Tune in at 8:00 AM ET for coverage of Stage Eighteen of the Tour de France. Gino Bottero will be liveblogging for your enjoyment.
Welcome everyone! I'll be live blogging Stage Eighteen of the 99th Tour de France.
Stage 17 Recap: Chris Froome may have conceded Stage 17 to Alejandro Valverde, but the Team Sky member has to be happy with where is team is positioned heading into the final three stages of the 99th Tour de France. Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Movistar rode with the lead group early on and talked Vincenzo Nibali out of his early attack, as the Italian fell back to the peloton and kept the target off the lead group. Valverde's teammate Rui Costa opened the door for him later on and the Spaniard held the lead through the finish line with a time of 4:12:11. The win is Valverde's fourth stage victory in the Tour de France. What may have helped Valverde more than Costa's efforts were the tactical decisions of Team Sky. Christopher Froome appeared to have the momentum to push past Valverde but elected to ride with Bradley Wiggins rather than attack the leader. Froome and Wiggins crossed in 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Thomas Voeckler's overall time was poor but he collected the all important points to remain in the lead for the mountain classification and retain the polka-dot jersey. Bradley Wiggins remains in the overall lead and will wear the yellow jersey for Stage 18 on Friday.
Yellow - Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY
Green - Peter Sagan (SVK) LIQ
Polka-Dot - Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC
White - Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY: 74:15:32
2. Christopher Froome (GBR) SKY: +2:05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) LIQ: +2:41
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) LTB: +5:53
5. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC +8:30
American Tejay Van Garderen moved into 5th in the overall standings after Thursday's ride, but lost ground in the young rider classification. He dropped 32 seconds to France's Thibaut Pinot but remains 3:16 ahead.
Three stages remain in the 2012 Tour de France. Today, the riders will face a flat stage as they continue to make their way towards Paris.
Christopher Froome may be the closest man to Wiggins' current pace, but as teammates in Team Sky, Froome has served to assist Wiggins in maintaining his lead before all else. Froome had the opportunity to forage ahead and appeared to have the energy to catch Valverde for the stage win yesterday, but he chose to ride with Bradley Wiggins. Team Sky has not been concerned with individual accolades and it appears they will be rewarded on Sunday.
Cadel Evans of Australia had a better day on Thursday, but he remains behind fellow team member Tejay Van Garderen.
Today's ride is 222.5km long. That represents more than half of the distance remaining this year and allows the riders to stretch out their legs in advance of Saturday's time trials. There will be 65 points on the line in the race for the green jersey which is currently held by Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Liquigas-Cannondale.
Some pedestrians apparently involved in a small crash that took out several riders. Each of the men involved is back on the road and attempting to catch up with the peloton.
Looks like it was a large dog walking out into the road that caused the crash and Gilbert of BMC is irate, walking back to the owner of the dog to give them a piece of his mind. The crash occurred at the 120km mark.
Menchov (KAT) and Vichot (FDJ were also involved in the crash.
96km remaining: The breakaway of 16 riders has built a gap of 2:20 on the peloton.
91km remaining: The lead group have extended their time gap to 2:30 over the peloton. No one in the hunt for the yellow jersey is in that group. All four jersey wearers are back in the peloton.
Credit to Chris Anker Sorensen for being in the race today. He finished yesterday's ride with a nasty finger injury after getting his fingers caught in his spokes after a newspaper was caught in them. He underwent surgery last night and will require further attention for that injury but he is riding today.
87km remaining: The group of 16 leaders have been riding at a fairly quick pace. They remain 2:30 ahead of the peloton.
85km remaining: David Millar (GBR) GRS, Luca Paolini (ITA) KAT, Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY, and Rui Costa (POR) MOV are some notable members of the 16 man breakaway.
81km remaining: The lead group is holding strong at a lead of 2:30 and they show no signs of fading.
74km remaining: The riders remain ahead of schedule today, riding at a steady pace. No one has made much noise or posed any threat to either group of riders.
70km remaining: Omega Pharma has four riders near the front of the peloton as they shoulder the bulk of the work.
65km remaining: David Millar is the lead group. He is looking for his second stage win this year and the fifth for Britain.
61km remaining: Some re-positioning within the peloton and the new riders at the front have picked up the pace. They've worked to narrow the gap to the leaders down to 2:10.
59km remaining: The riders near the top of the overall standings seem content to sit back in the peloton and conserve as much energy as possible with tomorrow's time trials looming.
55km remaining: The gap is now below 2 minutes as the peloton continues to ride at an impressive pace.