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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Friday, 23 July 2010 17:36 UK

Tour de France stage 18 as it happened

Stage 18 - Salies de Bearn to Bordeaux, 198km


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By Chris Bevan

1735: I hope you all enjoyed the way today's stage ended, even if it did make a pretty slow start - I know I did! Hope to see you again for more of the same tomorrow, when a 52km time trial from Bordeaux to Pauilac will decide who wins the 2010 Tour de France. Au revoir for now...

1730: And here's the top three overall. No change in the standings at the top of the General Classification.

1. Alberto Contador Sp/Astana (88hrs 09mins 48s)
2. Andy Schleck Lux/Saxo Bank) (+ 8sec)
3. Sam Sanchez Sp/Euskaltel (+ 3min 32sec)

1723: Here's the top three for today's stage.

1. Mark Cavendish GB/HTC Columbia (4hrs 37mins 09s)
2. Julian Dean NZ/Garmin (same time)
3. Alessandro Petacchi Ita/Lampre (same time)

1719: Mark Cavendish after his fourth stage win of this year's Tour: "I'm really happy, it was another incredible ride by the guys once again, and after that I couldn't come away with anything less than a win. Bernhard Eisel kept me up there in the frame and even without Mark Renshaw I was able to jump from train to train."

Get involved on 606
From alfie_nz on 606: "Re 1713. To be frank, on this humid Friday afternoon the math is all a bit much for me! Too many variables plus there's also the countback to take account of, in as much as that Petacchi can not afford to be on level points with Cav as he would lose the jersey due to Cav's superior stage win record. At least the competition is still alive!"

Green jersey
1713: The yellow jersey will be sorted tomorrow but who will win green? It's complicated. There are two intermediate sprints during Sunday's stage, where riders get six, four and two points for finishing first, second and third. Ignoring those (and it's unlikely Thor Hushovd will), Cav will pick up 35 points if he is first over the line on the Champs Elysees on Sunday (like he was last year) but Petacchi only needs to finish sixth (and gain 20 points) to finish ahead of him. Got that? Basically, it's going to go to the wire.

1702: Good to see Cameron Diaz (and her Knight and Day co-star Tom Cruise too of course) at the finish line for a quick hug with Contador and Schleck. There was no change whatsoever at the top of the General Classification by the way... they both finished safely in the peloton and the Spaniard still holds an eight second lead over his rival.

Yellow jersey
1701: It will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for Lance Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins too, but Saturday will be all about Alberto Contador who, barring mishaps, is expected to be (significantly) faster than Andy Schleck and thus cement his third Tour triumph.

1659: Ireland's Nicolas Roche came home in 18th place today, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in tomorrow's time trial too.

Green jersey
Here's where things stand in terms of the green jersey then. Alessandro Petacchi leads the way on 213 points, followed by Thor Hushovd (203) and Mark Cavendish (197). All to play for in Paris on Sunday as far as that category goes...

Get involved on 606
From alfie_nz on 606: "Smart riding by Cav, jumping from train to train, then back wheel to back wheel before launching off... if I was a sprinter I'd be on Cav's wheel, not following my lead out train."

1650: Just heard Mark Cavendish being interviewed... apparently it was touch-and-go whether he was going to start today's stage - he has had a fever for the last few days and hardly slept last night.

Green jersey
1645: Cav raised his hands and looked behind him as he crossed the line... there was literally nobody near him. That's his fourth stage win of this year's Tour and his 14th in total. He also gets 35 points in his bid for the green jersey, but Alessandro Petacchi was third over the line and gets 26 points... he will be the leader in that category tonight, leapfrogging Thor Hushovd, who was 14th (and picks up 12 points).

1643: That Team Sky train was meant to deliver Edvald Boasson Hagen to the line but he ended up having to settle for sixth place after following Hushovd.

1641: Mark Cavendish played the waiting game there... and got it spot on. He stayed on Thor Hushovd's back wheel, waited for Alessandro Petacchi to make his move and then surged through himself and ended up winning by a few bike lengths. Brilliant stuff... and who needs Mark Renshaw?

1639: Mark Cavendish wins stage 18 of the Tour de France.

1638: Cav is up there, with Petacchi and Hushovd up there too...

1637: Bradley Wiggins is organising this, and Team Sky are still in control. Where's Cav?

1635: Yep Oss is absorbed by the peloton, and a Team Sky train is leading the way at the moment. We are inside the last 2km.

Bradley Wiggins
1634: Good to see Bradley Wiggins up near the front too for Team Sky... let's hope we see a strong showing from him in tomorrow's time trial. Just 4km to go now and Daniel Oss is just 10 seconds ahead - he is about to be swallowed up.

