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Le Tour Stage 18...LIVE!

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I'm dedicating the next two days to stumping for Erik Zabel to win a stage. [Warning: it's not entirely clear when he's planning to retire, but it could be any moment.] Zabel is one of the biggest figures in the sport over the last dozen years, and while stage wins weren't his hallmark as much as green jerseys were, it's close enough. Though Zabel carries the taint of his era, and if I analyzed that I'd throw up my hands eventually and decide I have nothing to say, I'm going to shut off that part of my brain and fall back on what we see with our eyes: a guy who is always in on the sprints, won more than his share, and can get over any kind of terrain you can throw at him. When he's not racing on the road, he's racing track. The guy loves cycling.

Today is a classic Zabel stage: cat 2, 3, and 4 climbs before a flat run-in to St. Etienne, one of the mini-capitals of French cycling. OK, Oscar Freire can maybe get to the line as well, and the prospect of a breakaway being left alone, after three hard Alps stages, is great. But Milram should be ready to get their man in position, especially today (or maybe tomorrow), for one last win. I want the media to go into Zabel retrospection. He deserves his fete.

OK, back to the stage. Enjoy!