July 20, 2006

Tour riders start their journey back to Paris

MORZINE, France (Reuters) - Friday's 18th stage of the Tour
de France should be a calming transitional journey from Morzine
to Macon after three days of climbing and before the final
test, an individual time trial.

In the most unpredictable Grande Boucle in years, the
Pyrenees and the Alps have failed to decide who will succeed
seven-times champion Lance Armstrong.

Yellow jersey holder Oscar Pereiro of Spain will start the
day with a 12-second lead over compatriot Carlos Sastre.

Floyd Landis is in third position, 30 seconds adrift after
his flamboyant win in Thursday's last mountain stage.

On the 193-km course through the wineyards of the Lyon
area, the three leaders will probably mark each other and try
to recover from their earlier efforts before the decisive test
against the clock.

Riders who have lost time in the climbs and still have some
energy could be allowed to shine, as long as they are not in
contention for the top 10 overall.

Points will also be on offer for the best sprinter

Belgian world champion Tom Boonen and Italian pretender
Daniele Benatti quit the race in the mountains, leaving
Australian green jersey holder Robbie McEwen with a comfortable
lead of 45 points over Spain's Oscar Freire.