Yes, I know this is supposed to be McDuff's Food & Wine Trail, not McDuff's Bike Trail. But what can I say? I'm a nut for the Tour de France and this year's edition has been one of the most exciting, least predictable Tours in recent history. Only three days from the finish in Paris, and with the decisive final time trial looming on Saturday, it's still an open race.
Here's the top ten standings as of this morning:
General classification after stage 18
1. Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank, 79.16.14
2. Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank, 1.24
3. Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto, 1.34
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne, 5.35
8. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi, 5.52
9. Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24
My call for the overall? I hate to say it, but I do think that Cadel Evans will overcome the lead that Carlos Sastre built with his win atop the Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday. I'm going patriotic and predicting that Christian Vande Velde will win Saturday's TT but that he lost too much time in Tuesday's Alpine stage to have a shot at the top three. The final podium as I see it: Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov, in that order.
Care to make your own predictions?
And as to other predictions, I may have been premature in my nomination last week for most spectacular unscathed crash of the tour. Barloworld rider John-Lee Augustyn may just have topped it when he overcooked a turn on the descent of the Col de la Bonette and fell down the side of the mountain. He made it back up unharmed, even if his bike didn't.