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93rd Tour de France - Stage 18 Live Ticker
By Staff
Date: 7/21/2006
93rd Tour de France - Stage 18 Live Ticker

93rd Tour de France - Stage 18 Live

Welcome to our live coverage this morning. Our commentator today is Locutus with Crazy Jane off to Paris to catch the last two stages. Join other fans from around the world to discuss the race in progress while you follow the ticker in the Daily Peloton Chat room. 

This 197 kilometer stage from Morzine to Macon serves as a transitional stage before the final time trial. Look for the GC men to be saving their remaining bullets for that time trial while the opportunists who have lost hours in the mountains try to take advantage of the apathy and sneak another stage win.

With the mountains behind them, I expect the teams of the sprinters to really chase down everything on this stage and bring it home for another bunch sprint.

There are three climbs clustered in the middle of the stage: the Cat 3 Cote de Chatillon-en-Michaille (5.1 km at 3.7%) which comes at the 93 kilometer mark, the Cat 2 Col du Berthiand (4.7 km at 6%) which starts at the 126 kilometer mark, and the Cat 4 Cote de Chambod (1.9 km at 6.4%) which jumps out at the 137.5 kilometer point. The final 41 kilometers are flat, and this should see the sprinters reorganize themselves, get their trains into gear, and chase down the inevitable long break. But with most of the big sprinters out of the race, and the peloton exhausted, who knows what will happen?

Stage 18 profile Morzine - Macon 197 km

Here is the poem of the day from Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling by Doug Donaldson and Phil Liggett.

They know exactly
what they have to do.
They are the sharp end of the race.
Stage 12, 2000

1452 CEST - 99 km left. So we start our coverage, and guess what? Yes, there is a breakaway! It consists of 15 men and is only 3 min 38 sec ahead of the peloton.

Here are the 15 men in the break: Zabriskie (CSC), Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Calzati (AG2r), Martinez (Discovery Channel), Scholz and Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Flecha (Rabobank), Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto), Vaugrenard (FDJeux), Tossatto (Quick Step), Hinault (Credit Agricole), Moreni (Cofidis), Isasi (Euskaltel), Quinziato (Liquigas), and Pineau (Bouygues Telecom).

The peloton...what's left of it... is actually paying attention today. This break only got a maximum of four minutes. By the way, sprinter Oscar Freire (Rabobank) didn't start today, so the only big-name sprinter left is McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto). He just has to stay upright and he'll win the Green Jersey competition.

There are only 140 riders left in this race. That's still quite a lot of men, but it is very small for a Tour de France peloton. In the peloton, it is Saunier Duval-Prodir doing an awful lot of work for some reason. They have five men on the front. Floyd "Superman" Landis is riding alongside his old teammate and current Yellow Jersey wearer Oscar Pereiro. Landis and Pereiro are having a friendly chat. Clearly the two are still good friends.

After the stage yesterday the Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears rider commented, “I am really satisfied with my stage. If it is a fact that Landis achieved something incredible today, it is also a fact that my team-mates achieved an incredible job too! We really achieved a big stage and I think we have to be happy with the fact the yellow jersey remains in the team. Right now I will rest a little before concentrating on the time trial that expects us next Saturday. It is a fact that to win the Tour will be something complicated but tonight the yellow jersey is still mine and I will have a good night! Tomorrow will be another day.”

D.S. José Miguel Echávarri commented with the feelings of the team, “What Landis did change the face of this incredible Tour, one more time. The Team Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears with their leader Oscar Pereiro was the only one which gave importance to Landis’ break, waiting for the other team managers to collaborate, at least the ones who still had riders who could finish on the podium in Paris. Some reacted, but too late. Because they only thought in the fact they could eliminate Pereiro, they did not realize that Landis was supplanting them all.”

CSC's comments on the chase after the finish:
Carlos Sastre, "Already on the first climb I could tell that he was going to attack. He just took off like an eagle and there was nothing we could do about it. He was way too strong,"

"We did the right thing in letting him escape at the beginning, because he was so strong. But we realized too late that the Caisse d'Epargne riders weren't able to catch him, and he simply took that last climb a couple of minutes faster than we'd expected. There's no doubt that it was a mistake to let him get as far as he did, because he is a major favorite to the overall win now," explained Bjarne Riis with regret. 

1503 CEST - 90 km left. The riders have already covered the first climb of the day, a Cat 3, and Aerts took maximum points. Not that it matters: Mickael Rasmussen of Rabobank has an unassailable lead in the Mountains competition. He'll win the Polka-Dot Jersey in Paris for the 2nd straight year. Rabobank has had an amazingly strong Tour, despite Menchov falling off the pace a bit in the GC race.  Freire won two stages, Menchov won a stage, Rasmussen won a stage and the Polka-Dot Jersey... that's quite a successful race.

