On the start line in Salies-de-Bearn

Photos from stage 18 of the Tour de France

After yesterday's showdown in the stage ending atop the Col du Tourmalet between Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana), racers were set for a more moderate 198km day on Friday for stage 18 from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux.

The pan-flatlands of Les Landes into Bordeaux are hosting the Tour for the 80th time. It's the race's most visited location outside Paris and has a long reputation for epic bunch sprints. The long, straight finish on the Quinconces quayside is ideal for a mass finish, although you have go back to Tom Steels in 1999 to find the last sprint win here.

It's expected that the overall contenders will want to stay out of trouble and save energy with tomorrow's time trial, the race's penultimate stage, in mind.

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