91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004
& Results Stage
Live Report Results
Stage 18 - Friday July 23: Annemasse - Lons le Saunier, 166.5 km
Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and
Complete live report
Live coverage starts: 13:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:21 CEST
Annemasse will this year host its first Tour start, however it won't be an
easy one. With five categorised climbs in the 166.5 kilometres, everyone today
will looking forward to the final 40 km. which are mostly downhill. At 62.5
kilometres from the start, the riders start to ascend the major climb of the
stage, the Cat. 2 Col de la Faucille, which averages 6.3% for 11.5 km. The race
finishes up in Lons le Saunier with the Cat. 4 Côte de Nogna at 13 km to go
a key point for a late attack. Look for a non-threatening breakaway to go clear
in this stage with US Postal riding tempo behind to keep things under control
before Saturday's final time trial.
Km 34.5: Côte de: Collonges, 2.5 km at 4.2%
Km 75.5: Col de la Faucille, 11.5 km at 6.3%
Km 87.5: Côte de Lajoux, 3.7 km at 5.4%
Km 119: Côte de Saint-Lupicin, 6.2 km at 3.9%
Km 127: Côte des Crozets, 6.3 km at 3.7%
Km 153: Côte de Nogna, 2.2 km at 4.3%
Km 43.5: Saint-Jean-de-Gonville
Km 144: Clairvaux-les-Lacs
Today's stage starts with a 2.4 km neutral section out of Annemasse before the
flag is dropped at 13:04. The weather is not particularly great at the moment.
There was a thunderstorm an hour before the start and it's likely to rain off
and on throughout the stage, with a chance of hail. There is also a bit of wind
blowing from the south east, which will be a cross or tailwind for most of the
13:08 CEST 3km/163.5km to go
147 riders started the stage and of course it has been flat out from the gun.
The Cyclingnews pundits believe that there is a strong chance that Jens Voigt
will attack. Incredible but true - you heard it here first.
The first 50 km of today's stage follows the Franco-Swiss border quite closely,
circling round Geneva and crossing the Rhone river after 30 km, just before
the first Cat. 4 climb.
13:14 CEST 6.5km/160km to go
The US Postal team is keeping things under control in the early kilometres of
stage 18, letting nothing escape yet. Not through lack of trying though.
13:19 CEST 11km/155.5km to go
Well blow me down. Four riders have attacked at the 7 km mark: Jens Voigt (CSC),
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) and Santiago Botero (T-Mobile).
But they were recaptured by the peloton, which is still together after 11 km.
13:25 CEST 16km/150.5km to go
Eight riders have attacked at the 9 km mark: Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak), Juan
Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole), José V. Garcia
Acosta (Illes Balears), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis),
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Marc Lotz (Rabobank). They currently have
17 seconds on the peloton.
Scholz punctures out of the break.
Jan Ullrich has a front flat, but is now back in the bunch.
13:28 CEST 17.5km/149km to go
Jalabert punctures out of the break! Now there are six leaders with 38 seconds
to the peloton: Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Sébastien Joly (Crédit
Agricole), José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis),
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Marc Lotz (Rabobank).
Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) and Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) are chasing in between.
13:31 CEST 19.5km/147km to go
None of these riders are remotely threatening on GC, with Mercado the best placed
in 44th at 1:12:13 down. Also Rabobank has managed to put a man in the early
move for once, so they don't have to close the gap. It's up to the other teams
to react if they so desire, because US Postal will have no interest in hauling
these riders back.
Jalabert and Scholz have been passed by the peloton.
13:35 CEST 24km/142.5km to go
Phonak has decided that they don't want to miss the party and the team is chasing
on the front of the peloton, with the six man break 40 seconds up the road.
Jalabert was in the break at the beginning, but succumbed to a puncture.
13:41 CEST 29.5km/137km to go
By the way, the race organisers have changed the mountain points standings of
yesterday's final climb, the Col de la Croix Fry. Lance Armstrong was in fact
first to the top, closely followed by Floyd Landis. The adjustments mean that
Lance has four more points in the KOM classification and Floyd has four fewer
points. But Richard Virenque has clinched the climbers' jersey anyway, with
226 points to Armstrong's 172.