The gap is still around 3 min 20 sec right now. Saunier Duval is still on the front, and erstwhile Polka-Dot Jersey wearer David de la Fuente is setting the pace and keeping the peloton strung out.

Erik Zabel (Team Milram) has a flat tire at the back of the peloton. He gets a change and is back on. You know, Zabel is one of the few men left in this race who can challenge McEwen in a sprint.

Zabel is 2nd in the Green Jersey competition at 80 points behind McEwen. The only other big name sprinter still in the race is Hushovd of Credit Agricole, and he's in 3rd in the Green Jersey competition. Of course, Hushovd won that competition last year, and Zabel has won it more times than anybody else in the history of the Tour de France.

Looking at this break, the best sprinters in there are Isasi of Euskaltel and Tosatto of Quick Step. Moreni also has a handy sprint. But somehow, I don't think this break will stay away. I think Milram, might help chase if this gap stays the same. Of course, they only have five men left in the race, so that won't be much help.

1515 CEST - 82 km left. All the GC men are taking it easy today. They are resting up for the big time trial tomorrow. If this break gets caught, it isn't too much to think that a couple of GC guys might attack to try and get some time or bonus seconds.

The break is about 10 km from the biggest climb of the day, the Cat 2 Col du Berthiand. It is a 4.7 km climb at 6%, so it is steep enough to cause some problems. The break will likely splinter a bit on that climb, especially with guys like Leipheimer in there. The peloton will probably lose a couple of riders, but it will likely stay together or regroup on the descent.

Interesting the Zabriskie is once again on the attack. He could just be marking this break so that his teammates don't have to work to chase it. He could be there to help out if Sastre gets friskie and decides to try something. Or, he could be there to try to win the stage. Zabriskie broke through in the grand tours not in a time trial, but in a long solo breakaway stage win in the Vuelta a Espana a couple of years back.

Flecha, Tossato, and Leipheimer are on the front driving this break right now. Saunier Duval still has all their men on the front of the peloton chasing. The gap is still hovering at about 3 min 25 sec, so the peloton is keeping them in check. Will Simoni attack and try to bridge on this short Cat 2 climb? Hard to figure out what Saunier Duval is doing here.

1525 CEST - 74 km left. The riders are rolling along a lake. It's very picturesque, but nobody has the time to enjoy it... the hammer is down. Well, the riders go through a town and the roads narrow. The peloton has to slow a bit to squeeze through. The roads are thick with fans. You know, Lampre is also helping Saunier Duval chase. Lampre only has one guy in there helping, but that is something at least. The Caisse d'Epargne squad of Yellow Jersey wearer Oscar Pereiro is looking good behind the Saunier Duval and Lampre boys.

Leipheimer fell to 18th on GC with a terrible bonk yesterday... he lost over 21 minutes. So he's up there trying to get back some time on GC. He's lurking at the back of the break as they turn onto an uphill slope. Will he attack on this climb?  ...or will he try to pull a "Superman" like Floyd did yesterday? or...a Periero... the precedent is there in this Tour... smart move really. If Saunier Duval wasn't chasing, he'd probably be gaining huge time...

The break is on the climb. Hinault leads the break, and now Calzati pulls through. Calzati already has one stage win in this Tour.

1532 CEST - 70 km left. Leipheimer is the highest man on GC in this break at 18th, 22 min 01 sec behind Pereiro. Sinkewitz of T-Mobile is in 25th on GC at 50 min 07 sec, and he was off the front on the wheel of Landis most of the day yesterday.

Calzati still leads the break on this Cat 2 with only 2 km left on the climb. Leipheimer moves up on the outside of the break. He's not attacking, yet, but he likes to have his face in the wind for the cooling effect. This is actually the hottest day of the Tour so far... it is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit out there. In the peloton, Saunier Duval is still on the front trying to force the peloton to slog up this climb. Saunier Duval missed this break, so this pacemaking could be punishment for missing the boat today. Matteo Algeri: he's a harsh taskmaster.

1538 CEST - 69 km left. Only one kilometer left on this climb. Calzati still leads the break, which is all together still. The fans and campers and cars are very thick along the road. You know, the even and surprising racing in this Tour seems to have captured the imagination of the public. They seem to love this wide open race. It's easy to see why.

