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Live Coverage – Stage 18 Tour de France, 2008

04:29 AM: Tune in Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. ETfor live coverage of stage 18 12:10 PM: Good day and welcomeTo's Live coverage of the 18th stage of the 95th Tour de France, a 196.5km race from Bourg d'Oisans to St. Etienne.

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Steve Frothingham

  • 04:29 AM: Tune in Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. ET

    for live coverage of stage 18

  • 12:10 PM: Good day and welcome

    To’s Live coverage of the 18th stage of the 95th Tour de France, a 196.5km race from Bourg d’Oisans to St. Etienne.

    The Tour is turning northwest and heading to Paris. This transitional stage links the Alps with the Massif Central between the tourist town of Bourg d’Oisans (population 3,350) and the industrial city of St. Etienne (population 180,000).

    There are only three climbs, none of which can be compared with the monsters the riders have faced in the Alps. After the second and longest climb, the Cat. 2 Croix de Montvieux (13.7km at 4.7 percent), the course takes a different direction than usual to a finish next to the Geoffroy Guichard soccer stadium in the northern part of St. Etienne, not the traditional arrival on the Cours-Fauriel.

    This is 24th Tour stage to finish at St. Etienne, which last saw the race in 2005, when Lance Armstrong won the penultimate day’s time trial to clinch his seventh consecutive title. The last road stage to finish here was in 1999 when then Belgian champ Ludo Dierckxsens jumped away from a seven-man breakaway group to win solo. The peloton was 22 minutes back!

  • 12:12 PM: The GC picture after the Alpe

    OVERALL, after Stage 17
    1. Carlos Sastre (ESP), CSC at 74:39min03sec
    2. Frank Schleck (LUX), CSC at 1:24
    3. Bernhard Kohl (AUT), Gerolsteiner at 1:33
    4. Cadel Evans (AUS), Silence-Lotto at 1:34
    5. Denis Menchov (RUS), Rabobank at 2:39
    6. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Garmin-Chipotle at 4:41
    7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne at 5:35
    8. Samuel Sanchez (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5:52
    9. Tadej Valjavec (SLO), Ag2r at 8:10
    10. Vladimir Efimkin (RUS), Ag2r at 8:24

  • 12:16 PM: Sastre’s home town

    Carlos Sastre will soon have a street or a public area named after him in his native Leganes after taking the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey after winning the 17th stage at the legendary Alpe d’Huez, the town’s deputy major told Spanish media on Thursday.

    “We’re proud of him, he’s an example for everyone. I’m going to propose that a public area, a square, a street, be named after him,” said Raul Calle.

    Sastre, 33, was born in Leganes, 10km south of Madrid, and lived there until he was 18 years. He now resides at El Barraco, near Avila, west of the capital, where a welcome home party is already planned.

    That’s very cool.

  • 12:28 PM: The points race

    It looks like Oscar Freire may be on his way to a green jersey in the Tour this year:
    Points Overall

    1. Oscar Freire (ESP), Rabobank at 219pts
    2. Thor Hushovd (NOR), Credit Agricole at 172
    3. Erik Zabel (GER), Milram at 167
    4. Kim Kirchen (LUX), Team Columbia at 145
    5. Fabio-Leonardo Duque (COL), Cofidis at 137
    6. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne at 123
    7. Robert Hunter (RSA), Barloworld at 110
    8. Robbie McEwen (AUS), Silence-Lotto at 105
    9. Romain Feillu (FRA), Agritubel at 94
    10. Cadel Evans (AUS), Silence-Lotto at 93

    If there’s a field sprint today, Freire has enough of a buffer to keep the jersey for another day, even if he finishes out of the points money. Either of the two final climbs (with 33.5km and 8.5km to go respectively) provide an opportunity for a solo rider to attack from the break, while any sprinters in the front group will want to make their major effort on the flat finish straightaway. Predicting a stage winner is as tough as hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas, so let’s spin the wheel and say Philippe Gilbert.

  • 12:30 PM: One their way

    the peloton has reached the end of the neutral zone and begins another long day in the saddle.

    The weather is beautiful, with temperatures in the 70s under a sunny sky.

