Thursday, 22 July 2010

Stage 18 Preview: Team classification up for grabs

The struggle for the Maillot Jaune all but over, and the Maillot a Pois now resting firmly with Charteau, the Maillot Vert and the Team Classification award are still up for grabs. The 198km flat stage from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux will almost certainly end in a sprint finish. The Team Classification is often critical to this stage so the teams in contention for this will be taking the stage seriously to secure this prize.

The race starts in Salies-de-Béarn, a thermal spa and city of salt that has been laboured for more than 3,500 years. The Tour has not visited since 1939: that year it was world title holder, Marcel Kint, who triumphed in this picturesque town with its quaint sloping roofs. The Black Eagle, as he was called, went on to win Paris-Roubaix and Gand-Wevelgem and was a triple winner of the Flèche Wallonne.

Since 1903 Bordeaux has featured on the Tour route 79 times making it the most visited city bar Paris. Popular with the sprint specialists, Van Looy, Darrigade, Godefroot, Maertens, Van Poppel and Zabel have triumphed at the Lescure Velodrome or on the banks of the river. Cavendish is sure to want to follow in the footsteps of Barry Hoban, the only British rider to have triumphed here. But with the Green Jersey on his back, the Thunderous Norweigan Thor Hushovd is sure to want to keep it well out of reach of the young Manxman taking a stage victory for himself.

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