Still 40 seconds between the front six and the Phonak led peloton. They're going
to have to work a bit harder behind.
13:46 CEST 33km/133.5km to go
The breakaways cross the Rhône with a 45 second gap to the pursuing peloton,
which is not making any inroads into the deficit. Right after the river crossing,
the Cat. 4 climb of the Côte de Collonges commences (2.5 km at 4.2%).
13:49 CEST 35km/131.5km to go
Sébastien Joly (CA) is doing his lanterne rouge chances a bit of damage
today by being in the break. Joly is in 146th on GC, 1'25 ahead of current lanterne
rouge Jimmy "Ghost" Casper. But maybe Joly plans to bury himself in the
break and if they are caught, soft pedal to the finish. But Casper might be
onto his tricks... There's no real 'prestige' for being the second last rider
on GC in the Tour.
13:51 CEST 36km/130.5km to go
The pace is still pretty furious behind the break, and there are already riders
being dropped from the peloton. Phonak is riding hard on the front and have
pulled back the leaders to 30 seconds.
The six in front: Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Sébastien Joly (Crédit
Agricole), José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis),
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Marc Lotz (Rabobank).
Lance Armstrong and Filippo Simeoni (now there's an unlikely combo!) are 10
seconds behind the break after the climb, with the peloton another 15 seconds
13:53 CEST 38km/128.5km to go
Fofonov won the 3 points on the climb, followed by Flecha and Lotz.
Armstrong and Simeoni have closed the gap to the leaders. Simeoni was the first
to try to bridge, with Armstrong getting on his wheel. Better to be safe in
a stage like this.
The peloton is at 45 seconds. Surely there'll be a reaction...
13:55 CEST 39km/127.5km to go
The leading eight riders now have 55 seconds lead on the bunch, which is in
disarray after seeing the maillot jaune go up the road!
<commentator throws script in waste bin>
13:57 CEST 41km/125.5km to go
The leaders are now approaching the day's first sprint at Saint-Jean-de-Gonville
with a 1'50 lead on the US Postal controlled peloton. Quite a bizarre situation.
Maybe Lance wants five stage wins in a row (presuming he'll win tomorrow)?
14 Riders were blood tested this morning before the start of stage 18 from the
following teams: T-Mobile, Lotto-Domo, CSC, US Postal, Gerolsteiner, Alessio-Bianchi
and Illes Balears. All riders were declared fit to start the stage.
14:00 CEST 45km/121.5km to go
Finally, T-Mobile mosey on up to the front of the peloton to see what's happening,
and have pegged the gap at 1'50. "Lance is up the road? No-one told us!"
14:02 CEST 46km/120.5km to go
Fofonov again takes the points at the sprint, followed by Joly (4 seconds bonus.
Think of the GC!) and Flecha.
Armstrong and Simeoni are off the back of the break it looks like. The gap is
14:06 CEST 49km/117.5km to go
Armstrong and Simeoni are still at odds off the back of the break. Armstrong
chased down Simeoni when he went after them. Simeoni is suing Armstrong for
slander after Lance called Simeoni a liar, so the pair are not best buddies.
And Lance is now behaving like a real patron, taking charge of the situation
personally. Maybe he was talking to Hinault over a bottle of wine last night.
14:08 CEST 51km/115.5km to go
Armstrong and Simeoni have returned to the peloton, leaving the original six
in front to their own devices and a 2 minute lead after 50 km.
14:11 CEST 52.5km/114km to go
Order has been restored and we have six riders in front: Juan Antonio Flecha
(Fassa Bortolo), Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole), José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes
Balears), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Marc
Lotz (Rabobank). They have 2'00 lead on the peloton, which is being controlled
by US Postal.
A pity we didn't have a microphone in Simeoni or Lance's helmet today. There
was probably some colourful language exchanged.
