Mercado Wins Stage 18 of Tour
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) has won Stage 18 of the Tour de France.
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) has won Stage 18 of the Tour de France. Mercado outsprinted Jose Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) to take the rolling, 166.5-km run from Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier in 4:04:03. Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis) finished third at 0:11. Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) remains the maillot jaune .
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The break of the day occurred early. At nine km, Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Sebastien Joly (Credit Agricole), Garcia, Fofonov, Mercado, Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), and Marc Lotz (Rabobank) rolled off of the front. Jalabert and Scholz punctured and were caught by the peloton, but the others pressed on. Phonak began to chase when Jalabert punctured, but the bunch kept the break at arm?s length.
At 32 km Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze) attempted to bridge up to the leaders. Armstrong joined him. The maillot jaune told the other fugitives that he would leave the break if Simeoni, who has sued Armstrong for defamation of character, left it as well. The six original escapees prevailed on Simeoni to return to the peloton, whereupon Armstrong joined him.
The fugitives? lead grew to more than 10 minutes at 150 km, at which point Joly attacked. Mercado attacked on the Category 4 Cote de Nogna and took Acosta with him. Acosta?s derailleur malfunctioned and he was unable to shift down to sprint. With 200 m left, Mercado came around Acosta and pipped him on the line. The peloton arrived 11:29 later.
In the overall, Armstrong leads Ivan Basso (CSC) by 4:09 and Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) by 5:11. Stage 19, a rolling, twisting, 55-km time trial in and around Besancon, will not change Armstrong?s situation, but it will decide the lesser places on the podium. Only 1:02 separate Basso and Kloden, and Kloden is the better time trialist of the two. Will the German push the Italian out of second place? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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