  • 12:32 PM: The day’s first dig

    We see seven riders trying to make a go of it before they begin the fast, generally, downhill opener of the stage.

    At 2km, the seven have a small lead, but we do not have IDs yet.

  • 12:34 PM: Kohl the King (of the Mountains)

    With no major points remaining in the Tour, Bernhard Kohl has locked up the contest for the polka-dot jersey. All he has to do is make it to Paris and he’ll be the KOM winner of the 2008 Tour de France.

    Overall KOM
    1. Bernhard Kohl (AUT), Gerolsteiner at 125pts
    2. Carlos Sastre (ESP), CSC at 80
    3. Frank Schleck (LUX), CSC at 80
    4. Thomas Voeckler (FRA), Bouygues Telecom at 65
    5. John-Lee Augustyn (RSA), Barloworld at 61
    6. Sebastian Lang (GER), Gerolsteiner at 60
    7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne at 58
    8. Stefan Schumacher (GER), Gerolsteiner at 54
    9. Remy Di Gregorio (FRA), Francaise des Jeux at 52
    10. Egoi Martinez (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi at 50

  • 12:36 PM: Contract news

    Cofidis’ Sylvain Chavanel will move to Quick Step next year, news that has been confirmed both by his new boss Patrick Lefevere and his current director, Eric Boyer.

  • 12:40 PM: The seven in the break

    At the 8km mark, we have seven leaders with 35 seconds on the main field. They are:
    24. Maxime Monfort (BEL), Cofidis at 34:48
    67. Filippo Pozzato (ITA), Liquigas at 1:54:48
    81. Sebastian Lang (GER), Gerolsteiner at 2:09:38
    103. Bjoern Schroeder (GER), Milram at 2:45:17
    123. Freddy Bichot (FRA), Agritubel at 3:10:30

    134. Marcus Burghardt (GER), Team Columbia at 3:18:48
    145. Stephane Auge (FRA), Cofidis at 3:31:33

    As you can see, no one poses a GC threat and the points and KOM leaders have little or no interest in chasing, so the pursuit will fall to the sprinters’ teams, who have to decide if they want to fight out a sprint after struggling over the Category 2 climb near the finish.

  • 12:40 PM: Well…

    someone is chasing.

  • 12:41 PM: Drop us a line

    If you have a comment, complaint or question, feel free to hit the “Contact our editors” link below the live update window.

    We will try to read them all, answer as many as we can and even post a few.

  • 12:42 PM: At 12km

    our seven leaders have just 25 seconds on the peloton.

  • 12:45 PM: Our apologies

    Many of you may have had difficulty in reaching yesterday, following Carlos Sastre’s stage win atop L’Alpe d’Huez. We have received a detailed explanation from our server provider, regarding the technical issues that cropped up, partially due to the heavy demands generated by one of the most interesting stages in the Tour de France.

    There were technical issues and those have been corrected… but the Live Update Guys have also found a developing scandal involving the very core of our computer network, the creature you know as Herbie the Hamster. More on that as the story develops.

  • 12:47 PM: At 16km

    our seven leaders are now 45 seconds ahead of the peloton. Two as-of-yet-unidentified riders are trying to bridge.

    The Quick Step team is driving the chase, suggesting that they want to get a stage win today.

  • 12:47 PM: The two chasers

    are back in the field and our seven leaders are at 19km. The gap is now 55 seconds.

  • 12:53 PM: Advantage holding

    the seven leaders are not yet able to bump their advantage to more than a minute. Quick Step is now getting help from Bouygues Telecom. At 25km, the gap is now 53 seconds.

  • 12:56 PM: In Le Peage-de-Vizille

    The leaders are just not getting much room. At 26km, the gap is still around 50 seconds.

  • 12:58 PM: The speed is high

    with the opening stretch of the stage on a mostly downhill slope, the speed has been quite high, averaging about 57kph for the opening half hour.

    Francaise des Jeux’s Sandy Casar took a tumble in the peloton, but we’re happy to report that he is up and riding.

  • 01:03 PM: Yesterday’s technical issues

    While our server issues have been resolved, the Live Update Crew appears to have found another reason for the problem.

