20/07/12 - 5:20 PM
Blagnac - Brive-la-Gaillarde
Tour de France • Stage18

Blagnac - Brive-la-Gaillarde
Tour de France - 20 July 2012

Tour de France – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 17:20 on 20 July 2012. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins finished safely to retain the race lead. No change in the standings.


That's a second win on the Tour this year for Cav, a fourth for Sky and a fifth for Britain.


Result: 1. Cavendish, 2. Goss, 3. Sagan, 4. Sanchez, 5. Roche. But there was only ever going to be one winner - Cav won by several bike lengths after an extraordinary surge of pace at the end.


A perfect finish for Mark Cavendish there - he came through with such speed to take an easy win. Matt Goss finished second.


Roche has led it out! Sanchez follows... BUT CAVENDISH POWERS ROUND ON HIS OWN TO TAKE THE WIN!


Wiggins peels off. Into the last corner now...


Wiggins leads out Boasson Hagen and Cavendish. Hansen drives from the line for the leaders.


There's a hard left turn - 90 degrees. No one comes down. And then a hard right. Roche still leads Kloden. The six are still there - just.


The yellow jersey is right there on the front. Wiggins wants to keep out of trouble. Garmin are there for Farrar. The roads are slick with this drizzle.


Roche is setting the pace with Sanchez and Kloden on his wheel.


Still no uniform effort from the peloton - although Cavendish is there with Boasson Hagan in the Sky train.


The Liquigas rider with Kiryienka is Daniel Oss.


Hansen attacks on the front! But the others have his wheel. The gap is still 10 seconds.


The gap is 10 seconds as three riders ping off the front of the peloton - Kiryienka and Gerrans and a Liquigas rider.


Now Sanchez rides on the front of the leading six. Roche is there too, taking a long turn.


The rain is beginning to fall now. The chasing trio have almost caught the leaders.


Luca Paolini is on the front now, trying desperately to save Katusha's torrid Tour. They only have 12 seconds though... Liquigas now on the front of the chase.


Vasili Kiryienka on the front of the peloton for Movistar.


Vino is trying to get the others to help out on the descent - they know the chasers are closing in. Luis Leon Sanchez has joined Kloden and Roche in pursuit.


Vino crosses the summit ahead of Paolini and Hansen. But the gap is just 15 seconds to Roche and Kloden, with the peloton right behind.


Nicolas Roche and Andreas Kloden attack!


Dries Devenyns on the attack for Omega Pharma-Quick Step as Rein Taaramae of Codifis is dropped.


Riders being tailed off by the peloton. The gap is 18 seconds for the leading trio. Nuyens and Roy are about to be caught.


Vino leads Paolini and Hansen up the climb. Nuyens and Roy are in pursuit, with the peloton fast closing.


It's a 2km climb at 5.7%. Orica-GreenEdge are setting the pace in the peloton.


We're onto the Cat.4 Côte de Lissac-sur-Couze. Fireworks ahead!


Vino digs deep and pulls clear with Hansen, with Paolini in pursuit. The Mate counter attack came to nothing.


Counter attack from Cofidis's Angel Mate, who jumps clear of the peloton. There are in fact five riders still out in front: Nuyens, Vino, Paolini, Roy and Hansen. They have 29 seconds.


Thirty seconds now the gap for the leading duo. The chasing trio has been caught - and the rest of the escapees. Not Nuyens, though - he's still in between. As is Vino.


Hansen and Roy combine on the front of the break, with Arashiro, Popovych and Gretsch in pursuit. They are 19 seconds back, with the peloton at 40 seconds.


It's a tremendously bumpy road this. Cofidis are on the front of the peloton leading the chase. They lost their man in the breakaway, Julien Fouchard. From the break, Adam Hansen attacks, taking Jeremy Roy with him.


David Millar is setting the pace for the leaders as they carve their way through a wooded area. The gap is 46 seconds so it's surely a question of when and not if. Although that punchy climb 10km from the finish could make things interesting.


The lead is down to 45 seconds now as Laurens ten Dam has a turn on the front of the peloton for Rabobank.


One of the leading riders is Yaroslav Popovych of RadioShack. He told us this morning that the priority of the team was to retain the lead in the team standings, but that he might try and get into the break. He's kept to his word. Yesterday, Haimar Zubeldia slipped from 5th to 7th in the GC, but RadioShack still lead the team standings by 14:09 over Team Sky.


