Alberto Contador all but assured his second Tour de France victory Thursday, winning the race's final time trial while Lance Armstrong moved up one spot to third place.
Contador, Armstrong's Astana teammate and the 2007 Tour champion, increased his overall lead in the 18th stage, in which cyclists rode against the clock on the 25-mile course in and around Annecy. The three-week race ends Sunday on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Contador finished in 48 minutes 31 seconds, beating Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland by three seconds. Russia's Mikhail Ignatiev was third, 15 seconds back.
Armstrong was 15th, 1:30 behind. But the seven-time champion easily overcame a 30-second deficit to Frank Schleck, who began the day in third place but slipped to sixth after finishing 2:34 behind Contador.
Schleck and younger brother Andy had bumped Armstrong from second place to fourth a day earlier in the last punishing Alpine stage.
Overall, Contador leads Andy Schleck by 4:11. Armstrong is 5:25 back and Britain's Bradley Wiggins is fourth, 5:36 behind. Germany's Andreas Kloeden, another Astana rider, is fifth, 5:38 back. Frank Schleck is sixth, 5:59 behind.
Quote of the day: "We must absolutely make no mistakes on the climb of Mont Ventoux." -- Contador, about Saturday's penultimate stage, featuring a 13-mile ascent at an average gradient of 7.6%.
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STAGE 18 RESULTS
1. Alberto Contador, Spain
2. Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland
3. Mikhail Ignatiev, Russia
4. Gustav Larsson, Sweden
5. David Millar, Britain
1. Alberto Contador, Spain
2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg
3. Lance Armstrong, U.S.
4. Bradley Wiggins, Britain
5. Andreas Kloeden, Germany
Next stage: Today's 19th stage is a 111-mile ride from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas. The course features three little climbs and is likely to favor breakaway riders.
Destination Aubenas: Aubenas is a commune in the southern part of the Ardeche department in the Rhone Valley in southern France.
Aubenas is a town on the edge of the Monts d'Ardeche Regional Nature Park. Officially created in 2001, a result of an initiative launched in 1992 by chestnut growers, this park covers 445,000 acres.
The chestnut growers who played such key a role in the creation of this park are still a mainstay in Aubenas. Candied chestnuts, chestnut cream or jam, chestnut-flavored breads, chestnut flour and sweet chestnut wine are some of the specialties still associated with Aubenas' booming chestnut industry.
If the riders are lucky, they may have time to stop and have a Lou Pisadou, a crispy, creamy chestnut meringue tart, or Cousina, a traditional soup made from dried chestnuts.
-- Lauren Goldman