The Spin: Stage 20

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Stage 20

After three weeks of uphill sprints and summit finishes this the only individual time trial with the start and finish in Grenoble. A student town with some high tech industries in the valleys near by it is surrounded by high mountains. There’s even a cable car from the town centre to the Bastille fort that sits high on the Chartreuse cliffs above. But the place has its ugly sides too, it’s quite the idyllic tourist destination and more a useful crossroads on the edge of the Alps.

If the 2011 Tour de France has the least amount amount of solo time trials for many years, the course today is a decisive test to settle the result of the race. The course is demanding and suits all-round riders. There’s no serious climb but it features gradients and descents, curves and a variety of roads.

If it’s familiar it’s because it was used in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race in June. Also organised by ASO the Dauphiné was a dress rehearsal and also a clever move from the race organisers to attract some bigger name riders. Tony Martin won.

But if the course is the same, the context is not. Instead today’s stage comes after three weeks of racing whereas the Dauphiné TT was three days into the race. By now recovery plays a big part. It’s not just about being able to power around the course, it’s how you’ve got around France so far. We’ve seen all the contenders for the win putting in huge efforts in the past two days. Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, Thomas Voeckler and Cadel Evans in particular have done big solo efforts at times. As such we’ll see two races today, the one for the stage win and the won for the overall.

For the stage winner we should see Tony Martin and Fabien Cancellara disputing the honours but they’re both going to be tired from toiling for Mark Cavendish and the Schlecks. David Millar finished last yesterday and seems too fatigued to repeat his Giro d’Italia stage win. In June Edwald Boasson-Hagen did a great ride and maybe Levi Leipheimer’s been sitting tight waiting for this stage?

For the overall I think Evans is in the best placed. He’s sometimes mentally nervous and can struggle to deal with stress but this time he just has to go and ride hard to win. Better still for him, he rode this course in July and he’s also visited again with his team. By contrast I don’t believe Andy and Frank Schleck have seen the course before. But in 2009 Evans “only” put 31 seconds into Andy Schleck in Stage 18 of the Tour de France, although he took about two minutes in Stage 20 in 2008′s edition. That year everyone expected him to overhaul Carlos Sastre and he didn’t. What I’m saying is that we’ve got an afternoon of suspense and possibly surprise.

Keep an eye on the battle for third place between Frank Schleck and Thomas Voeckler… and possibly Alberto Contador.

Tech: the UCI has given a warning to the teams not to push the rules. Before the Stage 2 team time trial tempers flared when the UCI ensured teams followed the rules to strict letter of the law. The UCI did contact me to say they’d warned teams well in advance, suggesting the drama by some team staff was unnecessary, but I’ve also heard from riders that if rules had been enforced before things never went as far as insisting on a precisely level saddle.

Timing: the first rider is off at 10.26 then riders go every two minutes until the final 20 riders go at three minute intervals . Andy Schleck will leave last at 16.18. By 17.15 we should know the winner of the 2011 Tour de France.

Weather: sunshine for all the riders, with a wind coming from the north-east at around 20km/h. Temperatures reaching 25°C (77°F).

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{ 20 comments }

Ankush July 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

Can Cadel do it? He has coped well until now with all the pressure and I hope that he can perform at his top level. I’m going for Cancellara to take the win and Cuddles to wear the maillot jaune to Paris.

Rooto July 23, 2011 at 9:16 am

First, thank you for the sustained excellence of this site, which I’ve recently discovered, but will continue to read throughout the season.

Second, I’m glad you mentioned Contador, as I feel he’ll pull off a(nother) great TT to get the last podium spot. Unfortunately…

Lastly, any news yet on the running order between Frandy and Cadel? If I were the organisers, I’d be tempted to swap the brothers around and send Frank out last.

Al July 23, 2011 at 9:48 am

If , at the end of today, there’s still only a couple of seconds in it, might the second place rider/team try something daring tomorrow?

MrLandslide July 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

An 11m altitude drop overall – will the Schlecks be able to cope with such perilous descending…?

Flashing Pedals July 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

The time trial will be close.
It is a large amount of time to take back, I believe Cadel is capable to do this & win.
The Schleck’s are usually on the receiving end of my criticism too often, and the last few days they excelled by attacking with purpose – and it made for a great race.
Cadel, well what can you say, other than You won’t find a more typical aussie battler than him.
A mongrel with a bone, he fights hard until the end.

Alberto made some good moves, and Voeckler, played the Virenque (housewife favourite tag) for the whole of France.

I hope for Professional Cycling, its image, and its passion, that Cadel Evans wins the 2011 TDF.
He is an outstanding cyclist, and a remarkable person.

YELL FOR CADEL.

Phil July 23, 2011 at 10:26 am

Rooto, the running order will be the GC standings in reverse order, so the top three will go out 3rd, followed by 2nd, followed by 1st, so Cuddles, then Frank, then Andy.

Rohan July 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

@Flashing Pedals.

I’ve been critical of Cadel for various reasons over the years, but this year he absolutely deserves to win.

My friends and I have joked for years that he’s possibly the best clean cyclist in the world. Would be fantastic to see someone as honest, pure and hardworking as him get up.