    Ever the self-appointed anti-doping crusader, Charles Pelkey, our Senior Live Update Guy – we call him “SLUG” – discovered a suspicious link between Herbie the Hamster and a Milan-based veterinarian, Doctor Michele “Mickey” Lamborghini. The SLUG has demanded Herbie’s blood profiles, results of which will be made available later today.

  • 01:05 PM: The break

    at 34km. Our seven leaders are sloooowly being pulled back. The Quick Step/Bouygues chase has paid off. The seven are now just 39 seconds ahead of the field.

    They are close to the day’s first intermediate sprint in Grenoble, site of the 1968 Winter Olympics.

    The speed is still high and Damiano Cunego hit the deck at 33km.

  • 01:07 PM: Cunego is back

    in the peloton.

    Our leaders are now at the the 36km mark and are just 36 seconds ahead of the field.

  • 01:15 PM: Reader question

    Reader Carl S. writes in to ask:

    What was Carlos Sastre’s time for the ascent of the Alpe d’Huez, and how did his time compare to other times of the last decade?

    Sastre’s performance was impressive yesterday, but it was far from a record pace. Sastre covered those historic 13.6km in 39:31, well off of the pace of the record established by Marco Pantani in 1997, when he rode it in 37:35.

    Indeed, if you count some of the top performances in the 2004 Alpe d’Huez time trial, Sastre’s time was only the 17th best ever turned in on a Tour de France stage, 13th best if you eliminate the TT times, which aren’t really a fair measure, since all they rode in 2004 was the road up the Alpe.

  • 01:16 PM: At 44km

    the catch looks inevitable. Only three of our original escapees remain up front and they are but 10 seconds ahead of the field.

  • 01:22 PM: Top five time on the Alpe

    The climb up L’Alpe d’Huez has always left a mark on the Tour. Who has turned in the fastest five times? Well, the top five times were turned in by just two guys:
    1. Marco Pantani, 37:35, 1997
    2. Lance Armstrong, 37:36, 2004 (time trial)
    3. Marco Pantani, 38:00, 1994
    4. Lance Armstrong, 38:01, 2001
    5. Marco Pantani, 38:04, 1995

    In contrast, it took Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond 48:00 to cover the climb in 1986, when they crossed the line together … that said, the two had a solid lead over the peloton when they reached the base of the climb, so they had little pressure to push it.

  • 01:23 PM: Cunego

    must have suffered more than we thought. He’s now trailing the peloton by more than seven minutes. That’s an unfortunate turn for one of the early favorites of the Tour.

    Our escapees, meanwhile, were all reeled in at the 48km mark. The peloton – with Cunego trailing – is back as a single group at the 50km mark.

  • 01:30 PM: In Noyarey

    the peloton remains together and the pace is still quite high. The average speed for the first hour was a brisk 55.5kph, due in no small part to the profile of the course.

  • 01:34 PM: More on Herbie

    It appears that our problems yesterday were, indeed, rooted in SLUG’s suspicions about our Hamster’s relationship with the mysterious Dr. Lamborghini. Right after the conclusion of yesterday’s stage, testers showed up at our server farm, looking for samples. Herbie, forewarned of the tests, apparently scampered out of his wheel, leaving a text message that he was training in Mexico.

    We don’t blame Herbie… we blame SLUG.

  • 01:36 PM: Cunego

    now has the company of three of his Lampre teammates, trying to pull the former Giro d’Italia winner back into the peloton. It’s not helping, though, the quartet trails the peloton by 9:45.

    The peloton is now at the 61km mark.

  • 01:38 PM: The day’s first climb

    the day’s first climb – the Category 3 Col de Parmenie – begins at the 70.5km mark and summits at 78km. The base of the climb is at 149 meters and the summit takes the route to 571m.

  • 01:43 PM: Barredo

    tries a dig. He is at 66km and about 11 seconds ahead of the peloton.

    He poses no threat on GC:
    100. Carlos Barredo (ESP), Quick Step at 2:35:55

  • 01:44 PM: Cunego

    continues to struggle. He is still 9:40 behind the peloton. He began the day in 14th place on GC, but if this continues, he will either withdraw from the Tour, or miss the day’s time cut. We are still trying to get an update on his injuries.