A CN reader has suggested that Armstrong and Simeoni might have been using the
time in front to discuss an out of court settlement to their differences.
14:19 CEST 58km/108.5km to go
Things have calmed down a little after some fireworks involving Armstrong and
Simeoni. The six man breakaway that they were part of now has 3'15 on the peloton
as it approaches the second climb of the day, the Cat. 2 Col de la Faucille
(11.5 km at 6.2%). This climb takes the riders across the Jura mountain range,
according to my Livre de Route
14:28 CEST 63km/103.5km to go
The leaders hit the foot of the climb with 5'10 on the peloton, which has now
clicked into cruise control mode. It's quite likely that these six will stay
away unless the sprinters teams wake up.
14:34 CEST 66.5km/100km to go
A recap: The leading six (Flecha, Joly, Garcia Acosta, Fofonov, Mercado and
Lotz) escaped at the 9 km mark. Phonak kept the peloton at 30-40 seconds until
the first climb at 34 km. Filippo Simeoni tried to bridge across to them, but
an annoyed Lance Armstrong got on Simeoni's wheel and although the pair made
it across to the break a few km later and started working, increasing the lead
out to 1'50, Simeoni and Lance dropped off the back and went back to the peloton.
In normal circumstances this wouldn't happen - both are good enough to stay
with this sort of break. But the off the bike issues that Simeoni and Lance
have (Simeoni is suing Lance because Lance called him a liar after Simeoni testified
against Dr Ferrari in a trial in Italy) caused the pair to drop back after they
Weather update: It's not raining at the moment, but it is cloudy and the roads
are a little bit wet.
14:37 CEST 67km/99.5km to go
Armstrong is now sitting comfortably in the peloton, looking a little fiery,
behind his Blue Train®. The leaders have 5'39 as they climb the
Col de la Faucille, the highest remaining climb in this year's Tour.
14:42 CEST 69km/97.5km to go
Jan Ullrich is now chatting to Armstrong, asking him what the hell was going
on earlier. Armstrong explains.
Hincapie on the front of the peloton, riding tempo.
A correction to an earlier post: Simeoni is suing Lance for slander after *Lance*
called him a liar.
Simeoni is now lurking at the back of the peloton.
14:49 CEST 72km/94.5km to go
The leading six are rotating well on the climb, which is not too steep and is
on nice smooth roads.
The peloton is unchanged, with a host of blue riders in front protecting the
maillot jaune, who is chuckling as he shares his tale with Paolo Bettini
and Andreas Klöden. Simeoni will never hear the end of this one.
Thomas Voeckler (in white) is a fair way down the peloton now, but in no danger
of being dropped.
Halgand (CA) is off the back a little way.
There have been many emails about the Armstrong/Simeoni dynamic. Consider this:
Armstrong clearly didn't want Simeoni in the break or to win the stage, hence
he chased him down. If Armstrong had stayed in the break, he could have sat
on all day and just watched Simeoni. Simeoni's chances of winning would have
been remote because Armstrong was marking him so closely. Hence there was no
alternative but for them both to drop back to the bunch.
Armstrong has never considered himself a "patron" of the peloton, but today
he has really shown that he is. No-one gets away without his team's permission.
14:56 CEST 73km/93.5km to go
Flecha is not a little off the back of the break chatting to his DS Ferretti
in the car.
The peloton is rolling along 6'16 behind. Euskaltel riders Unai Etxebarria and
Iker Flores are getting bottles for their teammates.
14:59 CEST 74km/92.5km to go
Joly is hanging off the back of the break. He hasn't earned his near-lanterne
rouge position by being a good hill climber.
Mercado, Fofonov and Garcia Acosta have opened up a small gap on Joly, Flecha
and Lotz as they ride towards the top.
15:01 CEST 76km/90.5km to go
Mercado takes the points on the Faucille ahead of Garcia Acosta, Fofonov and
Lotz. Joly and Flecha follow at five seconds, and bridge back on on the descent.
Nicolas Jalabert, who was in this break very early on before he punctured, is
now off the back of the peloton with his teammate Jose Enrique Gutierrez.