Just the 14 riders out ahead now, with 1:20 over the pack. They are Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG).


Millar on the front as the break continues. It has 1:27 on the peloton so will last a bit longer. They're combining much better now.


The leading group has come back together minus Boeckmans and one or two others. Julien Fouchard is one.


Some of the group is being taken back in by the peloton - Kris Boeckmans of Vacansoleil is the first.


Arashiro collides with a spectator, knocking into the fan with his elbow pretty hard. The Japanese rider avoids going down though. Boasson Hagen jumps clear with Luca Paolini. They are joined by three other riders, but the break has split in a few groups now.


Yukiya Arashiro counters, provoking an attack by Rui Costa. The leaders realise that the gap is tumbling fast and so something needs to be done. The gap is 1:27 as Arashiro crosses the summit to take up the solitary point.


David Millar and Alexandre Vinokourov up the tempo as the leading group approach the third climb of the day, the Cat.4 Côte de Souillac.


We spoke to Aussie sprinter Matt Goss of Orica-GreenEdge this morning: "Today is one of the last opportunities - we have today and Paris. We'll try and get into the break and then if that doesn't stick then we'll go for the sprint. Gerrans, Albasini, Impey or O'Grady could all go for the break, but if it comes to a sprint, I'll be there."


Yes, this break looks pretty doomed. Despite its high calibre personel, the leading group have seen their advantage cut to 1:30.


The break is down to two minutes as numerous teams combine on the front of the peloton in a bid to reel in the leaders. Not too sure what Euskaltel think they can do - they would have to reel in the break first and then attack on one of the testing climbs, because they will not feature in any potential bunch sprint.


BMC manager John Lelangue on Philippe Gilbert's collision with a dog earlier today: "His hand has been injured a little as well as his elbow and knee. The dog was stronger than him – and it won that bout – but the important thing is that he could return to his place in the peloton."


The lead is coming down now: 2:10. We may still get a bunch sprint yet. Rabobank have joined the chase on the front. They only have four riders left. Euskaltel, Ag2R and Saur-Sojasun are all fairly prominant on the front.


We spoke to Peter Sagan this morning: "Today will be one for a break so the last chance may be in Paris. The battle is over for the green jersey so no more stress for me - unless there's a fall. I'm very proud of the green jersey - I used to watch the sprinters when I was younger."


The peloton is really strung out because of this big chase, with Team Sky and the yellow jersey safely tucked in near the front keeping watch for rogue dogs and the like. The lead is 2:47 so the break is doing very well in the face of this upping of the tempo.


Edvald Boasson Hagen drives the pace on the front of the break, which has a lead of 2:35 over the bunch. Euskaltel have joined the chase on the front of the peloton too. A third team not to have any riders in the 16-man group. There are eight unrepresented teams in total. This is pretty much the last chance of a victory for most teams, given the likely win for Wiggins in the ITT and Cavendish on the Champs Elysees...


Thomas Voeckler, the polka dot jersey, has gone for the full spotted look today - with red-pea shorts and helmet as well as the famous jersey. The Frenchman is off the back of the peloton - not because he's in trouble, he's just milking the attention from the French motorbike photographers...


The pace is pretty high as Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Sauj-Sojasun pedal hard on the front. They have no men in this break and so are keen to reel it in. No wins for either team on the Tour.


That dog incident is another reminder that it's not over until the fat lady sings: had it ploughed into the Sky train, that could have been a nightmare for the yellow jersey. Yesterday, Mark Cavendish was also brought down by a spectator 5km from the finish after a flag wrapped around his handlebars...


Philippe Gilbert apparently got off his bike and remonstrated with the owner of the dog after that crash - such a shame there were no live pictures. The break is 2:27 ahead.


Sandy Casar was brought down by a dog in a stage to Angoulême in 2007. The Frenchman still went on to win the stage - which won't be the case for Messrs Menchov, Gilbert and Vichot, who are still trying to rejoin the peloton after hitting the deck. Marcus Burghardt also ran into a dog back in 2007 when riding for Telekom.


CANINE CRASH: A dog runs out in front of the peloton and causes a mini pile-up. Arthur Vichot, Philippe Gilbert and Denis Menchov are amongst the riders who go down.


Edvald Boasson Hagen himself ruled out the break today when quizzed this morning: "The main goal is the sprint for Cavendish but if he's not there then I'll have a go. Of course, we want to protect Bradley too. If there's a break, I'll stay in the peloton."