In the peloton, McEwen and his Green Jersey are still in there comfortably. After the final Cat 4 climb, which comes right after this Cat 2, don't be surprised if Davitamon-Lotto put some guys on the front to help chase. Sure, Aerts is in the break, but so are 14 other guys. If it comes down to a bunch sprint, McEwen will be very hard to beat. So the break is over the top of the climb. Calzati drops back to get a water bottle after taking maximum points on the climb. Meanwhile, Saunier Duval still suffers up the climb at the front of the pack.

Floyd Landis is prominent near the front of the peloton. As you might expect from his 130 km attack and stage win yesterday, Landis is wearing the Red Number of most aggressive rider today. Some big names now at the front of the peloton setting the pace: Gilberto Simoni is actually at the front for Saunier Duval, and next to him is Axel Merckx of Phonak who is looking out for Landis.

Kloden is keeping an eye on things for T-Mobile near the front. Cunego of Lampre is visible up there too. Caisse d'Epargne rider Florent Brard, the French Champion, shows his champion's jersey at the front to set the pace now.

Forget the Devil at le tour... The Kangaroo has landed from Australia. Photo c. Ben Ross

1546 CEST - 61 km left. The break is bombing the descent at over 90 kph. The break is still all together with fifteen men. The peloton is nearing the top of the climb. The gap is still about 3 min 35 sec, and that has been the case for quite a while now. The peloton is on the long, fast descent now. The road is relatively straight and the road is wide, the pavement is good, and the riders are bombing. This is quite a change from the treacherous descents the riders have faced over the past few days.

The break is now on the final climb of the day. It is a Cat 4 climb, and Sinkewitz is pushing the pace. He is really stretching things out a bit. He had a gap, and Leipheimer had to close it. A few men are dropping off the back of this group. Leipheimer is the one driving it over the top of the climb. He sits up a bit over the top, and the guys in trouble get back on to the group. Leipheimer wants time as much as a stage win right now.

In the peloton, Simoni is leading again and driving it up this Cat 4 climb. The gap is down to about 3 min 07 sec, but it is still just Saunier Duval and one Lampre guy setting the pace in the pack.

Speaking of Australian fans...

A few proud Aussie fans on Joux Plane...  Photo c. Ben Ross

1553 CEST - 56 km left. There are no more categorized climbs today. The riders will hit one little uncategorized climb soon, then it's pretty much flat all the way to the finish. That is when the peloton will really hit the gas. Probably. The peloton rolls through a town and has to avoid some road furniture. They've split around a median, and now come back together. They make that look easy, but it is incredibly tricky. That's why they're pros.

1600 CEST - 50.5 km left. Calzati attacks, and Flecha brings him back. Calzati goes again, and Martinez marks him. Leipheimer goes up to him too. This is on the uncategorized climb. After that flurry, they've settled down a bit. And now Isasi attacks. He is a powerful man, and he has a good gap. Nobody is chasing him just now. Wait, now Leipheimer is joining Isasi. So Isasi and Leipheimer have a gap of about 150 meters on this uphill drag. Sinkewitz is trying to bridge, but he looks over his shoulder for help. Nobody wants to help.

Aerts, Sinkewitz, and Martinez all try to bridge and get chased. Now Pineau launches to try to bridge. He has about 20 meters. Leipheimer and Isasi still have a good gap and they are working well together. Pineau is halfway between the two leaders and the twelve chasers.

In the peloton, Saunier Duval is still setting the pace. If Aerts doesn't get up to the two leaders, then Davitamon-Lotto will come to the front of the peloton in force in order to chase and set things up for McEwen. In the chase group, they have pulled back Pineau. So there are thirteen men chasing Leipheimer and Isasi, but they aren't very organized still.

1607 CEST - 46 km left. Leipheimer and Isasi have pushed their lead over the peloton up to 4 minutes. Levi really wants the stage win today. The two leaders have a gap of 25 seconds over the thirteen men chasing. Of course, Leipheimer's teammate Scholz is sitting on the back the this chase group doing nothing to help.

42 km left. The gap of Leiheimer and Isasi is coming down a bit. The chase group has gotten organized a little, and they are only 20 seconds behind. The peloton is slipping, and the gap to the peloton is now 4 min 15 sec right now. It looks like this good dig by Isasi and Leipheimer is going to fail.

Well, McEwen sprints off the front of the peloton and shouts. He felt that the motorcycle with the camera at the front of the peloton was a bit too close. McEwen, it seems, likes the chances of his teammate Aerts in the break. So now the motorcycle is further away from the Saunier Duval men leading the peloton. In other words, McEwen felt that the motorcycle was providing a bit of a slipstream for the Saunier Duval men, giving them an unfair advantage. You don't see that every day.

