Contenders clash in time-trial showdown
STAGE 18: Annecy – Annecy
Thursday, July 23
WHAT’S THE COURSE LIKE?
After arguably the toughest stage of the race yesterday, the riders will be relieved to discover that today’s profile looks reassuringly flat.
That is except for the third category Côte de Bluffy, which according to reports, may catch a few people napping.
Not particularly steep, it does kick up to around 6% in parts, sufficient enough to cause problems for anyone still tired after yesterday’s effort.
Stage 18 map and profile>>>
Estimated finish time – 16:38 BST
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?
The riders set off from the start-house in Annecy at two-minute intervals, until the last 23 riders, when it becomes three-minute gaps. Race leader Alberto Contador is last man off, at 1547 BST.
Victory will go to a powerful time-trialist who can keep a good rhythm over the Côte de Bluffy.
As for the contenders, their powers of recovery will also come into play after two and a half weeks of hard racing. How much have the Pyrenees and Alps taken out of everyone?
While Contador aims to consolidate his lead today, the battle behind will become tight again, if, as expected, Wiggins and Armstrong gain time on the Schlecks.
MEN TO WATCH
Fabian Cancellara – With the exception of the Côte de Bluffy, today’s stage is almost completely flat and looks tailor-made for the Swiss rider
Alberto Contador – The Spaniard is a superb time triallist and will
want to put further time into the Schleck brothers before Mont Ventoux
Bert Grabsch – An outside bet for the stage today, but why not? He is the reigning world time trial champion after all.
Bradley Wiggins - After riding strongly but steadily to limit his losses yesterday, Wiggins needs to take back as much time on possible on the Schleck brothers to maximise his chances of a higher overall finish.
Andy Schleck - Seen as the more able of the two brothers against the clock, Andy's task today is damage limitation against stronger time-trialists Armstrong and Wiggins.
Lance Armstrong - While no longer the dominant force in the Tour de France, Armstrong has shown in recent days that he still has some of his old zip. A strong ride today could see him leapfrog the Schleck brothers into second overall.
CW'S TIP TO WIN
Providing he isn't too tired from domestique work, Fabian Cancellara is a good bet for today.
WHO'S WEARING THE JERSEYS
Yellow - Alberto Contador (Astana)
Green - Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team)
Polka-dot - Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
White - Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)