Saturday, July 23, 2005

Stage 20: Individual Time Trial

From The back-of-the-pack riders that we have been following are first to go. Today's results will be decisive in the final general classification.

11:01 CEST The weather today is absolutely perfect for time trialling. There's no wind, it's slightly overcast, and not too warm at 21 degrees. The wind shouldn't pick up much later on either.Today's route is up and down, with the Cat. 3 Col de la Gachet (5.7 km climb at 4.5%) after 40 km being the main difficulty. There are several intermediate time checks too, at km 17, km 35, km 40.2, and km 49.7.Riders will go off in reverse GC order. The first rider off is Iker Flores (Euskaltel), who left at 10:55, followed by Wim Vansevenant (10:57) and Janek Tombak (10:59). It'll be two minute intervals until the final 20 riders, who start at three minute gaps. Lance Armstrong will leave the start ramp at 16:22.

11:10 CEST The next riders are ready to go, with Servais Knaven (Quick.Step, a handy tester against the clock), Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner), Daniel Becke (Illes Balears), and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) all making their way off the ramp and out onto the parcours.

Preliminary results at 55.5 km for the riders who had been the last five spots in the GC:
(151) 162 FÖRSTER Robert GST GER 1:23:38
(152) 134 KNAVEN Servais QST NED 1:20:25
(153) 127 TOMBAK Janeck COF EST 1:23:08
(154) 049 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 1:21:07
(155) 194 FLORES Iker EUS ESP 1:23:35

I was starting to wonder if Mickael Rasmussen (after several bike changes and crashes) might be down with our final five, and then I realized that he would be disqualified before he lost enough time to fall that far in the rankings. It seems amazing that he only ended up 7:47 down from the leader. So we are left with the standings that will probably prevail tomorrow at the conclusion of the Tour de France:

151 162 FÖRSTER Robert GST GER 4h 01' 40"
152 034 BECKE Daniel IBA GER 4h 02' 16"
153 127 TOMBAK Janeck COF EST 4h 03' 09"
154 049 VANSEVENANT Wim DVL BEL 4h 09' 25"
155 194 FLORES Iker EUS ESP 4h 20' 24"

Servais Knaven, a former Dutch national champion time trialist, rode into 100th place in today's time trial, which bumped him up to 149th overall. A bad translation from his Dutch-language blog: "Thus, we have also had the time trial! It was a complete cumbersome ride, but I had fortunately good legs and I could drive a good tempo."

Meanwhile Daniel Becke had a horrible day and finished the Individual Time Trial with the slowest time of the day, in 155th place, plunging him down into 152nd overall. He must have had some severe problems with the course today, since in the Stage 1 time trial he finished in the top third, 64th out of 189 riders.

Unfortunately Leonardo Piepoli only finished in 115th place for the day, which dropped him out of the Top Twenty in the Tour to 23rd place overall. Still, that's a long way from the Lanterne Rouge position which he held for the first three days of the Tour!

Iker Flores finished the Individual Time Trial in 145th place, so he did beat ten riders to the finish line today (including 2004 maillot-jaune-wearer Thomas Voeckler). Barring any catastrophes on the road to Paris tomorrow, Iker Flores will go down in the history books with an 11-minute margin as the 2005 Tour de France Lanterne Rouge, just as his brother Igor did in 2002.

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