Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tour Time Trial

Today is the time trial in the Tour de France, the penultimate stage before tomorrow's normally ceremonial ride in to Paris. It's happening right now. The way things are developing, the top three spots could shuffle around. As of this morning before the start, Contador is in the yellow jersey with almost two minutes on second place Evans, with Leipheimer coming in third at 59 seconds behind Evans. Contador is riding well, but Evans and Leipheimer - all of them on the road as I write - are making up time. Evans has made up 55" on Contador at the 35km mark (out of 55.5km). But Leipheimer may be riding the race of his life. He's in the lead of the stage at the 35km mark, having made up 35" on Evans. He's now 1,'20" total behind Contador. Leipheimer looks to win the stage at this point. But there's a chance he could very well overtake Evans, difficult as that may be, and perhaps even Contador if the yellow jersey tuckers out. Interesting. Contador is trying to hold off Evans and keep the yellow, and Evans is trying to hold off Leipheimer and at least keep second place. Leipheimer has no such worries and apparently believes he can leapfrog them both and take the yellow jersey today.

Perhaps tomorrow won't be so ceremonial after all.

UPDATE (11:23):

Leipheimer wins the stage! He made up all but 8 seconds on Evans.

UPDATE (11:30):

A great ride by all three, but especially Leipheimer to put the fear of a vengeful god in Evans and Contador. 31 seconds separates the top three riders now for tomorrow's final stage. Contador retains the yellow jersey but now has only a 23" advantage on Evans. Evans has only an 8" second advantage over Leipheimer. The top five looks like this:

1. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC
2. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 23"
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC - at 31"
4. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at 7’08"
5. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS - at 8’17"

So what of tomorrow's ceremonial stage into Paris? First, it's rare in any given year that so little time separates the top riders on the final day. This usually allows for lower-placed riders to look for a stage win on the glorious Champs Elysées and for the jersey winners to partake of champagne along the route. This is enough time for Contador to hold onto the yellow jersey. He looks to be the winner of the Tour de France this year. But Contador and Evans won't be having any champagne tomorrow as Leipheimer may very well attempt a break and try to win the race on one of the final tours of the Champs Elysées.

Levi Leipheimer, Photo: AP/Peter Dejong

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