By Jen Benepe, July 20, 2012
Mark Cavendish won the final sprint into Brive la Gaillard in a magnificient come-up from behind.
It was the 22nd Tour stage win for the Manx Missile, who was led out in the final 1,000 meters by the Yellow Jersey holder, Bradley Wiggins himself, then Edvald Boasson-Hagen.
The peloton was more than 3 seconds behind a break, with Nicolas Roche and Luis Leon Sanchez in the lead, and at the last minute, it looked like Roche would get to the line first.
But from more than 10 men back, Cavendish came around to the right, clear of the leaders, and put his legs into over drive, overcoming a surprised Roche and Sanchez to the line.
It was an amazing finish to a long day in the 222.5 km, mostly flat stage that started in Blagnac, where a break established early on and looked like it might make it to the end.
In the last 8 km, Adam Hansen, Alexandre Vinokourov and Lucas Paolini were 10 seconds ahead of a chase group. All three men has been in the break for most of the stage, and behind them were three men with fresh legs, a chase group of Nicolas Roche, Luis Leon Sanchez, and Andreas Kloden.
Another 12 seconds back was the peloton who were firing up to bridge the gap as they approached Brive la Gaillard.
At 4 km to the finish, the chase group had joined with the leaders, and Roche was in front looking to better his time over the peloton so he could come up in the standings from 11th to 10th overall.
Behind them, Daniel Oss, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish had already begun the steam roller line-up for the finish.
Vinokourov was dropped off the front as Roche, Sanchez, and Kloden pushed ahead. Within 1 km, the peloton and the Yellow Jersey were within view as they came around the final corner, but it was unclear if they could catch up.
Wiggins came to the front and led out Boasson Hagen, then Cavendish, behind him Peter Sagan.
But once Cavendish was launched there was no way to beat him as he passed the surprised break riders.
Francoise Holland the new president of France was in the audience, and appeared to be of more importance to the journalists than the final sprint.
The Stage in Detail
The 222.5km 18th stage of the 2012 Tour de France, from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde began with 153 riders still in the race.
There were four climbs to come, but all of them gentle enough to suit the sprinters in the field: the cote de Saint-Georges (cat-3 at 67.5 km), the cote de Cahors (cat-4 at 117.5km), the cote de Souillac (cat-4 at 180.5 km) and the cote de Lissac-sur-Couze (cat-4 at 212.5 km). The intermediate sprint was in Cahors at 115km.
A break started at 21 km from the start, which included Fofonov (AST) who instigated the first move.
Five other riders followed, Perez (EUS), Simon (SAU), Pineau (FDJ), Morkov (STB) and Sprick (ARG), and at 26 km they were ahead by 40 seconds.
With Omega Pharma-Quickstep at the head of the peloton, by 40 km the break was over.
Then again at 65 km from the start, nine riders made a break: Nuyens led Arashiro over the first climb and, at 71 km, a group of 16 formed an ultimate breakaway.
Among them was Popovych (RNT), Arashiro (EUC), Millar (GRS), Fouchard (COF), Boasson Hagen (SKY), Hansen (LTB), Vanendert (LTB), Boeckmans (VCD), Paolini (KAT), Roy (FDJ), Costa (MOV), Kroon (STB), Nuyens (STB), Vinokourov (AST), Albasini (OGE) and Gretsch (ARG). These riders rode together for most of the stage, and were still together at 39 km from the finish in Brive la Gaillard.
Janny Brajkovic (AST) crashed at the 74 km mark but remounted and, with the help of three team-mates, rejoined the peloton at 84 km.
By then the break was 3 minutes and 15 seconds ahead and BMC put three men on the front of the peloton for the chase. Later they were joined by AG2R, and at 91 km the lead was down to 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
The maximum gain of the break group was 3 minutes and 30 seconds at 102 km, which came back to 2 minutes 10 seconds at 120 km.
Then at the 120 km mark, a large dog ran onto the road and caused a crash in the peloton that involved Phillipe Gilbert (BMC), Denis Menchov (KAT), Tyler Farrar (GRS) and Vichot (FDJ).
