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Burghardt and Barredo gave the fans a treat to close stage 18 today. After cat and mouse for 20km the two employed

Stage 18 Winner - Burghardt of Team Columbia

Stage 18 Winner - Burghardt of Team Columbia

track tactics to setup for the final 500 meters. Burghardt overpowered a very disappointed Barredo from the forward position to get the win. Team Columbia has had a stellar Tour to date with 5 wins, holder at times of the Green, White and Yellow Jersey on top of becoming the poster child for dope free racing. I mean this is a Tour they can write home about.

Barredo escaped the peloton at about the 70km. Soon after, Burghardt and Feillu escaped as well though Burghardt later dropped Feillu bridging to Barredo on the decent of the col de Parmenie. Astarloza and Le Mevel escaped about then and tried to bridge to the leaders catching up with Feillu by 85km. The peloton was seven or eight minutes back at that point though the lead grew as high as ten minutes before CSC fired up the big engines. Burghardt and Barredo held of the chasers to contest the sprint. Feillu, Le Mevel and Astarloza came in a little more than three minutes later. The peloton with a small leading group sprinted in a little less than four minutes later.

There was no real action in the GC as the key riders marked each other closely. The only real shift was that Cunego wrecked at 28km cracking his chin. Three of his teammates fell back to support him though he still lost nearly 13 minutes to the peloton. Cunego has really struggled this tour without much to show for it. I’m afraid too much expectation was placed on him.

Stage 18 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/56q2cn

Stage 18 Race Reports:

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/69lm2e

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5nfl37

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6ksbmj

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/6qr2jq

Stage 18 Results:

1 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Team Columbia, 4.30.21 (43.61 km/h)
2 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step, st.
3 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel, 3.33
4 Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Crédit Agricole, st.
5 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 3.35
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 6.39
7 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, st.
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, st.
9 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence – Lotto, st.
10 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.

Overall Team Standings:

1 Team CSC Saxo Bank, 237.42.06
2 AG2R-La Mondiale, 9.27
3 Rabobank, 1.01.17
4 Euskaltel – Euskadi, 1.07.57
5 Caisse d’Epargne, 1.11.56
6 Silence – Lotto, 1.13.29
7 Lampre, 1.18.16
8 Team Columbia, 1.23.09
9 Credit Agricole, 1.25.27
10 Gerolsteiner, 1.29.14

Overall Standings:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 79.16.14
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

Sastre patiently waited for his chance to shine and then delivered on L’Alpe d’Huez. The CSC

Stage 17 Winner - Carlos Sastre

Stage 17 Winner - Carlos Sastre

strategy appears to have been to fake the GC contenders into following Frank Schleck then hit em with a blistering Sastre acceleration. Make no mistake, Sastre attacked the yellow jersey group. He wasn’t trying to pace Frank. He was clearly going for the win and unless he broke ranks, he had the blessing of the team to do it. The decider may have been Sastre’s better potential in the time trials. Either way, it was a masterful team play which leveraged a hand of aces this team possesses. Cadel was happy to have the little help he had and did well to limit the damage.

The riders come out of the Alps tomorrow in Stage 18. While there are a few climbs including a Cat 2 climb toward the end, it is unlikely that the GC guys will contest. Stage 19 heads into the flat lands leaving little chance for a GC shakeup. It is more likely that the Tour will be decided on the Stage 20 time trial. So the lingering question is..was it enough?

Stage 4 results offer a glimpse of the time trial potential for Cadel and Carlos. Cadel placed third in the time trial, 27 seconds off the winning time. Sastre finished at 28th about 1:39 back for a gap of 1:12. The Stage 20 time trial is rolling but also longer at 53km versus the relatively flat 29.5km TT of stage 4. Simple math suggests a relative gap of 2:09. As Cadel is 1:34 behind on GC after today’s stage, it is a good bet that Cadel is within striking range. There are plenty of other variables you could consider when handicapping the Stage 20. I’ll leave that to those who are inclined. Suffice to say it will be a dog fight.

