On the eve of this race’s final test, the 53-kilometer time trial from Cérilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond, CSC-Saxo Bank’s Carlos Sastre leads Frank Schleck by 1:24, with another 9 seconds to Bernard Kohl and — perhaps most ominously — 1:34 to Cadel Evans, who sits fourth.
In this Tour's first time trial, a super-flat 29.5-kilometer race circumventing Cholet, Sastre finished 1:16 behind Evans and four seconds in front of Kohl.
When I said yesterday that you could tell which directors weren't pleased with their teams' races, today you could tell who was f-ing pissed. If it weren't for the fact that they made the day one of the most painful I've ever raced I'd actually feel bad for the guys on Liquigas, and a couple of others to a lesser degree. As is the only sympathy is the fact that there were a lot of really, really hurting guys out there today and we all shared in it together.
Australian Scott Sunderland has spent three weeks trying to make sure compatriot Cadel Evans loses the Tour de France.
Now Sunderland, a co-team manager with CSC-Saxo Bank, is preparing for the distinct possibility that Evans will upset his race leader, Carlos Sastre, in Saturday's penultimate stage time trial.
Sastre goes into the 53km race against the clock with a lead of one minute and 34 seconds on Silence-Lotto’s Evans, and with the yellow jersey on his back.
Cofidis' Sylvain Chavanel, one of the most aggressive riders in this year's Tour, got the stage win he's been looking for on Friday, outsprinting Jeremy Roy (Francaise des Jeux), his breakaway companion of nearly 85 kilometers to take the win in Montluçon.
Race leader Carlos Sastre (CSC) finished in the lead pack to retain his overall lead heading into Saturday's critical final time trial.
The upcoming time-trial battle between Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans that will decide this 95th Tour de France is the talk of the race — much more than Thursday’s excellent stage victory for Columbia’s Marcus Burghardt in St. Étienne or Friday’s likely bunch finish in Montluçon. Obviously, there’s much speculation whether Evans can overcome his 94-second deficit on the race leader in the 53km time trial from Cérilly to St. Amand-Montrond on Saturday. But the media are also looking at any angle they can to predict the protagonists’ performances.
It looked like Columbia's Marcus Burghardt put in a huge ride on stage 18, and his SRM power meter data confirms it.
Burghardt was super aggressive and obviously wanted the win bad. He was in the initial breakaway, and when that was caught he escaped again wth Feillu. He dropped Feillu on the Col De Parmenie, and caught Barredo on the descent.
A car driven by the father of Tour de France stars Andy and Frank Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) was searched by French customs during the 18th stage, which began in Bourg d'Oisans on Thursday.
An official source in Grenoble later said that "no doping products or banned substances" were found during the long search, which took place at Vizille in the Isere region of the Alps.
Andy Schleck suggested "jealousy" may have been behind the search.
Stage 18, Bourg-d’Oisans to Saint-Etienne, 196.5km
Weather Sunny and warm, clear skies, temperatures in the low 80s.
Stage winner On a day destined to see a winner come from a breakaway, Columbia’s German Marcus Burghardt took his first-ever Tour stage win out of a two-man breakaway, ahead of Quick Step’s Spaniard Carlos Barredo.