1631: Plenty of Lampre men involved at the front too, trying to keep their own train together for Alessandro Petacchi's benefit. Who is your money on?

Yellow jersey
1629: Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are together near the front of the peloton, which is being led by the HTC Columbia train. No Mark Renshaw, but we've seen this before haven't we?... 7km to go and Oss is just 19 seconds ahead.

1625: Daniel Oss has gone off the front of the first four and, as of now, he is the lone escapee. The other three men that were part of the early breakaway have just been caught by the peloton. With 11km to go, the gap is 33 seconds.

1622: The peloton is strung out a bit now, and the pace is still pretty high - about 65km/hr. With 15km to go, the front four (Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank, Daniel Oss of Liquigas, Benoit Vaugrenard of FDJ and Jerome Pineau of Quick Step) are now just 31 seconds ahead and they will be getting some more company very soon.

Text in your views on 81111
From Nello, via text: "Re 1556. How many riders have abandoned the Tour this year?"

26 men have withdrawn through injury, been disqualified, or finished outside the daily time limit.

1612: Plenty of HTC Columbia riders at the front of the peloton, but they are not working too hard - other teams are still doing their bit. The gap to the front four is now 58 seconds.

1607: Right, things are finally starting to happen. We are inside the last 30km and the peloton are starting to step things up now... that gap has come down to one minute and 30 seconds, and is still falling fast.

Green jersey
1558: By the way, the front four riders have just gone through the second intermediate sprint of the day, with Daniel Oss taking the six points as the first man over the line. That means the only points to be scored by the green jersey contenders will be at the finish line, where even a win for Mark Cavendish probably won't help him too much... Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi are just too far ahead. Still, fingers crossed for a Cav stage win though.

1556: We've lost another rider. Italy's Francesco Reda, of the Quickstep team, has just abandoned the Tour... leaving us with 170 survivors. Hopefully it wasn't that flurry of Tom Cruise references that sent him over the edge.

Text in your views on 81111
From anon, via text: "Re 1521. Maybe Tom will find inspiration for a new movie 'Bored on the 23rd of July'. This is the dullest stage of this year's Tour."

Thanks to everybody for their Mission Impossible/Eyes Wide Shut/Vanilla (Team) Sky efforts, but this is my winner. Let's just hope for a blockbuster finish from Cav to salvage what has been a less than thrilling few hours.

Andy Schleck
1541: Not such a happy face on Andy Schleck, who has dropped back to his team car to receive some treatment - by the looks of things he is a bit saddle sore... and he waves the TV camera away as he rubs some cream in the affected area. I don't blame him and, to be honest, I don't really want to watch that in any case...

Mark Cavendish
1537: The cameras have just caught up with Mark Cavendish, who smiles and signals that he is cracking the whip and getting the peloton to carry him towards the finish line at Bordeaux, which is now less than 50km away.

1531: If you give this page a manual refresh, you will see the link (in the top-right corner) that allows you to listen to our live commentary of the climax to today's stage. It begins as of now...

Text in your views on 81111
From anon, via text: "Re 1521. Maybe Tom Cruise is conducting an Interview with a Lampre rider? Sorry that's awful."

I think that beats my efforts... although that's not exactly saying a lot.

1528: Just 58km to go then, and not (that) long until this stage bursts into life. Thankfully. The gap to the front four (Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank, Daniel Oss of Liquigas, Benoit Vaugrenard of FDJ and Jerome Pineau of Quick Step) is about two minutes and 35 seconds... that quartet have been on their own for a very long time, or does it just feel that way?

1523: Sorry about that last entry but this is far and away the worst day of this year's Tour so far... damn it, I can't stop myself now!

A celeb has been spotted
1521: Apparently Tom Cruise is in a car following today's stage. Lucky old him. I didn't know Mr Cruise was a cycling fan but hopefully someone has told him it is a risky business and there are are a few good men in this year's race, not just Alberto Contador (top gun) and Lance Armstrong (legend?). I know I would...

Polka dot jersey
White jersey
1510: And, while I'm talking about winners, let's hear it for Anthony Charteau, who was crowned King of the Mountains yesterday. The Frenchman's nearest rival, his veteran compatriot Christophe Moreau, was unable to score in yesterday's stage, which was the final day where points were available in that category. Charteau will wear the polka-dot jersey on the podium in Paris on Sunday after scoring 143 points, 15 ahead of 39-year-old Moreau. Andy Schleck, who has the consolation (again) of wearing the white jersey for the best young rider in the Tour, is third on 116 points with Alberto Contador next on 112.

1500: As Gareth points out below, seven-times winner Lance Armstrong will not leave this Tour empty-handed... his RadioShack outfit are two minutes and 46 seconds ahead of nearest rivals Rabobank in the team standings.

