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>>