  • 01:50 PM: Reader question

    Craig I. writes in to ask:

    Was Herbie located back in the states or in France. I am hoping that he was located in the States. Then he can just claim to be a famous baseball or football player and they will hail him as a hero for using otherwise illegal substances. They might even put him in the hall of fame and give him a record or two. If was located in France then I hope that they are able to hunt him down and put in jail for messing with my beloved I was in tears and unable to function at work when I couldn’t read the Story about Sastre’s win.

    Herbie’s workspace was at an undisclosed location. The whole question of jurisdiction is complicated, especially now that we don’t know where he is. His lawyer, Murray Sue, says that he’s also not sure where Herbie is right now, but denies that the Hamster had nefarious reasons for working with Dr. Lamborghini.

    “He was seeing the doctor for… uhhh…. personal reasons … of a reproductive nature, if you get my drift,” Sue said. “Lamborghini has been Herbie’s doctor since he was pup. You shouldn’t read anything into the fact that a Hamster prefers to work with his own family doctor.”

  • 01:52 PM: Barredo

    is about to be joined by Marcus Burghardt (Columbia) and Romain Feillu (Agritubel). They – and the peloton – are on the climb. The peloton trails by 1:45.

  • 01:53 PM: Barredo

    is still on his own, extending his advantage over Feillu and Burghardt to 35 seconds. The peloton is at 1:45.

    Barredo is now at the 73km mark. The Summit is at 78km.

  • 01:54 PM: Gaps

    Barredo is now 45 seconds ahead of Feillu and Burghardt and a full 2:45 ahead of the peloton. Will these boys be allowed to go? None of them poses a GC threat.

  • 01:59 PM: Cunego

    is now more than 13 minutes behind the peloton. He crashed at 27km and has been struggling ever since.

    Our leader is at 75km and is now 40 seconds ahead of his two pursuers… and 2:45 up on the peloton.

  • 02:01 PM: At 76km

    Barredo is 2km from the top of the climb. He still leads Feillu and Burghardt by 40 seconds. The peloton is still at 2:45.

  • 02:06 PM: Approaching the summit

    As Barredo approaches the summit, there are actually five riders ahead of the peloton, spread out over the Col de Parmenie.

    Barredo is 40 seconds ahead of Feillu and Burghardt and about 4 minutes ahead of Astarloza and Le Mevel, who, in turn are 4:55 ahead of the peloton.

  • 02:08 PM: Over the top

    Barredo is over the top with about 10 seconds over Marcus Burghardt.

    Feillu gets the third place KOM points, he was more than a minute back.

    Burghardt and Barredo are coming together on the descent of the Col de Paremenie

  • 02:10 PM: Astaraloza

    Euskaltel’s Mikel Astarloza was next over the summit, with Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole). The pair was 3:40 behind Barredo.

  • 02:13 PM: Next stop: lunch

    Barredo and Burghardt are approaching the feedzone. They look comfortable, they will have to decide whether to wait a bit for Feillu to catch.

  • 02:19 PM: Who are those guys?

    Name that movie.

    But these guys, of course, are no GC threat:

    100. Carlos Barredo (ESP), Quick Step at 2:35:55
    134. Marcus Burghardt (GER), Team Columbia at 3:18:48

    Meanwhile, the peloton has crested the summit almost eight minutes behind Barredo. Clearly after several tough days the GC honchs are enjoying a bit of rest for at least the first part of today’s stage.

    Feillu has faded back the Astaroloza and Le Mevel, about 3:30 behind the B&B group.

    128. Romain Feillu (FRA), Agritubel at 3:16:02

  • 02:27 PM: Suspicions …

    Herbie the Hamster has apparently been in communication with some members of the media, via text messages.

    He denies taking anything that wasn’t handed into his cage by his personal trainer, the Backup Live Update Dude.

  • 02:32 PM: Big chunk of riding ahead

    As our leaders get their feed, they have another bit of climb then a long descent. The next categorized climb isn’t until KM163.0. The Cat 2 Croix de Montvieux is 13.7km long at 4.7 percent.

    The latest time check has the B&B group more than 11 minutes ahead of the peloton, with Astaraloza, Feillu and Le Mezel in between, about 3 minutes behind the pair.

