Leipheimer Wins Time Trial; Contador Keeps Yellow Jersey
Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) is poised to win the Tour de France. Contador finished fifth, losing all but 0:23 of the 1:50 that he led Cadel Evans (Predictor) by at the beginning of the day. Levi Leipheimer, the other half of Discovery Channel's dynamic duo, won Stage 19, the flat, 55.5-km time trial from Cognac to Angouleme, in 1:02:44. Evans finished second at 0:51, and Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) finished third at 0:56.
Leif Hoste (Predictor) set the early standard. Hoste rode the course in 1:05:33. Fabian Cancellara (CSC) had a go at the Belgian's mark but fell 0:07 short. Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) was a second faster than Cancellara. No one could unseat Hoste until George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) rode a 1:05:17.
Moments after Hincapie crossed the finish line, Spanish time trial champion Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) outdid the American with a 1:05:11. At this point, the three top GC men were on the road.
Leipheimer posted the day's fastest time--19:36--at the first time check at 17.5 km. At the same time check, Evans was 0:14 behind Leipheimer, but more important, 0:22 ahead of Contador, who began the day 1:50 ahead of Evans in the overall.
At the second time check at 35 km, Leipheimer posted a 39:45. The man from Montana was 0:35 ahead of Evans and 1:13 ahead of Contador. At this point, any of the three riders could have wound up first, second, or third.
Leipheimer powered his way to the finish, passing three-minute man Carlos Sastre (CSC) in the bargain. Evans's second place was up for grabs, but the Australian held on to 0:08 of the 0:59 lead that he had begun the day with. Contador, the weakest time trialist of the three, lost time throughout his ride but held on to keep first place overall.
In the overall, Contador leads one of the closest Tours in history by 0:23 over Evans and 0:31 over Leipheimer. The 20th and last stage of the Tour will not change this state of affairs. The flat, 146-km ride from Marcoussis to Paris will decide the green jersey competition. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) leads Robert Hunter by 24 points. Who will grab the points needed to win the competition? Who will win on the Champs Elysees? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!