On the final climb of Stage 18, the Côte de la Croix Neuve (3 km at 10%), CSC's team leader Ivan Basso played his final card to try and distance Lance Armstrong and co. in the general classification. Although Armstrong was once again able to follow Basso's acceleration on the leg snapping climb, Basso did manage to put some time between himself and third on GC Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), with the future Tour King of the Mountains being unable to follow. Only Cadel Evans and Jan Ullrich could stick with Basso and Armstrong on the climb, and the quartet finished 37 seconds clear of Rasmussen, Vinokourov, Leipheimer, and Mancebo.
"I gave everything I had on the final climb, as it's probably the last mountain with any significance in this year's Tour de France," said Ivan Basso on team-csc.com. The Italian is still 2.46 behind Armstrong in the general classification, but now a full minute ahead of Rasmussen in third place.
Luke Roberts (7th) told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow at the finish, "It was fun out there. I've been trying to get in a break for a couple of days, but it was unfortunate that the finish wasn't really for me. I knew I was going to only have a slim chance with a group like that. Too many good climbers in there. I had to save some energy to ride as good as possible up the climb."
Team CSC's team manager Bjarne Riis commented, "We tried to get Bobby or Carlos in a break, but that didn't work, so I went off, even though it might have been better for the team, if one of those two had gotten away," said a modest Roberts after his seventh place in today's stage, 1'28 after the winner Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros).
"The finish wasn't really Luke's cup of tea, but you never know what could happen, so it was fine for him to be up front. We tried to put the peloton under pressure on the penultimate climb, and then the plan was for Basso to attack again at the end. We did succeed in making a difference and it's great to see Ivan on the offensive."