in the 2012 Tour: the reigning leader, van Garderen and Cofidis' Estonia, Rein Taaramae who is now fifth in the young rider category (1h12'27” behind van Garderen).
Third and...

11:16Lund with a puncture in the neutral

Saxo Bank's Anders Lund has had to stop to get a new wheel as the bunch makes its way to the site of the official start. There has been a display of local wares today with an Airbus A380 flying near the peloton... Blagnac is where the giants of the skies are built.

11:1422.5 degrees at the start

With the peloton still making its way through the neutral zone we can report that the temperature is 22.5 degrees.

11:13Prize classification review: part 03 ?? polka-dot jersey

With the Pyrenees behind the peloton, the winner of the climbing classification has effectively been decided. Thomas Voeckler (EUC) only has to make it to Paris on Sunday to stand on the podium and collect the polka-dot jersey as the 2012 Tour's King of the Mountains. He has 134 points, 11 more than the former leader of this category, Frederik Kessiakoff (AST).
The climbs in stage 18 are: the cote de Saint-Georges (cat 3 at 67.4km), the cote de Cahors (cat-4 at 117.5km), the cote de...

11:09Prize classification review: part 02 ?? green jersey

There are a total of 150 points still on offer for the green jersey. That's for first place at every intermediate sprint as well as first in the next three stages. So it is actually possible for André Greipel (LTB) to beat Peter Sagan (LIQ) but only if the German becomes an overnight time trial guru on top of being a sprint specialist.
Sagan has 356 points and Greipel 254.
Matt Goss is ranked third with 203 points.
The intermediate sprint in stage 18 is in Cahors at the...

11:07Rolling in the neutral zone...

The peloton has started rolling to the site of the official start. This is expected to be at around 11.20am.

11:07Prize classification review: part 01 ?? yellow jersey

Four men in the top 10 overall switched places as a result of their gains (or losses) in the 17th stage. Haimar Zubeldia (RNT) and Janez Brajkovic (AST) dropped down the rankings from fifth to seventh and eighth to ninth, respectively. Cadel Evans (BMC) moved up from seventh to sixth and his team-mate Tejay van Garderen is now fifth overall.
Bradley Wiggins (SKY) continues to lead the general classification by 2'05” as he finished in the same time as his team-mate Christopher Froome...

10:56Welcome to the live coverage of stage 18 of the 2012 Tour

The 222.5km 18th stage of the 2012 Tour de France is due to get underway shortly. The riders will start moving through the 8.4km neutral zone at 11.05am. They face a relatively flat course from Blagnac, on the outskirts of Toulouse, north to Brive-la-Gaillarde. There are four small hills on the itinerary and the consensus seems to be that an escape is likely to make it all the way to the finish today on what is considered a "flat" stage.

The conditions are mild and the temperature for...

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