Vincenzo Nibali, Astana, looks untouchable for top spot on the podium in Paris. He stretched his race lead in the Tour de France to over seven minutes. He was challenged on the steep uphills but met them all with authority outriding all to top the Hautacam alone for another stage win.
This was the last of the mountain stages for this year’s Tour. The peloton will be glad to bid adieu to the Pyrenees and their long, steep climbs. Today’s route included the Col du Tourmalet a long swoop down and another steep slog to the finish.
Team Astana set the pace for much of the stage, letting a group of 20 off the front for much of the stage. They were gradually picked off and absorbed on the climbs. Alessandro Valverde, Movistar, made a spectacular descent of the Col du Tourmalet in an effort to preserve his second place standing and for a while had two teammates to assist. He could not compete with the legs of Nibali and slipped to fourth overall at the end of the day.
There was another withdrawal from the race. Heinrich Haussler, IAM, was forced to withdraw due to sickness. Movistar rider, Jose Rojas, was disqualified for sheltering behind a car for too long.
Stage 19 will be relatively flat(at least for these superb athletes) and should give the sprinters in the contest a chance to garner more points.
You may ask where is the time trial. Some Tours have two and we haven’t seen one yet. There will be an individual time trial on Saturday over 54km of bumpy terrain.
Stage 18 Standings Race Standings
1. Vincenzo Nibali, Astana 1. Vincenzo Nibali, Astana
2. Thibaut Pinot, FDJ 2. Thibaut Pinot, FDJ + 7’10”
3. Rafal Majka, Tinkoff 3. Jean-Christophe Peraud, AG2R + 7’23”
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud, AG2R 4. Belmonte Valverde, Movistar +7’25”
5. Tejay Van Garderen, BMC 5. Romain Bardet, AG2R + 9’27”
Jersey Holders After Stage 18
· Yellow – race leader, Vincenzo Nibali, Astana
· Polkadot – king of the mountains, Nibali
· White – best young rider, Thibaut Pinot, FDJ
· Green -- most sprint points, Peter Sagan, Cannondale
· Top Team – best time accrued time, AG2R La Monidale
Sports Network TV – live tv coverage via cable feed
La Tour http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2014/us/stage-18.html