  • 02:33 PM: Two p’s, two t’s

    Reader Davis B. writes in to ask:

    Dear Live Update Guy,
    Could you please explain what is meant by the term “gruppetto” (meaning ‘little group,’ I suppose) as referred to in the mountain stages?
    David Briss
    Hello David,
    The gruppetto is also known as “the laughing group.” It is the group of support riders and sprinters, which forms up on mountain stages. The riders in the gruppetto ride together to minimize the workload, with the specific goal of finishing within the time cut and no better.

    There is also safety in numbers. There have been days in which a huge gruppetto has finished outside of the time cut, prompting organizers to extend the limit rather than eliminate 60 or 70 riders in one fell swoop.

  • 02:35 PM: 11:10

    The peloton is getting its lunch. They arrived at the feedzone a bit more than 11 minutes behind the two leaders.

  • 02:40 PM: Who are those guys?

    Is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the favorite movie of the soon-to-be-disgraced Backup Live Update Dude. First to ID the quote was Don Richard Cox, a dean at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

  • 02:43 PM: The peloton

    The Garmin- and Caisse d’Epargne-led peloton is coming in to Gillonnay, about 96km into the race. It is about 10:20 behind the lead pair, with the three chasers in between, still more than three minutes behind the leaders.

    Cunego is still another 10 minutes back.

  • 02:51 PM: Person of interest

    Men with funny blue caps and little cigarettes have entered the Live Update headquarters and are demanding to speak with the Backup Live Update Dude, who of course is meditating in preparation for his turn producing live postings later in the exciting later kilometers of this stage.

  • 02:56 PM: Astaraloza

    Barredo and Burghardt would be well advised to NOT wait up for Mikel Astarloza. The Euskaltel rider is in 18th, 23:22 behind race leader Carlos Sastre, and his presence would inspire some chasing from the peloton.

    Astarloza is still about 3 minutes behind the leaders and Caisse d’Epargne, Garmin and Cofidis are leading the chase.

  • 03:00 PM: Denials all around

    The Backup Live Update Dude (BLUD) has been led from the building. He was insisting to passersby that he only consulted with Herbie the Hamster on ‘family issues.’

    “I won’t be the fall guy for that rat,” he was heard muttering as he was escorted out. “I will name names.”

  • 03:03 PM: CSC at the front

    CSC is putting some men up front. Will they throw down on the climbs today?

  • 03:10 PM: Meanwhile …

    To bring you up to speed, Herbie the Hamster, the power source for the web site, disappeared suspiciously, soon after yesterday’s stage, leading to a server crash.

    Herbie has been in touch with SLUG, the Senior Live Update Guy, via text message. His tone is becoming closer to confessional.

    “LOOK,” he texted. “im not admitting nothing, but u dont no the pressure we are under. if you think we can power 1 mill page views on water and crackers, ur crazy. I mean, lol.”

  • 03:12 PM: CSC

    back to reality, at least briefly, we see a common pattern developing: CSC has sent classics strong man Stuart O’Grady to the front to put the hammer down before the next climb. O’Grady has done something similar the last few stages.

  • 03:16 PM: 10 minutes

    Barredo and Burghardt have about ten minutes on the peloton. Their gap over the three chasers has gone up to more than four minutes.

  • 03:20 PM: leaders at KM 135

    They are in Vernioz, leading the chasers by 4:15 and the peloton by just under 10 minutes. Columbia’s Burghardt, in particular, is looking strong. Barredo has been out there a long time.

  • 03:23 PM: More from Herbie

    more texting:

    “i know labs, i come from a family of lab rats! these guys, these testers, they dont no wht they r doing. im the most tested hamster in the history of online cycling journalism. they wont find anything.”

  • 03:30 PM: O’Grady still up there

    CSC is ramping up the pace a bit as the leaders approach the base of the Croix de Montvieux.

  • 03:31 PM: That climb

    Topping out at Km163, the Cat. 2 Croix de Montvieux is 13.7 kilometers at an average of 4.7 percent.

  • 03:36 PM: Cunego still dangling

    He’s not making any headway; he’s almost 12 minutes behind the CSC-led peloton.

    If you just joined us, Cunego crashed hard at about 28km into the race, and it took a long while before he even got back on his bike. He’s been chasing all day with the help of teammates.