15:05 CEST 78km/88.5km to go
Fred Finot and Christophe Laurent (RAGT) are losing the peloton slowly on the
climb. Voeckler is in trouble too, and he's sitting next to Simeoni. But the
white jersey should be safe today.
15:07 CEST 83km/83.5km to go
Dekker attacks a few hundred metres from the top with Rasmussen on his wheel,
and Rasmussen takes the zero points for seventh. That was a bit of a waste of
energy. Cat. 2 climbs only go down to six places, and there are already six
riders up the road.
The gap is 6'19 at the top.
We've been informed that Blue Train® is a trademark in South
I say boy, it's a joke
15:18 CEST 86km/80.5km to go
The leaders are now on the Cat. 3 Cote de Lajoux, having covered 86 km of today's
166 km stage. Their gap is 7'11 and US Postal's men in blue are controlling
Voeckler is sitting last wheel in the peloton, right behind a few Domina/RAGT/Cofidis
15:20 CEST 88km/78.5km to go
Fofonov takes the points at the top of the climb ahead of Mercado and Lotz,
the six leaders still together. The peloton doesn't look particularly interested
in the day's proceedings.
15:24 CEST 90km/76.5km to go
An update on Simeoni's lawsuit. His lawyer said that he is demanding a "symbolic
sum of €100,000" from Lance Armstrong, after Armstrong said in a Le
Monde interview that Simeoni was telling lies.
Simeoni told Cyclingnews at the start of the Tour: "Remember that I denounced
him for this defamation when he declared publicly to newspapers that I was a
liar, when I simply testified as an honest citizen in front of a judge, telling
my personal experience. (Armstrong) publicly insulted me and took advantage
of his media power. That really bothered me and so I'm seeking legal recourse
15:27 CEST 93km/73.5km to go
According to the unofficial word in the press room, when Armstrong reached the
break earlier with Simeoni, he allegedly said to the others in the break, "If
you ride with Simeoni in this breakaway, I'll put my team on the front to chase
you down." There will no doubt be more to come in this story today.
The peloton comes across the Cote de Lajoute at 6'58 behind the break, led by
the blue boys.
It's downhill for the next 10 km.
15:31 CEST 98km/68.5km to go
The peloton rolls off the Jura mountains (famous for Swiss watch makers of course)
some 7 minutes behind the break of six.
For those who've just joined us or been asleep, the leading group is: Juan Antonio
Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Sébastien Joly (Crédit Agricole), José V. Garcia Acosta
(Illes Balears), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step)
and Marc Lotz (Rabobank).
Mercado is the best placed on GC in 44th at 1:12:13, so the break presents no
threat to the GC leaders. It looks like the peloton will be sprinting for 7th
Of the leaders, Garcia Acosta and Flecha have both won Tour stages before.
15:38 CEST 101km/65.5km to go
Armstrong is momentarily off the back of the peloton for a break of some sort,
but he's quickly towed back to the front by his teammates. Armstrong chats to
team director Bruyneel on the way through, trying to keep a straight face.
8'00 with 65 km to go. The gap to the leaders is rapidly becoming irrelevant
and one of these six will win the stage. The descent down to Rochefort is relatively
fast on good roads, with a few hairpins to break up the monotony.
15:40 CEST 104km/62.5km to go
Armstrong is now chatting to Tosatto at the back of the peloton. Everyone wants
to know what happened between him and Simeoni earlier.
The weather has cleared at least, and the roads are dry now.
15:44 CEST 108km/58.5km to go
The six leaders know that they've got this stage in the bag, with only two more
climbs to come in the last 60 km. They're approaching the feed zone at km 113
and then will tackle the Cat. 3 Cote des Crozets.
Gap: 9'18 and increasing. Ekimov working on the front of the bunch with Noval
on his wheel.
15:48 CEST 111km/55.5km to go
The peloton is navigating the very technical (and verdant) descent off the Jura
mountains. There aren't too many folks out to watch as they race through the
small villages. It's very picturesque.