Eurosport spoke to Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford this morning before the start. Asked is there was any chance Edvald Boasson Hagen would get in the break, he said: "No, that's not going to happen. It's either Cav for the sprint at the end or nothing." Either he was fibbing or Eddie has gone rogue...


Swiss rouleur Michael Albasini took the solitary point over the top. The GreenEdge man is one to watch today - he's had a very strong season, including stage wins in the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse. He also won the overall in Catalunya.


Straight after the intermediate sprint, the riders are onto the Cat.4 Côte de Cahors - a short 1km ascent with an average gradient of 7.8%.


The leaders roll through the intermediate sprint at Cahors. Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil) takes it ahead of Jeremy Roy (FDJ). If it goes to a sprint finish between these 16 riders today in Brive then Boeckmans will be one to watch - remember that second win for Andre Greipel 10 days ago? Boeckmans was the rider who got into the Lotto chain but was derailed after his chain snapped.


Yesterday, Swiss BMC rider Michael Schar was run over by the doctor's car and sustained cuts and bruises during the 17th stage of the Tour de France. The incident occurred on the ascent to the Port de Bales 110 kms into the stage, Tour organisers said. "Schar has minor cuts on his right knee and an elbow injury that will need further evaluation," team doctor Max Testa was quoted as saying in a BMC statement.


Not too far until the dead-rubber intermediate sprint at Cahors - 10km to be precise. The gap for the 16-man group is 3:30 so it's rather stable.


Yesterday's finale - in which Chris Froome largely paced yellow jersey Brad Wiggins up the final climb - sparked this tweet from Jonathan Vaughters, Wiggins's former DS at Garmin: "Would have been better for Froome to just drop Wiggo by 20 seconds or whatever and settle it in the time trial. That was just humiliation." Our blogger Blazin' Saddles discusses the special alliance between Froome and Wiggins in his latest blog.


The average speed for the second hour of racing was 44.8km/h. The rest of the stage is rather rolling after a largely flat start. We have three more minor category climbs too.


Some interesting stats: this is Kukiya Arashiro's fifth break of the Tour. Rui Costa has now been on the attack for the past four stages in succession.


So far 45 riders have withdrawn from the race since the start in Liege almost three weeks ago. Just four teams have a full quota of riders: Liquigas, BMC, Lotto and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff.


Seven of this 16-man group are previous stage winners on the Tour: Popovych (RNT), Millar (GRS), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Vanendert (LTB), Costa (MOV), Vinokourov (AST) and Kroon (STB). They have passed through the feeding zone with a lead of 3:15.


Fascinating group it has to be said. Will GreenEdge get a maiden Tour win through Albasini? Will Vinokourov be victorious as he bids farewell to professional cycling? Perhaps Millar can make it two? Eddie Boasson Hagen has seen his personal ambitions put aside these past few weeks - can he now take a stage win that he deserves for all the work he's done for Wiggins? What about ever-attacking Saxo Bank - they have two riders in the break...


Sauj-Sojasun tired their best to chase down the leading group - the French team missed a trick and have no rider in that 16-man group. But now normal service has resumed as Team Sky come to the front to maintain the tempo. The break is 2:45 ahead now. It looks like this one will grow and stick.


CRASH: Janez Brajkovic of Astana hits the deck. He is okay and being paced back into the bunch by his team-mates.


Finally, it looks like we have the break of the day: the gap grows to two minutes. And with riders from Sky and Lotto involved, there may not perhaps be much of an effort from within the peloton to reel in the break - unless the Liquigas team of Peter Sagan fancy setting up their man for a fourth. Rui Costa is the best-placed rider in GC - almost half an hour down on Wiggins.


We now have 16 riders in the lead - and it's quite an illustrious break: Rui Costa (Movistar), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto), Alex Vinokourov (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack), Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar), Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol), David Millar (Garmin), Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil), Nick Nuyens, Karsten Kroon (both Saxo Bank), Patrick Gretsch (Argos Shimano), Julien Fouchard (Cofidis).


Nick Nuyens picks up two points over the top of the climb ahead of Yukiya Arashiro. Qunziato was dropped on the climb and there's a large chase group including the likes of Vino and David Millar.


The nine riders are: Quinziato (BMC), Arashiro (EUC), Fouchard (COF), Hansen (LTB), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Nuyens (STB), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG). A tenth rider, Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana, is trying to bridge the gap.