PJ July 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I’m with @Flashing Pedals and @Rohan. I think Evans, while a capricious character and not exactly graceful on the bike, would be a worthy winner. He’s had to scrap and battle, with precious little help on hand at the critical moments. What Cadel would have given for a Pierre Rolland!

However, the clock will decide things today. No team-mates to call on or tactical plotting from the directeur sportif. It’s the race of the truth and Evans will be praying the ghosts from 2008 have been exorcised .

Don’t forget the ride Andy Schleck put in for the final time trial last year…

Bundle July 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I really hope Cuddles (who has the Tour in his pocket unless accident) or Contador can win with a great performance. It wouldn’t be good if Cancellara (a Tour of Switzerland winner), Martin or Millar win after having failed to make the cut yesterday. By the way, anyone knows what percentage is the time-cut today?

LeonG July 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm

The last Alpine stage was gripping. Alberto was aggressive, combative and enjoying himself. The Schlecks determined and Evans, flirting with a mechanical disaster this time, showed that he really should have made a move of his own earlier in the mountains just to be sure he was in an unassailable tour winning position. Sanchez has a merited polka-dot jersey & it is sure as compatriots he and Alberto did work together at times in mutual alliance across the teams. Rolland was an admirable winner but let us not talk of future overall tour success yet as this is highly premature..he won on Alpe d’Huez and this was a marvellous achievemnt.
The TT is all about two men and the 58 seconds the potentially first time Australian tour-winner can put between himself and another possible first time winner. As an aside, Alberto will want to impress too as he loses his first grand tour in seven. Not one day in yellow and, so far, without a stage win. The history books are going to be rewritten today, one way or the other. It is not a time to lose one’s nerve.

Bundle July 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm

CADEL! Yeah!!

Ok. So Tony won the stage. So did Pierre yesterday. I hope no one gets upset, but my reading of the great last two stages is that the feudal masters of grace who let most of HTC and Europcar remain in the race despite being too late in the Galibier gave lesser riders a probably decisive edge that probably stole a bit of historic glory from two great champions.

Hurrah to Evans, Contador and Andy (in this order) for giving us a thrilling last week. If only we had seen a real battle in the Tourmalet and the Agnes…

Bundle July 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I’d sure like to see the minute of the meeting where the commissars decided to ignore time-cuts.

grumpyoldman July 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm

A gripping two days, and a worthy winner in Cadel Evans.

Yesterday’s technical problem cost him a lot of time. The previous day, the time he spent faffing around with a reluctant Voeckler debating who would go after Schleck, cost him a further half minute.

So all in all, a great Tour, and a great result.

As for the cut-offs, if the mathematical formula results in half the riders being hors délai, and the stewards having to bend their own rules, then it’s the formula that needs looking at.

LeonG July 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Cadel Evans has won it at last. The Schlecks miscalculations have cost them another tour and Alberto will certainly not be doing the Giro next year. Paradoxically fourth place had nine more days in yellow than the second on the podium dais tomorrow. A wonderfully gripping tour with a great demonstration of timetrialling by the first three top riders.

hidayanra July 23, 2011 at 9:07 pm

No rules were bent or broken in letting the autobus stay in the tour.
That exact clause is in the rules, and for that precise reason.

nothing to see here.

duncan July 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

amazed not more comments about how cancellara did.
andy schleck within a minute. if anyone had said that before, surely he would have been expected to win.
still fininshing 16th equal was pretty good, just evans was so much better, he and martin just wiped the field
great great tour
duncan

Ken July 24, 2011 at 1:00 am

Congratulations to Cadel Evans on a great tour! His tour was won with a gutsy ride to pull back Andy Schleck’s enormous lead on stage 18. Even if Cadel had run the time trial course only as fast as he did a month ago, Andy would still have needed a top-10 finish to win the tour. As it was, Cadel ran 1:07 faster this time and slammed the door.

Knowing their vulnerability in the time trial, why in the world did the Schlecks not train on that course?

billy buster July 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

. . . Did Cadel win? Huh, fancy that.

Did he use Andy Slack’s limp, lifeless body to beat Alberto? . . . yes he did!!

Time and again, Cadel hunt down his prey through the hills. The Tour’s Terminator was let loose one last time to TT to victory.

Seriously, studying Cadel’s face during the TT a person could be forgiven for thinking he’s shoulders were broader and he’d gained 30kg of muscle overnight. Watching him gave me shivers. He was a killing machine and would crush the skull of anybody between him and winning the TT.

Well done to Cadel, a most worthy winner.

P.s
The Caderminator thought about eating Andy’s heart and drinking his blood, but well, we all know how risky eating random meat is.

Bundle July 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

@BillyBuster: Well, it seems to me that Cuddles was actually considerably thinner this year. And that the no-more-red-meat-eater performed better in TT this year than Steakman last year under the alleged effects of bagged sirloin.

LeonG July 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

That a top cyclist of Schleck’s stature ignored to train on such an important stage as this one is the height of sheer stupidity in today’s competitive arena. This is his problem – he thinks the tour owes him a favour judging by some of his previous comments. Andy is a talented cyclist but he has his head in the clouds.

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