The world's biggest cycling race is continuing its detour through Switzerland on Thursday with the riders crossing five cantons before entering Germany.
The riders are cycling a total of 273 kilometes as they cross through cantons Vaud, Fribourg, Berne, Solothurn, Basel Country and Aargau, before entering Germany for the stage's finale in Freiburg-en-Brisgau.
The departure from Lausanne following Wednesday's dramatic lap of the city at the end of the 17th stage is designed to honour the city's importance to the sport of cycling as a whole. The Swiss Olympic city has served as the home of the International Cycling Union for the last eight years.
Wednesday's finish was certainly a fitting tribute to the work and tradition of the Union, with Erik Dekker of the Netherlands winning a hard sprint finish against Germany's Erich Zabel and the American, Fred Rodriquez. All three men finished just ahead of the main pack, with identical times of three hours 24 minutes and 53 seconds.
The win was Dekker's third of this year's Tour. He made his break in the last three kilometres on a circuit of Lausanne and just managed to hold off the main pack to take the stage.
Almost 50,000 people turned out to see the stage finish in the Lausanne - the first time it has been to the city since 1978.
The defending champion, Lance Armstrong, retains the overall leader's yellow jersey, over five and a half minutes ahead of second-placed Jan Ullrich of Germany.
swissinfo with agencies
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