1617 CEST - 38 km left. Leipheimer and Isasi still have 25 seconds on their chasers. So they've pushed their gap up again, and the peloton is even further back at 4 min 34 sec... it looks like nobody wants to come up to help the Saunier Duval men chase. This is good for the break.

Damiano Cunego comments after yesterdays stage when he took the Maillot Blanc of Best Young rider from Fothen,  "Wearing this jersey makes me very happy. I had a great performance that permitted me to obtain this jersey: I will wear it for two days, and then I will probably give it back to Fothen after the time trial. But at the end of the Tour nothing is so sure: the fatigue can cause surprises".

Damiano in the Maillot Blanc  Photo Lampre/Fondital

Cunego also said that he won't race the Tour de France next year, instead focusing on the Giro d'Italia. However, he expects to come to the Tour de France to try to win it in 2008.

The chase group of 13 men has formed a double paceline and is working very well together just now. Still, they are 20 seconds behind Leipheimer and Isasi. The peloton is almost 5 minutes behind.

Other recent news: AEG announced yesterday afternoon the host cities for 2007 Amgen Tour of California, which will cover more than 650 miles of California roadway from February 18-27, 2007. Beginning with the “traditional” prologue through the streets of downtown San Francisco and traveling over the next week on a newly created course, more than 150 of the world’s best professional cyclists will race through “host cities” Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Sacramento (new in 2007), Stockton (new in 2007), San Jose, Seaside (new in 2007), San Luis Obispo, Solvang (new in 2007), Santa Barbara and Santa Clarita (new in 2007), concluding for the first time in Long Beach.

“From the world-class riders and competition to the overwhelming support from over one million fans who attended the inaugural Amgen Tour of California and the critical acclaim from the international cycling community, the bar has been set extremely high for the 2007 Amgen Tour of California,” said Shawn Hunter, president, AEG Sports.

Keeping  up with the peloton... Cycling is such a part of every day life in France. Photo c. Ben Ross

1625 CEST - 32 km left. Simoni leads the peloton for Saunier Duval. The impetus has gone out of their chase... they seem to be conceding that the break will stay away. Leipheimer and Isasi press their advantage. The gap is 27 seconds to the thirteen chasers and 5 min 10 sec to the peloton.

28 km left. Leipheimer and Isasi are losing ground again. They only have about 15 seconds on the thirteen chasers. Leipheimer and Isasi are still working, but the chasers have them in their sights now. The peloton is out of it: the peloton is almost six minutes behind, and nobody wants to chase.

Leipheimer is making the chasers work for it. He's down in that American time-trial position, hands together and steering with his elbows. The chasers are still working that double paceline.

20 km left. Isasi and Leipheimer still have 12 seconds. And the chasing group of thirteen men is starting to break up the double paceline and look at each other. Now they've got them. So it is fifteen men together at the front of the race. The peloton is almost 7 minutes behind at this point.

17 km left. Moreni launches a huge attack in the break. He is actually chasing Scholz, who slipped away with his fresh legs. Moreni and Tosatto are working together trying to get up to Scholz. Remember that Scholz is an outstanding time trialist, and he has been sitting on this break doing no work for over 20 kilometers. So Moreni and Tosatto have caught Scholz. The three start to work together to stay away from the twelve chasers. Good teamwork by Gerolsteiner here, with Leipheimer and Scholz giving the old 1-2.

Well, the break has split up now. There is a group of five men chasing the three leaders now. Martinez and Aerts are in a group of five off the back. Calzati is off the back too.

1648 CEST - Who are the five chasers? Flecha, Sinkewitz, Quinziato, and Pineau are chasing with Leipheimer sitting on them. Then there is a group of eight men, the rest of that fifteen man break, off the back.

1650 CEST - 12 km left. Scholz, Tosatto, and Moreni are ahead by about 12 seconds. Then a group of five with Flecha, Sinkewitz, Quinziato, Pineau, and Leipheimer is chasing. They have 10 seconds on the eight men behind. The peloton has gone into hibernation at over 8 minutes back.

This will be a big plus for Leipheimer. He's 22 minutes back on GC. If Leipheimer gets 10 minutes on the peloton, he'll be up into 10th on GC. If the current gap holds, he'll be up to about 13th.

Well, there has been a regrouping behind. So it is now twelve men chasing the three leaders. Oh, but Isasi launches another counter-attack. But it goes nowhere. Meanwhile, the three leaders keep pulling away.

