EVERY SECOND COUNTS

The final week of the Tour de France has never been closer, and race director Christian Prudhomme is very happy about it.

?I can?t remember such an open Tour: three riders in less than ten seconds, six in less than 50 seconds and with two big Alpine stages and a time trial still to come,?

?There?s a lot of suspense and that?s great for any organiser. We?ve got the famous triptych of the Galibier, Croix-de-Fer and Alpe d?Huez on Wednesday and even then we probably won?t know who will win the Tour!?

For the record, the overall classification in the Tour de France is as follows:

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 15

1. Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC-Saxo Bank


2. Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner at 7secs

3. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 8secs

4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 38secs

5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 39secs

6. Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank at 49secs

7. Kim Kirchen (Ger) Columbia at 2m 48secs

8. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2r at 3m 36secs

9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 4m 11secs

10. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4m 34secs

British

51. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 52m 37secs

95. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 1h 37m 12secs.

CSC GET SURPRISE DOPE TESTS

CSC celebrated Frank Schleck taking the yellow jersey in their hotel on Sunday night but their evening was disrupted for a while Italian anti-doping inspectors turned up and demanded urine samples from six riders, including Frank Schleck.

While the Tour de France is in Italy, the French-Anti-doping Agency has passed responsibility for testing to the Italian Olympic Committee and their testers quickly made their presence felt.

SAUNIER DUVAL RIDERS SEND OUT BEGGING LETTER

Most teams in the Tour de France send out press releases or hold press conferences during the rest days but Saunier Duval, who quit the Tour following Riccardo Ricco?s positive for EPO, sent out a totally different letter.

Instead of containing bland information of how long the riders went training before having a relaxing massage, their letter was addressed to the Saunier Duval sponsors begging them to continue their sponsorship of the team.

All the team, including team manager Mauro Gianetti an directeur sportifs Matxin Fernandez and Pietro Algeri, claimed they have always believed in racing clean.

They tried to defend Gianetti against the wide ranging accusations that have emerged since Ricco?s positive and said it would be unfair if the whole team paid for the mistakes of just a few.

All the riders and staff in the teams put their names at the bottom of the letter except for two: Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli. Both have already been sacked from the team.

You can read the full letter in our separate story>>

SARKOZY ON TOUR

French president Nicolas Sarkozy will follow Tuesday’s 16th stage of the Tour de France from Cuneo to Jausiers.

Sarko?s wife and former super model Carlo Bruni comes from the Cuneo area and some riders in the peloton are hoping she will be at the start in Cuneo. Sadly it seems she is busy promoting her new album.

RICCO RIDES ON

Riccardo Ricco is back in Italy after his positive for EPO but the defiant Italian has refused to admit he has done anything wrong.

He event went out on his bike on Sunday according to Gazzetta dello Sport as he begins to prepare his defence. So far Ricco has claimed that the new test for the third generation EPO called Mircera is not 100% but refused to flatly deny or confess using the blood boosting drug.



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 15: Schleck takes lead in the Alps

Stage 14: Oscar Freire wins in Digne-les-Bains

Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win

Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Comment: Why Cav is right to go home today

Cavendish pulls out of the Tour

Barloworld to end cycling sponsorship

Ricco speaks on Italian television

Cavendish joins the all-time greats

Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli

Tour bosses say fight against doping continues

Ricco denies doping at the Tour

Saunier Duval pull out of Tour

Tour’s top ten changes

Ricco positive for EPO at Tour

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 15

Stage 14

Stage 13

Stage 12

Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part five

Life at the Tour part four

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

News and features>>

All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>

Day by day summary>>

Route & stages>>

Teams and riders>>

About the Tour>>