Overall leader Alberto Contador took a giant step towards his second Tour de France victory when he humbled the time trial specialists over 40.5-km to take the 18th stage around the lake of Annecy on Thursday.

The Spaniard, who outshone Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara by three seconds, now leads his nearest rival for final victory, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, by four minutes and 11 seconds, a comfortable gap three days before the finish in Paris.

Lance Armstrong, who announced he will be riding for a new American team, backed by RadioShack in 2010 is in third place and may podium.



Stage 18 Results
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:48:31
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank - 0:00:03
3 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team Katusha - 0:00:15
4 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank - 0:00:32
5 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:00:40
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:00:42
7 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne - 0:00:43
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel - 0:00:45
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana - 0:00:53
10 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:01:01





General classification after stage 18
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 73:15:39
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank - 0:04:11
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana - 0:05:25
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:05:36
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana - 0:05:38
6 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank - 0:05:59
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas - 0:07:15
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:10:08
9 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi - 0:12:38
10 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux - 0:12:41


Full results here..



Jersey Standings:
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Alberto Contador
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Thor Hushovd
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Franco Pellizotti
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Andy Schleck

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Links to news sites...

"Tour title set in concrete for Contador
Armstrong slides into podium position

Alberto Contador proved that whatever is thrown at him in this year's Tour de France, the he can handle. Tough days in the Pyrenees... check. Attacks in the Alps... check. A time trial in Annecy... check that, too.

While Contador shored up his lead in the general classification, he also claimed stage win honours in the picturesque town of Annecy. Fastest at the first intermediate check and then fastest at the second - by an incredible 30 seconds - it seems like there will be no stopping the man from Pinto who rode more like a Lamborghini today." Read more from CyclingNews...

"Contador crushes Tour rivals in timely fashion
By Justin Davis (AFP)

ANNECY, France - Spaniard Alberto Contador took a virtually unassailable lead in the race for the Tour de France yellow jersey after winning the 18th stage time trial here Thursday.

Contador, the 2007 champion who rides for Astana, clocked a time of 48min 30sec to beat Switzerland's Olympic champion in the discipline, Fabian Cancellara, by three seconds.

Russian Mikhail Ignatiev, of the Katusha team, was third at 15sec.

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, also of Astana, finished in 16th place 1:30 adrift of his Spanish teammate, but despite that mediocre result the American moved up one place in the race's general classification to third." Read more from the AFP...

"Contador wins time trial; Armstrong in 3rd place

ANNECY, France - Alberto Contador has won the final time trial in the Tour de France, and Lance Armstrong moved up a spot to third place overall.

Contador now looks all but assured of his second Tour victory after increasing his overall lead in Thursday's 18th stage. The riders went one by one down the start ramp for the 25-mile stage in and around Annecy.

The three-week race ends Sunday." Read more from the AP...

"Armstrong to form new U.S.-based team for 2010

(CNN) -- Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has announced that he will race for a new U.S.-based team next year.

The legendary Texan cyclist will form a new franchise in partnership with American electronics retailer RadioShack.

The 37-year-old made his cycling comeback this year with the Kazakhstani Astana team to raise awareness about cancer through his LiveStrong Foundation charity.

His title hopes in this year's Tour faded further when he lost another 90 seconds to leader and teammate Alberto Contador in Thursday's 18th stage." Read more from CNN International...