Stage 4 Elevation Profile

Stage 4 Elevation Profile

Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Sastre will have three days to enjoy the armor of the yellow and convince himself that he is more than even he thought, a time trial guy. The team dynamic is strong in CSC. Many sacrifices were made to put him in position. Carlos will be riding beyond himself with that in mind on Saturday.

Stage 17 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Stage 17 Race Reports

Bike Radar: http://tinyurl.com/57rez3

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/6qxj8f

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/55lsfw

Versus: http://preview.tinyurl.com/57fuls

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/5g5bmf

Stage 17 Results:

1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank, 6.07.58 (34.32 km/h)
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 2.03
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 2.13
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
6 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.15
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, st.
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30
10 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, st.

Overall Standings:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 74.39.03
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

A brilliant performance by Andy Schleck of team CSC up the final climb of the

Stage 16 - Scheck, Kohl & Menchov

Stage 16 - Scheck, Kohl & Menchov

day helped keep brother Frank in Yellow today on Stage 16. Menchov and Vandevelde were on the negative side as each lost time on GC. Menchov was dropped on the final decent, Vandevelde on the climb prior. Vandevelde had a spill on the high part of the decent as he raced to make up ground. Unfortunately he ended up losing over two and a half minutes to Frank. Menchov held his losses to 35 seconds. Cadel, Sastre and Kohl put in excellent performances today retaining their positions on the GC. The GC guys finished about a minute and half behind several shattered breakaway groups.

Stage 16 Winner Cyril Dessel followed by Sandy Casar

Stage 16 Winner Cyril Dessel followed by Sandy Casar

As for the action up front, Dumoulin, Rosseler, Le Mevel, Schumacher and Voeckler escaped the peloton at 40km. A second chase formed behind them of 20 riders including Freire, Hincapie and Pate. Schumacher broke free of the original 5 at 60km holding out till 130km when he was finally absorbed by the first chase. The second chase grew over that time to 29 riders including Dessel, picked up the leftovers of the Schumacher group. Eight of those got a gap and picked up Schumacher. That group included Hincapie, Sivtsov, Arroyo, Portal, Popovych, Augustyn, Valjavec and Casar. Augustyn bolted for the summit of the final mountain and got it but missed a turn on the decent and slid down the mountain without his bike. The remaining Eight split into two groups, the first of which included Popovych, Dessel, Arroyo and Casar. Arroyo made the first move but was countered by Dessel at the line.

The stage is set for a fabulous showdown on L’Alpe-d’Huez. For Schleck, Sastre and Kohl it is probably their last chance to put time on Cadel before the time trial on Saturday If Cadel can hang on tomorrow, only a major mistake by him or an inspired performance by possibly Menchov could keep him from rising to Yellow.  The other contenders are just not competitive with Cadel on the Time Trial and baring riding beyond themselves are unlikely to hold him off. The dark horse is Valverde or Vandevelde who could through caution to the wind and reap reward, though the chance of that is slim at this point.

Stage 17 Elevation Profile

Stage 17 Elevation Profile

Stage 16 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/5zgqqf

Stage 16 Race Reports:

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/5jmesz

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5h5bu6

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/6zupde

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/5udqjd

Stage 16 Results:

1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, 4.31.27 (34.70 km/h)
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux, st.
3 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence – Lotto, 0.03
5 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia, 0.24
6 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
7 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, st.
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 1.03
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.28
10 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, st.
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
12 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
13 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre, st.
15 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
16 Johann Tschopp (Swi) Bouygues Telecom, st.
17 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 1.32
18 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Columbia, st.
19 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 2.03
20 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre, st.
21 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, st.
22 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram, 2.36
23 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Crédit Agricole, st.
24 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 3.21
25 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, 4.04
26 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b
H30, st.
27 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 4.13
28 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, st.
29 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, st.
30 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.27

Overall Standings:

1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 68.30.16
2 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 0.07
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 0.08
4 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.49
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 1.13
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 3.15
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 3.23
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 4.11
9 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 4.38
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 5.23

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