  • 03:38 PM: The leaders

    Our two leaders are starting to roll up the cat. 2 Montvieux at about KM140. Their gap is holding steady at just over 10 minutes. The three chasers are about 4 minutes back, still/

  • 03:41 PM: Hincapie in rash

    Neal Rogers spoke with Columbia’s George Hincapie at the start this morning. Hincapie is sporting road rash all up and down the left side of his body. He went down in a crash while descending the Galibier yesterday, and finished the stage 65th, 24:18 down.

    “I have no idea what happened, actually,” Hincapie said. “Someone behind me took out my rear wheel. I slid across the road, hit a curb and broke my bike in half. I had to wait for a new bike and get on to the last group. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to continue on or not.”

  • 03:42 PM: Dean struggling

    Rogers also spoke with Garmin-Chipotle’s Julian Dean, as part of his daily video diary.

    Dean said he woke up this morning feeling “10 times worse than the worst hangover” he’d ever had after the final, epic stage in the Alps.

  • 03:45 PM: Leaders climbing

    They look good, the two.

    CSC has four men at the front of the peloton and of course Sastre’s yellow jersey is tucked in there near the front. The pace in the peloton has not really ramped up much, though.

  • 03:46 PM: CVV and Riis share a moment

    Garmin-Chipotle’s Christian Vande Velde was spotted outside the bus of his former team, CSC, this morning.

    Vande Velde and Riis were spotted chatting, with CVV telling his former boss “I just had one bad day,” referring to his loss of 2:35 on La Bonette on stage 16. Asked what he thought about his former rider’s performance at this year’s Tour, Riis smiled. “It’s time to sign him a contract.”

    Vande Velde said he hoped there wouldn’t be any attacks by GC riders over today’s category 2 Croix de Montvieux. Asked about Saturday’s 53km time trial, Vande Velde said “53km is a long way. When I go on a training ride in the winter, 53km is my entire ride. Anything can happen over a time trial of that distance.”

  • 03:48 PM: The three in the middle

    remember them?

    Le Mevel, Astarloza and Feillu are on the climb. They hit the base of the climb just under 4 minutes behind Barredo and Burghardt.

  • 03:53 PM: Peloton hits the climb

    the CSC-led peloton hits the base of the climb, about 9:40 behind the lead duo.

  • 04:01 PM: attacks?

    with the peloton on the climb, led by CSC, we are eager to see if anyone tries an attack … this is the final Cat. 2 climb of the 2008 Tour.

  • 04:04 PM: real news

    Our Herbie monologue aside, there is an actual breaking story at the Tour today. Customs police have stopped a vehicle driven by the father of Frank and Andy Schleck, retired pro rider Johnny Schleck.

    The senior Schleck was driving a vehicle in the commercial caravan and it was pulled out by police, who began what they said would be an afternoon-long search.

    Frankly folks, we hope this turns out to be nothing. It would be tough to watch another of these scandals unfold.

  • 04:15 PM: No attacks yet …

    O’Grady is still at the front of the peloton as the breakway duo goes over the summit. The last time check had them at just under 10 minutes.

    The three chasers are still about 4 minutes back.

  • 04:15 PM: B&B over

    Barredo and Burghardt are over. Barredo got the KOM points.

  • 04:17 PM: Chasers over

    the three chasers are over the summit, at 4:14 behind the lead duo

  • 04:18 PM: Now.

    after the tricky descent, we have the Cat. 4 Cote de Sorbiers, an interesting little kicker that tops out about 8km from the finish in Saint Etienne

  • 04:21 PM: Peloton over the top

    no attacks, thanks to the CSC-led pace. The lead duo is on the descent while the three chasers remain in no-man’s land about 4 minutes behind the leaders.

  • 04:23 PM: the gap at the summit

    was 10:07. Barredo and Burghardt’s chances are looking better all the time.

  • 04:27 PM: The latest on the Schleck search

    Sources say that officials found “no doping products or banned substances” in the car belonging to Andy and Frank Schleck’s father, according to Agence France Presse.

