Today’s 18th Stage of the Tour de France pretty much went as expected. The 196.5 km (122 mile) course from Bourg-d’Oisans to Saint-Étienne led the riders out of the Alps and back onto the foothills of the Monts du Forez, a ride that favors the faster sprinters, even though the road did roll somewhat. At the end of the day, the top of the GC remained unchanged, with Carlos Sastre of Spain holding the Yellow Jersey, with teammate Frank Schleck from Luxembourg 1 minute and 24 seconds back, followed by Bernard Kohl of Austria in third, an additional nine seconds behind.
The stage winner today was Germany’s Marcus Burghardt, who finished just ahead of Spain’s Carlos Barredo. The pair made an early breakaway together, and then dueled to the end with Burghardt’s stronger legs carrying him to the victory. Romain Feillu of France was third, more than three minutes behind the top two riders.
That leaves just one more sprint stage, tomorrow’s 165.5 km (103 miles) from Roanne to Montluçon, for the top riders to make a move, although watching today’s strategy, that seems unlikely. Fourth place rider, Cadel Evans of Australia is just one second behind Kohl, and is amongst the best time trialists in the world, which is why he is now the odds on favorite to win the Tour. Saturday brings the second time trial, and it sets up an epic showdown, with Evans looking to make up 1 minute, 34 seconds on Sastre and take the over all lead heading into Paris on Sunday. Considering his strength in time trials, this shouldn’t be a problem barring injury, accident, or a completely horrible day on his bike.
I expect tomorrow will be much the same as today. Rather boring to follow, perhaps a few breakaways looking to get stage wins, and just setting things up for Saturday.
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