The 2010 Tour de France has now left the slopes of the Pyrenees and Alps behind, and the final three days mark a rather easy series of stages for the remaining Tour riders. Yesterday’s Stage 17, which is likely to go down as the decisive stage this year, was followed today with a flat 198-km route from Salies-de-Beran to Bordeaux.
British cyclist Mark Cavendish grabbed his fourth stage win of the 2010 Tour de France by again easily sprinting past his rivals in the final legs of Stage 18.
All the leaders finished with the same time of 4 hours 37 seconds 9 seconds among the main pack of riders. Alberto Contador of Spain continues to lead Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck by 8 seconds. Contador’s fellow Spaniard, Samuel Sanchez, holds third, 3 minutes 32 seconds off the leader.
In the process of taking the win, Cavendish beat New Zealand’s Julian Dean, the same cyclist who was on the receiving end of a headbutt from Cavendish’s teammate Mark Renshaw earlier in the Tour, resulting in Renshaw’s subsequent ejection from the Tour.
Contador and Schleck will now head to Saturday’s 52-km individual time trial where Contador hopes to significantly add to his lead. Almost all Tour analysts predict Contador to win his third Tour de France championship despite the small lead, which is the second-smallest margin heading into the final time trial in Tour de France history.
Contador, who is known as a superior time trial rider, is expected to beat Schleck’s time by at least one minute on Saturday, setting up a repeat of last year’s Tour where Contador beat Schleck by 4 minutes 11 seconds.