All of the riders were able to get back on their bikes, but not until Gilbert, the former Belgian champion, gave the dog’s owner a tongue-lashing.
The first attack from the lead group came from Millar at 43 km to the finish. Millar was caught, and Arashiro led over the top of the third climb.
Then Boasson Hagen put in a brief attack on the lead group and this flurry of action dropped Boeckmans and Fouchard at 37 km to go, the 14 break riders had an advantage of just one minute 35 seconds.
With 28 km to go, the advantage of the 14 break leaders was down to 45 seconds, and then with 20 km to go, Hansen attacked.
First he was joined by Roy, then at 13km to go,Vinokourov, Nuyens and Paolini also bridged up.
Roy who could not sustain the tempo was caught by the peloton at 10 km from the finish.
Then back in the peloton, Roche (ALM), Kloden (RNT) and Sanchez (RAB) attacked after the final climb and bridged to the leaders at 5.5 km to go.
There were several attacks in the peloton by Oss and Gerrans but ultimately the main group was led up to the leaders only inside the final kilometer.
Roche was the first to sprint but he could do nothing to hold off the charge by Cavendish (SKY) who received a perfect lead-out from Wiggins who peeled off after going under the flame rouge and then from Boasson Hagen.
Wiggins finished 19th in the stage and will wear the yellow jersey in stage 19.
Overall Classifications at end of Stage 18 (ASO)
|1.||GBRWIGGINS Bradley||101||SKY PROCYCLING||83h 22′ 18”|
|2.||GBRFROOME Christopher||105||SKY PROCYCLING||83h 24′ 23”||+ 02′ 05”|
|3.||ITANIBALI Vincenzo||51||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||83h 24′ 59”||+ 02′ 41”|
|4.||BELVAN DEN BROECK Jurgen||111||LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM||83h 28′ 11”||+ 05′ 53”|
|5.||USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay||9||BMC RACING TEAM||83h 30′ 48”||+ 08′ 30”|
|6.||AUSEVANS Cadel||1||BMC RACING TEAM||83h 32′ 15”||+ 09′ 57”|
|7.||ESPZUBELDIA Haimar||19||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||83h 32′ 29”||+ 10′ 11”|
|8.||FRAROLLAND Pierre||29||TEAM EUROPCAR||83h 32′ 35”||+ 10′ 17”|
|9.||SLOBRAJKOVIC Janez||181||ASTANA PRO TEAM||83h 33′ 18”||+ 11′ 00”|
|10.||FRAPINOT Thibaut||146||FDJ-BIGMAT||83h 34′ 04”||+ 11′ 46”|
|11.||IRLROCHE Nicolas||79||AG2R LA MONDIALE||83h 35′ 12”||+ 12′ 54”|
|12.||GERKLÖDEN Andréas||15||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||83h 36′ 23”||+ 14′ 05”|
|13.||USAHORNER Christopher||14||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||83h 36′ 40”||+ 14′ 22”|
|14.||DENSORENSEN Chris Anker||178||TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK||83h 41′ 04”||+ 18′ 46”|
|15.||RUSMENCHOV Denis||131||KATUSHA TEAM||83h 45′ 12”||+ 22′ 54”|
|16.||BELMONFORT Maxime||16||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||83h 46′ 42”||+ 24′ 24”|
|17.||ESPMARTINEZ Egoi||35||EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI||83h 47′ 50”||+ 25′ 32”|
|18.||PORCOSTA Rui Alberto||163||MOVISTAR TEAM||83h 52′ 09”||+ 29′ 51”|
|19.||RUSVORGANOV Eduard||139||KATUSHA TEAM||83h 55′ 25”||+ 33′ 07”|
|20.||ESPVALVERDE Alejandro||161||MOVISTAR TEAM||83h 56′ 08”||+ 33′ 50”|
|21.||FRACOPPEL Jérôme||91||SAUR-SOJASUN||83h 58′ 29”||+ 36′ 11”|
|22.||FRACASAR Sandy||141||FDJ-BIGMAT||84h 04′ 17”||+ 41′ 59”|
|23.||AUSROGERS Michael||108||SKY PROCYCLING||84h 11′ 15”||+ 48′ 57”|