Fabian Cancellara powered his way to an impressive win in today’s time trial besting Tony Martin by 17 seconds and Bert Grabsch by nearly two minutes. There is little question that Cancellara and Martin are the two preeminent time trialists in the world and the battle between these two in the years to come should be something special to watch.
The real drama on the day was whether Alberto Contador could hold off the challenge from Andy Schleck. In the end, the Spaniard gained an additional 31 seconds on Schleck, extending his lead to 39 seconds. Coincidentally that margin is exactly what Alberto Contador gained on Andy Schleck when he made his cowardly attack on the climb up Port de Bales in stage 15. Even more interesting is that it appeared Schleck was going to put time into Contador before his chain malfunction. Given what happened today, Schleck would likely have won the Tour de France had the incident not happened.
Personally I thought it was poor sportsmanship on Contador’s part which is probably why he looked so relieved on the podium today when he received the maillot jaune. This will definitely lead to an offseason filled with questions for the Spaniard until he can redeem himself in next year’s Tour. Contador will win the Tour without winning a stage; which is not unprecedented but it’s only happened six times in history (7 now). I think most cycling fans will agree that Schleck was the better rider in this years Tour even though he is walking away in second place again.
Andy and Frank Schleck are in the process of trying to start their own cycling team for next year, however, what might be a good idea for the Schleck’s is to move over to Team Radio Shack under the tutelage of Johan Bruyneel. Johan is by far the best director sportif and would likely be able to give Andy the guidance he needs to dethrone Contador.
Tomorrow’s ride into Parris will be ridden with the usual ceremonial pomp and circumstance until the riders hit the Champs Elysees and then all bets are off. With the points competition still in doubt we should be treated to a fantastic finish between Petacchi, Hushovd, and Cavendish. Team HTC will want to repeat their victory from last year but their lead out is nowhere near the dominant force it was a year ago. Cavendish will likely have to fend for himself the way he has in the last two sprints if he is to take his 5th victory in this years Tour.
It’s a shame it’s already over…
For more great Tour analysis, visit my good friend Tim Liew @ The Armchair Sportsfan.