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On the start line in Salies-de-Bearn

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David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) is fighting through every stage so he can finish in Paris

David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) is fighting through every stage so he can finish in Paris
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Maxim Monfort (HTC-Columbia)

Maxim Monfort (HTC-Columbia)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is looking for a third stage victory today

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is looking for a third stage victory today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Caisse d'Epargne Pinarello bikes

The Caisse d'Epargne Pinarello bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) signs an autograph

Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) signs an autograph
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale)

Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The relaxed start meant there was time for riders to catch up with friends in the peloton

The relaxed start meant there was time for riders to catch up with friends in the peloton
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Race director Christian Prudhomme smiles, knowing another successful Tour de France is in the bagRace director Christian Prudhomme smiles, knowing another successful Tour de France is in the bag

Race director Christian Prudhomme smiles, knowing another successful Tour de France is in the bagRace director Christian Prudhomme smiles, knowing another successful Tour de France is in the bag
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Five-time Tour de France winner Bernhard Hinault signs an autograph

Five-time Tour de France winner Bernhard Hinault signs an autograph
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Tour took over town in Salies de Bearn

The Tour took over town in Salies de Bearn
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Bert Grabsch (HTC-Columbia) gets ready for a hard day in the saddle and hopefully another stage win from teammate Mark Cavendish

Bert Grabsch (HTC-Columbia) gets ready for a hard day in the saddle and hopefully another stage win from teammate Mark Cavendish
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam)

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Danilo Hondo (Lampre-Farnese Vini) will probably lead out Petacchi in the sprint

Danilo Hondo (Lampre-Farnese Vini) will probably lead out Petacchi in the sprint
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Britain's Daniel Lloyd is looking forward to reaching Paris

Britain's Daniel Lloyd is looking forward to reaching Paris
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) was relaxed at the start

Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) was relaxed at the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Sign-in is that way. Chris Horner leads RadioShack teammate Levi Leipeimer

Sign-in is that way. Chris Horner leads RadioShack teammate Levi Leipeimer
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Thomas Lofkvist (Team Sky)

Thomas Lofkvist (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Polka-dot jersey wearer Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)

Polka-dot jersey wearer Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A lot of people were at the start area in Salies-du-Béarn

A lot of people were at the start area in Salies-du-Béarn
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The start in Salies-du-Béarn

The start in Salies-du-Béarn
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The start podium in Salies-du-Béarn

The start podium in Salies-du-Béarn
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Nicolas Roche (AG2R - La Mondiale)

Nicolas Roche (AG2R - La Mondiale)
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Volodymir Gustov (Cervelo Test Team)

Volodymir Gustov (Cervelo Test Team)
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Laurent Jalabert

Laurent Jalabert
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Rolf Aldag and Allan Peiper

Rolf Aldag and Allan Peiper
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions)

Julian Dean (Garmin-Transitions)
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions)
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)
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The Garmin boys seem to be leading out Alessandro Petacchi to the start

The Garmin boys seem to be leading out Alessandro Petacchi to the start
(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwé)

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.