Tour de France Diary, Stage 18: Fast-finishing Cavendish steals victory
Cadel Evans spent a quiet day in the peloton as the 2012 Tour de France continued overnight, finishing 35th on the stage and losing no time.
Evans and BMC Racing were never expected to make a move on what was a relatively flat day’s riding.
He remains in sixth place in the general classification, 9’57” behind the yellow jersey of Bradley Wiggins (Sky Pro Cycling) ahead of tomorrow’s individual time-trial.
Following two difficult high mountain stages through the Pyrenees, the terrain flattened out for stage 18 from Blagnac to Brive-La-Gaillarde.
The 223km journey was evenly punctuated by four short categorised climbs, including the category four Cote de Lissac-sur-Couze 10km from the finish.
Prior to the stage there was some doubt as to whether the teams of the big sprinters would work to bring back a breakaway should one form.
One did – a 16-man group featuring Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) and David Millar (Garmin-Sharp).
Pre-stage, Lotto-Belisol sprinter Andre Greipel admitted feeling fatigued as the Tour edges ever closer to its Paris conclusion. His team instead targeted the breakaway as an alternative avenue to stage victory.
Having assisted Greipel to three stage wins at this year’s Tour, Lotto’s Hansen went close, but fell just short – the strung out main field made the catch in the nick of time.
In the bunch sprint that eventuated it was Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish who took home the chocolates for the second time at this year’s Tour.
The Manx Missile showed his excellence in dealing with disorganisation by nimbly darting around a gallant Nicolas Roche and Luis Leon Sanchez to take the win.
Earlier, the gap between the break and the peloton peaked at around three minutes before teams without a rider up the road knuckled down at the head of the main field.
Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, Liquigas-Cannondale and Euskaltel-Euskadi were among those teams doing the hard yards, desperate to make the most of the last road stage before the race hits the Champs Elysées.
The break’s advantage was quickly cut to just one and a half minutes towards the top of the third climb, prompting Millar to lift the pace – an acceleration that spawned numerous attacks, none of which stuck.
The final climb of the day acted as the launching pad for one that did, a three-man assault by Hansen, Vinokourov and Luca Paolini (Katusha).
With 5km remaining to the finish Sanchez, Roche and Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Nissan) made it six men at the head of the race.
But the pace of the main field, driven in part by former breakaway member Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling), was too much.
In a show of solidarity, Wiggins came to the front with 1.3km remaining and provided something of a lead out for Cavendish.
Tomorrow’s stage 19 is the all-important 53.5km individual time-trial from Bonneval to Chartres, the last chance for riders to make up significant time on their rivals.
Wiggins is the man to beat after dominating the race against the clock on stage nine.
Tour de France Stage 18 Results
1. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 04h 54′ 12″
2. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
3. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
4. SANCHEZ Luis Leon, RABOBANK, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
5. ROCHE Nicolas, AG2R LA MONDIALE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
6. FARRAR Tyler, GARMIN-SHARP, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
7. BOZIC Borut, ASTANA, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
8. HINAULT Sebastien, AG2R LA MONDIALE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
9. IMPEY Daryl, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
10. DUMOULIN Samuel, COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE, 04h 54′ 12″ + 00′ 00″
Tour de France Points Classification
1. SAGAN Peter, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 386
2. GREIPEL Andre, LOTTO-BELISOL, 264
3. GOSS Matthew Harley, ORICA-GREENEDGE, 238
4. CAVENDISH Mark, SKY PRO CYCLING, 175
5. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, SKY PRO CYCLING, 146
Tour de France KOM Classification
1. VOECKLER Thomas, EUROPCAR, 134
2. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik, ASTANA, 123
3. SORENSEN Chris Anker, SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK, 77
4. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 63
5. VALVERDE Alejandro, MOVISTAR, 51
Tour de France Overall Standings
1. WIGGINS Bradley, SKY PROCYCLING, 83h 22’ 18″
2. FROOME Christopher, SKY PRO CYCLING, 83h 24’ 23″ + 02′ 05″
3. NIBALI Vincenzo, LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE, 83h 24’ 59″ + 02′ 41″
4. VAN DEN BROEK Jurgen, OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK-STEP, 83h 28’ 11″ + 05′ 53″
5. VAN GADREREN Tejay, BMC RACING, 83h 30’ 48″ + 08′ 30″
6. EVANS Cadel, BMC RACING, 83h 32’ 15″ + 09′ 57″
7. ZUBELDIA Haimar, RADIOSHACK-NISSAN, 83h 32’ 29″ + 10′ 11″
8. ROLLAND Pierre, EUROPCAR, 83h 32’ 35″ + 10′ 17″
9. BRAJKOVIC Janez, ASTANA, 83h 33’ 18″ + 11′ 00″
10. PINOT Thibaut, FDJ-BIG MAT, 83h 34’ 04″ + 11′ 46″
Stage 18 “Give Him the Game Ball” Award: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling) – for gaining a spot in the stage’s major breakaway and following up to help teammate Mark Cavendish in the sprint finish.
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