Text in your views on 81111
From Gareth in Manchester, via text: "Re 1433. Give Lance some credit folks. He's come of his bike more times this Tour than in his previous TdF career. He's still an inspiration to millions. Having his team run out winners will be some consolation for individual performances this year."

Text in your views on 81111
From Andrew in Altrincham, via text: "Re 1433. The country is always disappointed when their team fails to live up to unrealistic expectations and, be it England at the World Cup or Team Sky in the Tdf, it can apply to both, except Team Sky have a lot of talent - just look at who didn't even make team (Peter Kennaugh etc). There's a lot to look forward to... yes mistakes were made but lessons will be learned."

1450: They are still racing today though, you know? Well, sort of. The front four are around two minutes and 21 seconds clear with 81km to go until the finish on the quayside in Bordeaux. Everyone (me included) is waiting for the inevitable bunch sprint finish, and things will start to wind up towards that at around 1630 BST.

Text in your views on 81111
From anon, via text: "Re 1433. Lance Armstrong has gone out with a whimper than a roar. He should have called it quits after last year rather than saying 'just one more next year'."

1444: And, while I have time on my hands, I should give a deserved mention to the Lanterne Rouge too It's always a surprise to me that it's not three-time 'winner' (or 'loser') Wim Vansevenant (yes, even when, like this year, he is not even in the race!) but this year Germany's Bert Grabsch is the man bringing up the rear in the general classification... just the four hours 26 minutes and 56 seconds behind Alberto Contador.

It's good news for a British rider
It's bad news for a British rider
Lance Armstrong
1433: With just Saturday's time trial and Sunday's procession into Paris, to come this is also a good time to reflect on Team Sky's first Tour - looking beyond Bradley Wiggins' disappointing showing, has it really been that bad? - and Lance Armstrong's last Tour... it has not been one for him to remember really, has it?

Get involved on 606
From OxfordWelsh on 606: "Re 1355. Schleck should have done the same as on the stage where his chain came off - more sudden acceleration from behind Contador."

1419: Well, the gap is coming down, gradually. But it doesn't really matter that much because there is no way on earth these four riders (Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank, Daniel Oss of Liquigas, Benoit Vaugrenard of FDJ and Jerome Pineau of Quick Step) are going to be allowed to stay out... they are basically on the end of a rope. With 101km to go, the peloton are two minutes and 37 seconds behind.

Text in your views on 81111
From Tony, via text: "Schleck seemed a bit one dimensional when it was one-on-one. Maybe try slowing things down, almost to a stop, play cat 'n' mouse, rather than grinding it out."

Text in your views on 81111
From Dan in Leicester, via text: "I think Schleck did the right thing making it a battle of endurance and simply trying to outlast Contador at that consistent tempo. Vicious and frequent attacks are not Schleck's style."

Text in your views on 81111
From Una in Derry, via text: "Re 1355. Headbutting maybe? Ha! Felt sorry for Schleck when he was nearly wrapped in a Spanish flag though - the crowd was mad yesterday. Did I spot your bum cheeks in a mankini at one stage?!!"

Not guilty Una... there was a lot of bare flesh at the top of the Tourmalet, though, and it must have been a bit of a shock for Schleck and Contador as various half-naked bodies appeared out of the mist.

1405: The peloton are two minutes and 40 seconds adrift and currently showing even less urgency than I do on on my commute to work (I tackle Col du Highgate, as well as Col d'Crouch Hill, at the beginning of my journey in... and often make a, er, slow start). I go a bit faster on my way home, mind (admittedly mainly because it's mostly downhill).

1355: With 118km to go, and nothing much happening on the road (the front four now have a lead of three minutes), let's look back to yesterday for a little while. Any thoughts from you lot about the outcome of the 'Battle of Tourmalet'? The cloud added a bit of drama, I thought, but I suspect it would have taken an awful lot to shake Alberto Contador from Andy Schleck's back wheel. Could and should Schleck have tried anything different though?

Get involved on 606
From Benson on 606: "Re 1259. There used to be a separate jersey for intermediate sprints, it was red and abolished in 1989 along with the combination classification. Bizarrely, it used to still contribute to the green jersey classification, rendering it fairly pointless."

Alberto Contador
1344: Speaking of Alberto Contador, he has just had to change bikes after a mechanical problem. And, no, Andy Schleck did not take the opportunity to attack! Contador is back on his bike, and has an Astana team-mate or two to help him regain touch with the peloton - so no drama.

1340: Don't expect much in the way of fireworks from the likes of Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck either. They will be thinking of Saturday's time trial... basically, today is going to be all about the sprinters.