  • 04:29 PM: Barredo

    Barredo jumped Burghardt, but the two are back together again. A little early, but Barredo — the better climber — would like to get ahead of Burghardt, who is a better sprinter, before the finish.

    if they start playing, they open the door to a catch by the Astarloza group.

  • 04:36 PM: The lead

    The two are at the last intermediate sprint at Saint Chamond, they still have 10:15 gap ahead of the CSC-led peloton. Burghardt is pulling hard, but they have plenty of time to play with.

    They have been away since the 81 kilometer of this stage.

  • 04:37 PM: The duo

    Update, the two men at the front of the race and their GC positions:

    100. Carlos Barredo (ESP), Quick Step at 2:35:55
    134. Marcus Burghardt (GER), Team Columbia at 3:18:48

  • 04:40 PM: Burghardt

    Columbia’s man, his shirt fully unzipped, has been at the front the most, by our reckoning. He gives a good draft to the much smaller Barredo.

  • 04:41 PM: Cunego not giving up

    Cunego and four teammates have come over the summit, 12:20 behind the peloton.

  • 04:43 PM: The two on the final climb

    They are wary of each other, taking short pulls.

    Whop – Barredo attacks.

  • 04:44 PM: Burghardt

    The Columbia man had no trouble matching Barredo’s attack and has gone to the front.

  • 04:45 PM: 4:45

    The lead duo still have 4:45 over the chasing three, the Astaraloza group, as Barredo attacks again.

  • 04:46 PM: Marked and again!

    Burghardt was sitting up, looking to zip up his jersey when Barredo attacked again, and Burghardt marked it again.

  • 04:47 PM: The peloton

    is more than 10 minutes back

  • 04:47 PM: 7.5k to go

    The two are still watching other – wait- Burghardt goes!

  • 04:48 PM: The gap opening

    Burghardt’s got the biggest gap yet between these two, who have been together since the 82nd kilometer.

  • 04:49 PM: Barredo reels him in

    back together, Burghardt pulling

  • 04:50 PM: 5k to go

    and the two leaders are all over the road, spending more time looking over their shoulders than forward.

  • 04:52 PM: 4k to go

    Barredo’s Quick Step car comes up to have a few words. Burghardt is calling for his car.

  • 04:53 PM: The three chasers

    back with the three chasers, Astarloza has attacked the other two.

  • 04:53 PM: A little climb for the leaders

    And Barredo attacks again, and Burg marks it. Again.

  • 04:54 PM: and in the peloton

    three riders are off the front on the final climb. We see Cyril Dessell in there, Dumoulin …

  • 04:55 PM: Up front

    Boy, these two really are well matched – or equally tired. They appear doomed to enter the final k together.

  • 04:56 PM: Andy Schleck

    The white jersey has marked the three men off the front of the peloton.

  • 04:56 PM: 1k to go

    for the lead breakaway , they are still together

  • 04:57 PM: Burghardt on the front

    soft pedaling

  • 04:57 PM: Burg

    standing on his pedals, watching

  • 04:57 PM: 400m

    all but a track stand

  • 04:58 PM: Burghardt

    he gets it! he never let Barredo come by. Another Columbia stage win

  • 04:59 PM: Burghardt

    He waited, waited, waited and when Barredo finally jumped, he never even let him get even with his front wheel.

  • 05:00 PM: The race for third

    one stage podium spot still up for grabs for the Astaraloza group, which has been dangling in no man’s land for lo these many k’s …

  • 05:03 PM: Feillu

    Feillu took the three-man sprint for third place.

  • 05:04 PM: Now, a group of five coming in

    The Andy Schleck group has entered the last k with a gap over the peloton

  • 05:04 PM: Schleck leading it out

    the race for 6th place … Kreuzinger is in there, Hoste is in there, Dessel … Dumoulin

  • 05:07 PM: The yellow jersey

    The lead group has come in with Carlos Sastre – there will be no changes to the GC, so the CSC Spaniard will go into Friday’s stage with his lead intact.

  • 05:15 PM: That’s all from here

    Cunego and his mates have finished, a bit more than 20 minutes behind Burghardt. Not sure if that will be inside the time cut.

    That’s all from here. Check in at for complete results, photos, analysis, video …

    And tune in here tomorrow morning for stage 19, a hilly 165k route from Roanne to Montlucon.