This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour
Andy fights, Cancellara flies, Contador still in Yellow!
The 19th Stage of the TdF was from Bordeaux to Pauillac, a distance of 52km and was the only Individual Time Trial Stage in this year’s TdF. Set over a very flat course with open vineyards on both sides & the breeze coming over the shoulder & sometimes against you, this stage was the final battleground for the top position on this year’s podium at Paris. As predicted by me in yesterday’s post – it was Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank who pulled his World Time Trailing Champion jersey on and showed everyone why he is still the no.1 time trialist in the world. He went out on the course and set the race course on fire with a ride averaging over 51km/hr!! (And for all those doubting Thomases, TdF officials did check his bike & everyone else’s too, but were unable to find the hidden motor or the gear trigger to switch the motors on/off!!) Schleck did come out throwing punches and some of them did land too, but the stronger rider in the form of Contador ultimately won the day.
The start town of today, Bordeaux is hosting the tour on its 80th visit. This city, also called as the City of Festivals, is world renowned for its wine & vineyards. A city with lots of cultural influences, there are seven museums, eight libraries, a fine arts school, many entertainment and exhibition venues, as well as international events and a national opera too. Located at the heart of 27 municipalities that make up the urban area home to a population of 800,000 people, Bordeaux has 240,000 inhabitants within its confines and is twinned with 19 cities around the world and welcomes 70,000 students to its universities.
In contrast the finishing stage town of Pauillac is hosting the tour for the very first time. With a population of around 5,000 this town is also a very big resource for all oenophiles. Half way between Bordeaux and the Pointe de Grave, Pauillac stretches along the banks of the Gironde, Europe’s biggest estuary. It was from here in 1777 that La Fayette set sail to America to help it obtain its independence. However, its name is especially well known throughout the world thanks to its prestigious wine appellation: with 37 châteaux that share 1,200 hectares of vineyard and 18 great classed growths in 1855, including three first great classed growths (the famous Châteaux Latour, Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild), Pauillac is the wine capital of the Médoc area. Visits to cellars, the village of wine and gourmet delights in Bages, ..etc. all contributes to making Pauillac today one of the most visited wine tourism destinations in France.
The stage began at Bordeaux with Bert Grabsch of HTC Columbia being the first to leave, as he was the last placed rider at the end of Stage 18. The 2008 world champion soon showed that inspite of a tough TdF 3 weeks, he still had the legs to power around the course and set the pace for the rest. The only person who could beat him initially was his teammate Tony Martin who eclipsed his times at each of the three checks and became the first to finish the stage at an average of over 50km/hr. And then came Fabian Cancellara who just blew the rest of the riders away with a might performance. Despite the fact that he had put in some heavy duty time at the front of the peleton during the many mountain stages in the service of Andy Schleck, specially on the Col du Tourmalet, Spartacus as Cancellara is known, rode away to an incredible time of 1hr 56secs for the 52km course, 17secs faster than Martin, who had the best time at that point.
Some of the other riders who finished were Cadel Evans who was behind by 10min 45secs, Armstrong by 7min 05secs, Leipheimer by 5min 59secs, Millar by 4min 20secs, Zabriskie “Captain America” by 3min, Wiggins by 3min 33secs, Vinokourov by 5min 32secs and Sastre by 6min 30secs. As the wind started picking up later in the day, it was becoming increasingly difficult for any of the riders to make a better time than Cancellara.
Much was made of Samuel Sanchez being 3rd with 21secs lead over Denis Menchov, but Menchov put in a super ride to not only wipe out the deficit but also climb into the third place with a lead of over 1min 39secs over Sanchez!!
But the whole world was waiting for the ride of Schleck in this stage and having no history of ever having beaten Contador in time trialing ever, Andy put in the ride of his life. Staring very strong, he clawed back his time deficit to almost 3secs at the 30km stage. But with the strong wind taking a heavy toll on and his posture on the bike being not as aerodynamic as Contador’s, that was the closest he could come to getting his Yellow jersey back. With 7kms to go, Andy weakened & Contador showed his class by putting in a strong finish to roll in 31secs ahead of Schleck. So with this Contador almost for sure bags his third TdF title. Andy Schleck also will win the White jersey for the 3rd time again, a feat achieved by the great German Jan Ullrich in the past.
Cancellara who won this stage said, “I’m truly happy about the victory. Time trials over an hour are insanely demanding where you have to keep focus every second of the way to hold the rhythm and pressure on the pulse. On the paper, the course looks pretty flat and easy but believe me it was lumpy and the headwind forced me to dig deep within myself to come up with the power to do this after a long and wearing Tour de France. But I really wanted to win. I’m sorry that Andy wasn’t able to take the jersey today, but we had a great Tour with both Andy and me in the leader’s jersey, winning the white jersey, four stage wins and a spot on the podium.
A relieved Contador stated, “This morning I woke up in shape, I had a good night. But today we can say that I suffered. I think Andy has also suffered a lot for the race was very difficult. I had a hard time to settle down into a rhythm. But I wanted to stay completely focused on my position… on the aerodynamics. This was not my best day and I had doubts, but I won. A time trial at the Tour de France, it is never a race like any other. I am very excited because it was a victory that was difficult to attain. It had not been easy in 2007 and last year, but it’s unbelievable. It’s a huge relief.”
Andy Schleck, who fought long and hard all through this tour vowed to be back next year. He did think that loosing brother Franck on the cobble stones was his major setback as otherwise between the two of them they could have worn Contador in the mountains. A strategy that will be tested in the years to come not only by the Schlecks but also by all the other competing teams. Ironically, the deficit of 39secs that he has with Contador is the same that Contador gained on him in the Chaingate incident!!
At the end of Stage 19 the overall race results are as follows. Alberto Contador of Team Astana remains in the Yellow. Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre remains in the Green jersey. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank continues in the White jersey. Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom has won the King of the Mountain jersey for TdF 2010. Team RadioShack is strongly placed to win the best team in the race award.
In the meanwhile, Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step was awarded the “super-combatif” prize for being the most aggressive rider in this year’s Tour de France.
The Tour de France Stage 20, is from Longjumeau to Paris Champs-Élysées, a distance of 102.5km. This is a very short ride for a tour stage, one of the shortest perhaps. With the Green jersey still up for grabs and two intermediate sprints before the grand finish, it can be either Cavendish, Hushovd or Ale Jet who can bag it. But as the laps of the Champs- Élysées are being done, will it be a break away that will steal the thunder under the sprinters nose?? Me thinks, tomorrow, it will be tight finish with the sprinters teams going all out to roll out their man in the best position possible. But in the end, bare any mishap – it should be the Manx Missile that will blast off!! But in the end, it will be Ale Jet which will ride away with the Green jersey!!
So till tomorrow…:)
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