We're just onto the Cat.3 Côte de Saint-Georges with nine riders now clear. Names have yet to be confirmed. It's a short one-kilometre climb - but has an average gradient of 10.3%.


Another six riders have pinged off the front ahead of the first climb of the day - their names coming up once confirmed on race radio.


FDJ-BigMat are on the front of the bunch trying to initiate a break. They already have two stage wins to their name thanks to Thibaut Pinot and Pierrick Fedrigo. Can they make it three?


We're back together as one after the five remaining escapees are reeled in. The average speed for the first hour today was a fast 48.2km/h.


The break is down to five after Fofonov dropped his chain and needed a mechanical. The gap is just 10 seconds so the peloton will soon be back together as one before the inevitable wave of counter attacks.


American Tejay van Garderen moved up to fifth place yesterday in the GC. He did lose a little time to Thibalt Pinot in the white jersey standings - although given his superior ITT abilities, he should easily ride into Paris as the best-placed young rider. The gap is 3:16 between BMC's van Garderen and FDJ's Pinot.


The peloton briefly split in two because of the speed of the chase. It's back together now, and the six leaders have just 10 seconds. This is very much like stage 15 when the initial Millar group never got more than a minute, and then a second Fedrigo group formed - with the Frenchman taking the win in Pau.


This break looks to be coming back. Rein Taaramae tries his luck to bridge the gap, but the Cofidis rider is reeled in quickly. The gap is down to just 20 seconds now.


The break is not increasing its lead, which stays around the 40-second mark. It's very tough for the six riders out there. This is the sixth break of the Tour that has involved Morkov - quite impressive.


Fofonov is the best-placed rider of these six in the GC - a huge one hour and 56 minutes down on Bradley Wiggins, so no danger here. They have 45 seconds on the peloton, which is being led by Omega Pharma-Quick Step, one of the teams to have missed a trick this morning.


BREAK: Six riders are out in front following an initial attack from Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana). The Kazakh is joined by Ruben Perez (EUS), Julien Simon (SAU), Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Michael Morkov (STB) and Matthieu Sprick (ARG).


Astana are particularly active at the start of this stage but so far to no avail. The pace is fast and no break has yet formed.


Should today's stage conclude with a bunch sprint it would not be for green jersey points: Slovak youngster Peter Sagan, riding his debut Tour, has an unassailable 102-point lead over Andre Greipel after picking up three wins and multiple high finishes.


Still no attacks from the peloton, tired after those two stages in the Pyrenees. It will be interesting to see if it comes down to a bunch sprint today, or if a group is allowed clear. There are so many teams without a win so far: AG2R, Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun, BMC, Euskaltel, Lampre, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, Astana, Vacansoleil-DCM, Katusha, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEdge and Argos-Shimano...


While there are four climbs today - and two Cat.4 climbs on Sunday on the way into Paris - there are not enough points left to see Thomas Voeckler lose the polka dot jersey. The French Europcar rider crossed seven climbs in the Pyrenees in pole position to rise about Astana's Frederik Kessiakoff, over whom he has an unassailable 11-point lead.


Argos-Shimano - one of the many teams without a win so far - are particularly active at the start of this stage, which is a rolling affair with four minor climbs.


They're off! After a police escort and a flyover from a Airbus A380 (the Airbus factory is located in the town of Blagnac), the remaining 153 riders get this stage under way.


The temperature is 22 degrees celsius as the peloton rolls through the neutral zone at Blagnac, near Toulouse's airport. No overnight withdrawals to report. Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) continues despite an operation and skin graft on his hand yesterday. The Dane crashed heavily and tore a finger open to the bone.


Brad Wiggins still holds a lead of two minutes and five seconds on GC over Sky team-mate Chris Froome, who paced the maillot jaune up the final climb yesterday and laid aside his own ambitions for the stage victory. Third-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) lost 18 seconds on the final climb and is now 2:41 behind Wiggins.


Yesterday, Bradley Wiggins moved a step closer to becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France as Alejandro Valverde won the final mountain stage in Peyragudes. Wiggins finished third, 19 seconds behind the Movistar rider, and on the wheel of his Sky team-mate Chris Froome. Valverde’s win was his first in the Tour following a two-year ban for doping and a fifth victory of his comeback season.


Welcome to live coverage of stage 18 of the Tour de France, a 222.5km trek from Blagnac near Toulouse to Brive-la-Gaillarde - a chance for the sprinters to return to the fold to test their legs before the Champs Elysees on Sunday.