Tour de France: Burghardt victorious in St Etienne

Marcus Burghardt profited from a transitional day in the Tour de France to escape to victory on the 18th stage from Bourg d'Oisans to St Etienne.

Burghardt caught solo escapee Carlos Barredo 94km into the 197km stage and held off the Spaniard's late dash in the closing metres to secure Team Columbia's fifth stage win of the Tour.

The 25-year-old German is best remembered for being knocked off his bike by a dog in last year's event, but he had the chance to change all that with the freedom granted to him on an uneventful day.

Burghardt's win puts the gloss on a fine Tour for the Columbia team, who won four perfectly-executed bunch sprints courtesy of Mark Cavendish earlier in the race.

After three tough days in the Alps, the main contenders were content to conserve their energy for the crucial time-trial from Cerilly to St Amand Montrond on Saturday.

Carlos Sastre came through unscathed and retains his 84-second lead over CSC colleague Frank Schleck.

Sastre, hoping to become the third consecutive Spaniard to win the Tour de France after Oscar Pereiro and Alberto Contador, must decide whether to try and gain more time on Cadel Evans in tomorrow's flat stage from Roanne to Montlucon.