7.5 km left. Three leaders still have about 35 seconds on the chasers. It looks like Tosatto, Moreni, and Scholz will fight out the stage victory. You know, each one of these guys has a decent sprint. Aerts leads the chase group. They are working well right now. Zabriskie pulls through to take his turn. Moreni and Tosatto were teammates last year... what that means it is hard to tell. Now Quinziato attacks the chasers. Quinziato has gotten away, and the rest of the break is sitting up looking at each other. The gap goes up to 8:30!

5 km left. Quinziato is closing on Tosatto, Moreni, and Scholz. It looks like the Gerolsteiner rider is still working with the Italians.

3 km left. The three men will stay away. Quinziato is fading a bit. But if these guys start to monkey around, Quinziato could catch them. Quinziato is about 40 seconds behind. Scholz attacks, and Tosatto barely nails him back. Now they sit up and look at each other a bit. Moreni comes through, and Scholz gets on his wheel.

2 km left. Scholz goes again, and now Tosatto chases him again. Moreni is looking good here. Moreni shakes his head at Tosatto as if to say he won't pull through. Moreni is now just sitting on. Scholz is at the front heading into the final kilometer. He starts weaving across the road trying to get one of the Italians to pull through.

It is Scholz, then Tosatto and Moreni. It is Moreni with the best position here. Scholz is really out on a limb here. Tosatto goes! Moroeni comes up behind him, but he can't come around Tosatto!

Tosatto wins it! He succeeds where his teammate Boonen could not. Moreni was 2nd, Scholz 3rd. Quinziato comes across 45 seconds later in 4th. here comes the sprint of the rest for 5th. Hinault takes it.

So that group came in 1 min 02 sec behind the winner. What will the gap be to the peloton? How much time will Leipheimer get? At the last check, the peloton was over 8 minutes back.

1707 CEST. Scholz was given a time 2 seconds behind Tosatto and Moreni. The riders in the peloton aren't doing much. Maybe eating some powerbars and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Just what we need on such a hot day: more gaseous emissions. Oh well.

Pineau was 6th, Calzati 7th, Vaugrenard 8th, Isasi 9th, Martinez 10th.

Euskaltel and T-Mobile have a man each doing some kind of minor leadout of the peloton. The pace if up a bit, but they aren't exactly flying. McEwen is about 5th wheel, and he's yelling at guys. He's the Green Jersey, so I guess he feels he's the one to boss around and organize men in the sprint. The peloton is in the final kilometer, and the clock has already gone past 7 minutes.

And FDJeux rider jumps and leads it out. They are racing pretty hard for 16th place. McEwen ignores this: he has the Green Jersey sewn up. Why waste the energy? The Yellow Jersey of Pereiro is up in that, making sure he loses no time to his rivals.

They cross the line at 7 min 59 sec behind the leaders, which means that Leipheimer will get 6 min 53 sec on GC today. Leipheimer was 14th at 1 min 06 sec, and Zabriskie was 15th at the 2 min 25 sec. Zabriskie likely was trying to save something for that time trial tomorrow... he didn't do much in that break today.

You know, the Tour of California billed itself as a zero emissions race. a very laudable effort to preserve the environment by balancing the emissions of the support cars in the race with environmentally friendly actions designed to reduce emissions. But I wonder if their calculations included the emissions of the riders? The peloton is a flatulent bunch, what with all the energy they burn and the gels and powerbars they consume. Just a thought.

So the stage is set tomorrow for the closest Tour de France finish in modern history: the final time trial will decide it all. Three men are within 30 seconds at the front of the race. This will be exciting to watch.

Here is the GC situation:
1. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
2. Carlos Sastre (CSC) @ 12 sec
3. Floyd Landis (Phonak) @ 30 sec
=========== 2:00 ============

4. Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) @ 2 min 32 sec
5. Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) @ 3 min 11 sec
6. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) @ 4' 17"
7. Cyril Dessel (AG2r-Prevoyance) @ 4 min 27 sec
8. Christophe Moreau (AG2r-Prevoyance) @ 5 min 48 sec
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 8 min 19 sec
10. Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) @ 12 min 16 sec

This concludes our live coverage, of stage 18!  Thanks for joining us today.
Discuss the race and cycling with Tifosi from around the world in the  Daily Peloton Chat Room. Join us for tomorrow's stage the 57km time trial which will decide the final G.C... it should be interesting to see who has the legs to make the final podium.

Comment and debate cycling topics, race tactics and your favorite riders on the Daily Peloton Forums.
Full official results and  photos to follow.

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