Tour De France Stage 18: A Win for Mark Cavendish, Recap of Day's Events
With Stage 18 upon us, and the Tour de France coming to a close, it looks like Alberto Contador could take home back-to-back titles if Andy Schleck can't overcome Contador's eight-second lead going into today.
The two went toe-to-toe during stage 17, but Schleck couldn't shake the defending champion. Contador's eight-second lead, though it doesn't sound like much to some, is a lot to those who are trying to beat him. It's like an NBA team having a 20-point lead with a minute to go in the fourth quarter.
So, should we call the Tour all but over at this point, or could something drastic happen to change the look of the Tour over the next few days?
While it's unlikely, you can bet that every rider in the field will have some idea of where the defending champ is, and the other riders will do everything they can to keep him in their sights.
If he gains just a few more seconds, you may as well hand him the trophy now and send the rest of the riders home to try again next year.
France's Jerome Pineau among Four Riders To Pull Away Early
A group of four riders that consisted of France's Jerome Pineau and Benoit Vaugrenard as well as Italy's Daniel Oss and Danish rider Matti Breschel pulled away from the pack early in the stage.
At one point their lead was as big as three minutes and 25 seconds, but that was very early on.
With just under 70 km to go in the stage, their lead had shrunk to two minutes and 20 seconds and was falling.
Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz among the Stage 18 Supporters
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were spotted among the supporters cheering on the riders. Apparently the two are in town promoting a new movie.
Chris Horner the Only US Rider Who Is Close
While most thought Lance Armstrong would put up one last fight at what will be his last Tour de France, the only US rider who's close to the lead is Chris Horner, riding for Team RadioShack.
Horner is currently in 10th place overall and was more than 10 minutes (10:32) behind current leader Alberto Contador after Stage 17.
Speaking of Lance Armstrong
Lance, riding in what is sure to be his final tour, isn't having the kind of swan song he was hoping for.
Armstrong is currently in 23rd place and is almost 40 minutes (37:58) behind defending champion Alberto Contador. The majority of that lost time came after he fell three different times in one stage.
Daniel Oss and Jerome Pineau Challenge Each Other in Sprints
Italy's Daniel Oss and France's Jerome Pineau have been factors in both sprints today.
Oss finished second to Danish rider Matti Breschel in the first sprint, but Oss overtook Pineau to win the second and last sprint of Stage 18.
Three Teams Close the Gap on the Leaders
The lead pack of four riders had an early lead of over three minutes in the early stages of today's Stage 18 ride.
However, with just under 25 km left, three teams began to close the gap and were soon within almost one minute (1:10) of the leaders.
Team HTC Columbia, Lampre, and Milram all began to push hard as the stage comes to a close.
Daniel Oss Tries To Pull Away on His Own
Daniel Oss, one of the leaders who stayed in front of the peloton for most of the day, left the lead pack and tried to get out on his own, but Team HTC Columbia closed the gap to under a minute.
Peloton Catches Italy's Daniel Oss with Three Miles To Go
With three miles to go, Oss was looking over his shoulder as the peloton quickly closed a 15-second gap and left him in its wake in a mad dash to the finish.
Mark Cavendish Took the Stage 18 Win
Mark Cavendish from Team HTC Columbia took the Stage 18 win, finishing in four hours 37 minutes and nine seconds.
Alessandro Petacchi Wins Back the Green Jersey
After a third place finish in today's Stage 18, Alessandro Petacchi took back the green jersey from Thor Hurshovd, who finished well out of the top 10.
Petacchi has the overall points lead with 213, with Hurshovd 10 points back (203) and Cavendish not far behind (197).
Alberto Contador Keeps Hold of the Yellow Jersey
The yellow jersey stayed on the current leader and defending champion Alberto Contador after his 56th-place finish today.
He kept his eight-second lead over Andy Schleck, who finished 52nd today.