9'54 between the bunch and the break.
15:52 CEST 113km/53.5km to go
Ullrich is sitting behind the blue train in about 10th wheel, pedalling a gear
that looks the same as Rolf Aldag's in front of him. i.e. about 80 rpm.
The leaders have reached the feed zone now in Lavans-les-Saint-Claude, all of
them grabbing musettes (feed bags) with delicious and nutritious snacks therein.
15:55 CEST 115km/51.5km to go
Another reader has suggested that Lance may have been attempting to persuade
Simeoni to purchase a Livestrong wristband for the LA Foundation. Hmm...
Simeoni is now chatting to Ludovic Martin at the back of the bunch as the peloton
rides across the Tacon river in St Claude.
10'34. Vive le difference.
15:59 CEST 117km/49.5km to go
Fofonov does a turn in the break, which is still working pretty well. No-one
is doing long turns at the front. Juan Miguel Mercado is the best climber here,
so he might have a go on one of the climbs on the run into the finish. The Cat.
4 at 13 km to go presents a good opportunity.
16:05 CEST 118km/48.5km to go
The peloton passes through the feed zone with USPS on the front 11'08 behind
the six leaders. USPS soigneur Freddy Viaene hands out five feed bags to the
leading riders. That's quick work!
McEwen is right near the front, just ahead of Armstrong, Ullrich and Basso.
Voeckler is at the back again.
16:10 CEST 122km/44.5km to go
CN readers have sent in many tips on what was said between Simeoni and Armstrong
during the early part of the stage:
"They were comparing notes in private on the lack of livestock seen so far on
the stage: cattle, goats, sheeps, marmots or Alpine goat-monkeys!"
"Lance has encouraged Simeoni to come back to the TDF next year since he'll
probably focus on the Giro instead?"
"Maybe Lance was trying to get Simeoni to buy some Sheryl Crow cd's?"
(The gap has finally stabilised at around 11 minutes with 44 km to go)
16:14 CEST 124km/42.5km to go
The leaders are now climbing the day's penultimate climb, the cote des Crozets,
a Cat. 3 ascent averaging 3.7% for 6.3 km. They're still all rolling over smoothly,
while behind the peloton is sitting contentedly behind the US Postal service
A reader has mentioned that it's David Etxebarria birthday today. Happy birthday
16:20 CEST 126.5km/40km to go
The peloton is now at the top of long ascent that precludes the Cote des Crozets.
Meanwhile, the six leaders (Fofonov, Garcia Acosta, Joly, Flecha, Lotz and Mercado)
are getting close to the top. A fan with a "Made in Jura" flag pursues them
for a short time, but they're going too fast.
Noval is looking bored and a bit tired on the front of the peloton while he
does his job.
Gap is 11'07 and stable.
16:22 CEST 127km/39.5km to go
Mercado leads Joly, Lotz and Flecha over for the points on the Crozets, as a
thin crowd of spectators cheer them on. The next 40 km is nearly all downhill,
apart from a Cat. 4 climb with 13 km to go.
16:27 CEST 130km/36.5km to go
Noval, Beltran and Hincapie are on the front of the bunch leading the rest of
the boys in blue and Armstrong in yellow. Ullrich is up there of course, concentrating
Meanwhile the leaders are 10'47 ahead of the bunch with just over 35 km to go.
Mercado drops back to the Quick.Step car to talk with Wilfried Peeters about
the strategy for the final. He must attack on the last climb.
It's also Rik Verbrugghe's birthday today. Happy Birthday Rik!
16:32 CEST 134km/32.5km to go
Just to clear up any confusion among our dear readers: Filippo Simeoni (Domina
Vacanze) is the rider who is suing Lance, and is also the rider who was in the
break earlier (with Lance). Not Gilberto Simoni, who has no lawsuit planned
The peloton reaches the top of the Crozets with Hincapie on the front, some
10'30 behind the breakaways.
We apologise again for the lack of animal references in today's ungulating stage.
