The time trial, or contre la montre if you are feeling French, around Grenoble was the decisive stage as far as Le Maillot Jaune and le Maillot Blanc (for the best rider under 25). Le Maillot au Pois Rouge (polka dot jersey) has already been decided, as there are no more classified climbs between l’Alpe d’Huez and les Champs-Élysées. Barring a serious accident or illness, which is unlikely, Samuel Sánchez will wear that jersey on the final podium. The team competition was as good as in the bag for Garmin-Cérvelo, although disastrous rides by all their time trial specialists and brilliant rides by AG2R and/or Leopard-Trek could, in theory, have seen them lose. Nothing much was going to happen with Le Maillot Verte (points competition). The final sprint on the Champs-Élysées will decide the winner
Stage 20 was a 42.5 km loop starting and finishing in Grenoble. Today’s story was simple. Cadel Evans, who is one of the better time-trialists in the peleton had 4 seconds to make up on Frank Schleck and 57 seconds to make up on Frank’s Brother Andy if he was to win the Tour de France. Frank and Andy, historically, are comparatively weak against the clock. The stage was set for the dénouement.
Any tension there might have been was over by the first time check after 15 km. Evans was already 36 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck and by the second time check at 27.5 km it was officially game over as Evans was 1:49 ahead of Andy Schleck, or 52 seconds ahead overall. The only question left was could he win the stage as well as the Tour? He didn’t quite manage that he finished second.
There were a couple of minor sub-plots. Who, if any of the specialists against the clock, such as Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin and David Millar still had enough left in their legs after nineteen stages of working for team-mates to put in a winning ride? The Young Riders competition was still up for grabs. Rein Taaramae trailed yesterdays hero Pierre Rolland by 1:33. This was a similar scenario the fight for Yellow. Taaramae is easily the better of the two against the clock, but could he make up the deficit?
Tony Martin took the stage by 7 seconds, but I don’t think Evans was too upset about that. The other contre la montre specialists didn’t feature. The weather when Fabian Cancellara and David Millar rode was not particularly favourable, but the real reason they failed was that after a long hard tour they just did not have enough left in their legs. Pierre Rolland kept his lead in the Young Riders Competition. Garmin-Cérvelo kept the lead in the Team Competition. Samuel Sánchez didn’t fall off, in fact he produced a surprisingly strong ride to finish the stage in seventh place, so keeping the Mountains Jersey.
Someone also took a very unusual photograph of Cadel Evans. (Evans is a complex, emotional, and often prickly character, hence his nickname, given by the cycling press, “Cuddles”) The photo shows him wearing Le Maillot Jaune and smiling. The relationship between these two things has not been proven, but should not be discounted.
After breakfast in Grenoble, the riders travel via TGV to the start of today’s 21st and final stage in the Parisian suburb of Créteil for the 95 km ride to the finish on les Champs-Élysées
The final stage is often described as ceremonial, and in some ways, especially as regards the General Classification, it is.The Points Competition is still up for grabs. Mark Cavendish has a lead over Jose Joaquin Rojas of 15 points. There are a maximum of 65 points available for won on todays stage. It will all come down to the final sprint. Cav has won on les Champs-Élysées for the past two years, his team are the best in the business at setting him up for the sprint. It is a forgone conclusion, no?
We will know by about four this afternoon.
My post for today’s stage and my overall thoughts on this year’s Tour will be up sometime after that.