MACON, France Matteo Tosatto (Quick-Step) of Italy rode to a strong Stage 18 sprint victory; the overall standings remained the same Friday after another scorching day at the Tour de France.
Matteo Tosatto, Tour de France
Quickstep's Matteo Tosatto out-sprinted Christian Moreni for the Stage 18 win Friday.
With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, Tosatto gave his team its first stage win of this year's race after completing the 122.3-mile (197-kilometer) stage from Morzine in four hours, 16 minutes, and 15 seconds.
Countryman Christian Moreni (Cofidis) was second in the same time, with Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) of Germany third, trailing by two seconds.
Race leader Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) of Spain finished 25th in the main field, which finished eight minutes behind the winner.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) of Spain and Floyd Landis (Phonak) of Murrieta, California, who are respectively in second and third places overall, also finished in the main field.
Sastre trails Pereiro by 12 seconds, with Landis third, 30 seconds behind.
Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) of Santa Rosa, California, once again tried to improve his overall race standings. With various others, Leipheimer rode in the lead, but the leaders were eventually caught by the main field with 12 miles left in the stage.
Leipheimer also surged into the lead in the 15th and 16th mountain stages, but was absorbed. Leipheimer, however, who was awarded the day's most aggressive rider award, still improved from 18th to 13th after placing 14th in the stage. He's the second-highest placed American, 15:01 behind.
Saturday's penultimate 19th stage, a 34.9-mile (57-kilometer) individual time trial, will take the field of 141 from Le Creusot to Montceau les Mines.
If the stage progresses according to prognosticators, Landis will emerge as the third American to claim cycling's most prestigious race after Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong.
In reverse order of their overall standings, the field will individually start two minutes apart, with one exception. To reduce potential drafting, the top-20 riders will start with three-minute intervals.
Landis, who rode back into contention with a long solo victory in Stage 18 to Morzine, will be the third-to-last starter, followed by Sastre and Pereiro.
"Normally in a 50-kilometer time trial, I will lose two minutes to the winner," said Pereiro. "I have to win by 29 seconds second over Landis, who is one of best time trialists in the world. It will be a difficult day, but you never know what can happen."
Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) of Germany is fourth overall, trailing by 2:32. Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) of Australia is fifth overall, 3:11 behind.
Landis finished second in the race's other individual time trial, the 32-mile seventh stage. Kloden was eighth in the first time trial, followed by Castre (13th) and Pereiro (23rd).
With the exception of final placings, sub-division placings, and pride in the overall standings, the race will conclude Sunday with the traditional final ceremonial stage, a 94.9-mile (154.5-kilometer) journey from Sceau/Antony to Paris up the Champs Elysees.