There's too many trees to get enough cows near the parcours. The organisers
clearly need to address this next year.
16:36 CEST 137km/29.5km to go
Thomas Voeckler (Brioches) seems to be enjoying the back of the peloton, as
he's been seen there a lot today. He only has 45 seconds lead over Vladimir
Karpets for the young rider's classification, so will probably get cleaned up
(sorry) by Karpets in tomorrow's TT.
10'22 with 29 km to go. It's still dry and the weather should be kind for the
rest of the stage, despite the doom laden forecasts of hail earlier.
16:39 CEST 139km/27.5km to go
The leaders are now 5 km from the second sprint in Clairvaux les Lacs.
As mentioned previously in the coverage, Sébastien Joly has basically fallen
on his sword in terms of becoming lanterne rouge by getting in the break.
He'll never get that 10 mins back on Jimmy Casper, who is the current lanterne
16:42 CEST 142.5km/24km to go
Flecha asks for his team car. A race moto offers him a water bottle, but he
wants more than that. He's chatting to Ferretti now. Flecha has come close to
stage wins a few times in this year's Tour, without quite getting there. His
best place is 2nd in the stage won by Moncoutié (Stage 11).
16:44 CEST 145km/21.5km to go
Joly takes the sprint points in Clairvaux-les-Lacs ahead of Mercado and Flecha.
That's more bonus seconds. Maybe he's planning a late charge up the general
classification? He was 3:42:24 behind Armstrong at the start. With today's 10
minute advantage... <calculation in progress>...he's going to need more
16:45 CEST 141km/25.5km to go
The tension is mounting in the break as they go under 25 km to go. Fofonov tightens
his shoe straps, Lotz does some back stretches. Who will be the first to attack?
Note: Lanterne rouge = red lantern = last rider on GC
16:49 CEST 144km/22.5km to go
The pace has definitely picked up in the break, which is still working well
together with 18 km to the finish. All six know that they can win today, but
only one of them will. Rabobank has Lotz in the break, and they will be particularly
keen for a stage win. Garcia Acosta's Illes Balears team also hasn't won a stage.
All the other four teams have (CA, Fassa, Cofidis and Quick.Step).
16:50 CEST 150km/16.5km to go
The crowds are thickening as the riders get towards the finish of today's stage.
The peloton goes under 25 km to go, a long way behind (well 10'39 is a long
way), still led by the blue train.
16:52 CEST 151.5km/15km to go
Joly makes the first attack!
Mercado and Lotz bridge the gap. The climb is just about to start. The other
three close the gap as Mercado counters. But Garcia Acosta and Fofonov are right
on him. Flecha is suffering. 15 km to go.
16:52 CEST 152km/14.5km to go
The climb (Cote de Nogna) steepens as Mercado puts in a big attack and he is
gone. Fofonov reacts rather late in the piece and the other four get on his
16:53 CEST 152.5km/14km to go
Mercado is going as hard as he can, using the climb to his advantage. He has
10 seconds already.
Flecha does a turn on the front as Garcia Acosta winds up to full speed and
bursts up the road after Mercado. Fofonov also tries again.
16:55 CEST 153km/13.5km to go
Garcia Acosta is closing the gap to Mercado, while Fofonov, Joly, Flecha and
Lotz are chasing behind.
Garcia Acosta goes straight past Mercado, who gets his wheel.
The others look gone for all money. Flecha takes off, with Lotz and Fofonov
in pursuit. Joly is gone.
16:57 CEST 154.5km/12km to go
Over the top of the climb. In front we have José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears)
and Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) with a 15 second gap on Juan Antonio Flecha
(Fassa Bortolo), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis) and Marc Lotz (Rabobank).
Seb Joly is dropped.
The points on the climb went to Garcia Acosta from Mercado and Flecha.
16:57 CEST 156km/10.5km to go
The three chasers are working well together to try and close the 18 second gap.
The last 10 km is all downhill. Garcia Acosta is a good man to gave in front.
He won't be getting much draft from Mercado.