1337: As things stand, the peloton are happy keeping this breakaway quartet within easy reach, and it looks like we will get the sort of bunch sprint finish that Bordeaux is famous for... although it is actually 11 years since there was last a sprint winner (Tom Steels) on the Quinconces quayside. Still, it's a good place to have a nice glass of wine afterwards.

Get involved on 606
From Im_partial on 606: "So I hear there's a tail wind - any chance of a cross wind to split up the peloton and provide a bit of excitement later on?"

1325: A tail wind is helping to push the riders along, as they approach the 60km mark. That gap to the peloton is still hovering around the three-minute mark.

Text in your views on 81111
From anon, via text: "New to cycling, but is it a possibility to have two points jerseys? One inclusive of intermediate sprints and the other for stage finishing position?"

There's always a bit of debate over what type of rider the green jersey is for, because out-and-out sprinters like Mark Cavendish inevitably pick up so many points through being involved at the business end of stages. It suits all-round riders too, though, because of those intermediate sprints which pepper every stage (including in the mountains). Two different jerseys? Not sure that would be a good idea... the likes of Cav and co get their glory in terms of stage wins anyway, don't they?

1259: Erm, not much more to tell you about in terms of today's stage at the moment. Those four riders (Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank, Daniel Oss of Liquigas, Benoit Vaugrenard of FDJ and Jerome Pineau of Quick Step) are still 3min 15sec clear.

1248: Britain's David Millar, who has been nursing a rib injury since the second stage and lies 161st out of the 171 riders left in the Tour, explains how he is merely surviving this year's race: "It's horrific, I've hated it. It's been miserable. I just want to get to Paris. Once I get to Paris I'll enjoy it, but at the moment it's just been excruciating. I am in no physical shape for Saturday's time trial. I'll do it at 100% but there won't be a result, not a hope. Finishing here is the number one goal, in whatever state that is."

1243: None of the contenders for the green jersey picked up points at the first intermediate sprint (Castelnau-Chalosse at 29.5km). Matti Breschel won it, followed by Daniel Oss and Jerome Pineau. Benoit Vaugrenard is the other rider in the breakaway quartet, who are now three minutes and 15 seconds clear of the peloton.

1237: If Mark Cavendish is going to win his fourth stage of this year's Tour, and his 14th in total, he will have to do it without his leadout man Mark Renshaw. Renshaw was disqualified last week for headbutting as he helped Cav win stage 11 on 15 July... and it will be interesting to see if (and how) HTC Columbia alter their tactics in his absence.

Text in your views on 81111
From Bored at Work, via text: "Can't see past Cav for the stage... but Thor and Petacchi will pick up enough points to virtually eliminate him from green jersey contention."

1230: There's been another break, and this time they have opened up a bit of daylight - about one minute on the peloton after 20km of today's 198km stage. Four riders are involved... Matti Breschel, Daniel Oss, Benoit Vaugrenard and Jerome Pineau.

Get involved on 606
From The_Usual_Suspect on 606: "Cav could have had another 10 or 15 points more if he hadn't eased off twice, but from there Petacchi probably would still be favourite. Plenty of 'ifs' though - Cav fell way behind after missing that corner on stage one, and Thor lost some points after the neutralisation on stage two - I'm not sure he'd have got 35 because attacks on the last climb may have succeeded."

Green jersey
1223: Plenty to play for in terms of the green jersey today then... Current points leader Thor Hushovd (191pts), Alessandro Petacchi (187) and Manxman Mark Cavendish (162) might be taking an interest in a couple of intermediate sprints at Castelnau-Chalosse (29.5km) and Hostens (150.5km) as well as the big one at the finish.

1216: Here we go then. The riders have just rolled out of the neutral zone... there has already been an attack, and seven riders briefly escaped, but the 171 Tour survivors are all together at the moment.

Mark Cavendish
1210: No climbs in today's 198km stage, which takes the race from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux, but don't you go thinking it is going to be flat (apart from the profile of the route!). Nope, the sprinters are already licking their lips in anticipation of a mass-finish... can Mark Cavendish add to his tally of three stage wins in this year's race?

1203: Alberto Contador is only eight seconds ahead of his rival in the general classification after tracking him through the clouds to the top of Tourmalet on Thursday, but the Spaniard will be expected to cement his triumph in Saturday's time trial.

1200: So, the 2010 Tour de France has left the Pyrenees behind - and it looks as though Andy Schleck's hopes of a first crown went missing in the mountain mist...

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see also
Cavendish wins fourth Tour stage
23 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Contador holds on to overall lead
22 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Top two primed for Tourmalet duel
21 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Wiggins refocuses his Tour effort
21 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Contador 'sorry' for Schleck slip
20 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Contador exploits Schleck mishap
19 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Contador cuts Schleck's Tour lead
16 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2010 guide
02 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France day by day
04 Jul 10 |  Cycling

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