16:58 CEST 156.5km/10km to go
Flecha looks pretty knackered as he takes his turn with Fofonov and Lotz. Joly
is chasing them at about 50 metres.
But they're not making any ground on Garcia Acosta and Mercado who go under
10 km to go.
17:00 CEST 157.5km/9km to go
Joly has almost got onto the back of the three chasers, who are 21 seconds behind
the leading pair.
The descent gets steeper now and the front two are flying.
Joly closes the gap, but they're racing for third.
17:01 CEST 158km/8.5km to go
Mercado hammers his turn with Garcia Acosta looking good behind him. The Illes
Balears rider is the more powerful, and should be able to beat Mercado in a
sprint. The last km is slightly downhill.
17:02 CEST 160km/6.5km to go
Joly, Flecha, Fofonov and Lotz are 26 seconds behind Garcia Acosta and Mercado
with 6 km to go.
17:03 CEST 161.5km/5km to go
The leaders are on the outskirts of Lons-le-Saunier now, cooperating well. Mercado
Lotz does a big turn in the chase group but it's 29 seconds and increasing.
5 km to go.
17:04 CEST 162.5km/4km to go
Mercado looks across at Garcia Acosta, who comes through for his turn. 4 km
to go and they have a substantial half a minute lead. It's clear that these
two riders are the strongest today, as the four chasers aren't exactly hanging
17:05 CEST 163.5km/3km to go
At 3 km to go it's down to 25 seconds. But the lead pair should have enough
to stay away.
17:06 CEST 164.5km/2km to go
The chasers have not given up - 22 seconds. If Garcia Acosta and Mercado start
17:07 CEST 165km/1.5km to go
Garcia Acosta comes through for another big turn with 2 km to go, Mercado on
his wheel. Joly does a big turn in the break and gaps Fofonov. Flecha and Lotz
It's 15 seconds.
17:07 CEST 165.5km/1km to go
The leaders tackle the two roundabouts with Garcia Acosta driving all the way.
1 km to go....
Mercado is forced to come through with 1 km to go, looking back the whole time.
There is a fast cat and mouse game going on. Garcia Acosta takes over with 800m
17:09 CEST 166.5km/0km to go
Garcia Acosta looks back at Mercado, they have enough to hold off the others.
Mercado surprises Garcia Acosta with 300m to go and wins the sprint!!!! Garcia
Acosta looked back but Mercado was already gone. He couldn't get round his smaller
companion. Nice victory for Mercado. Garcia Acosta nearly broke the handlebars
in frustration at losing that.
Fofonov gets third in front of Joly, Lotz and Flecha.
Casar has attacked the peloton in pursuit of white jersey seconds. But the sprinters
teams are getting organised.
Casar is caught as the tempo increases. There's points up for grabs for 7th
It's Lotto-Domo and T-Mobile working in front. O'Grady, McEwen, Zabel are all
up there. Simeoni is still last wheel.
O'Grady gets the leadout from Casper, but it's too early and Hushovd wins the
sprint ahead of McEwen, Hondo, O'Grady, Da Cruz and Zabel. That will give Hushovd
a few more points over McEwen in his pursuit of the green jersey, but McEwen
still has a 10 point advantage.
That's all from us today and we hope you enjoyed our live coverage of the 18th
stage of the Tour. Tomorrow is the final time trial in Besançon, and it will
be an interesting tussle between Lance and Jan for the stage win, and Basso,
Klöden and Jan for second place on GC. Join us from 11:00 CEST for our patented
1 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Quick Step-Davitamon 4.04.03
2 José V. Garcia Acosta (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto
3 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone 0.11
4 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Crédit Agricole
5 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank
6 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 11.29
8 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo
9 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner
10 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone
11 Carlos Dacruz (Fra) Fdjeux.com
12 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team
General classification after stage 18
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 78.20.28
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 4.09
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.11
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 8.08
5 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 10.41
6 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto 11.45
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner 12.56
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 15.14
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 16.25
10 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 16.33
the commentary team