Stage 20 preview – Who will win in the final TT?

Ok, tomorrow is the big day. Winner takes all to Paris. As is customary in the Tour de France the penultimate day of the race is a time trial. The race against the clock. The race of truth. The only thing standing between Andy, Cadel or Frank for their first yellow jersey.

Current Yellow Jersey Standings
1. Andy Schleck (Leopard)____________82h48’43”
2. Frank Schleck (Leopard)__________+53″
3. Cadel Evans (BMC)_______________+57″

So who will win?

Let’s begin by looking at the route. The Grenoble time trial is almost the exact same course that was used in the 2011 Dauphine, won by speed demon Tony Martin. The 42.5km course is undulating with two major rises, the first climbing about 200m and descending 150m and the second climbing another 250m and descending fast down to the finish 300m lower.

The up and down should favour the climbing types, but I’m not sure that there is a whole lot of distinction between Andy and Cadel at this point. Likely, whoever is more fresh would benefit, and I would normally give that to Andy except for the fact that he and Cadel are on opposite ends of the descending spectrum.

We do know how Cadel performed in the Dauphine on the same route while he was rounding into Tour de France form. And, he performed well. Cadel finished 6th in the event, behind the likes of Wiggins and Zabriskie, and the aforementioed Tony Martin, three well-tuned time trialists. If we look at other favorites from this years race, you’ll see the time Evans smashed them by. Now, keep in mind, Sanchez, Voeckler and Basso were only racing for training where Evans was involved in GC, but he still kicked the crud out of them.

2011 Dauphine – 42.5km Actual Times
1. – Tony Martin (HTC)______55’27″_________(45.98kmph)
6. – Cadel Evans (BMC)_____+1’20″___56’47” (44.91kmph)
40.- Thomas Voeckler (Eur)__+3’18”
42.- Samuel Sanchez (Eus)__+3’27”
135.-Ivan Basso (Liquigas)___+6’16”

If we take Tony Martin’s 46kmph as the benchmark for the Grenoble course, we need to ask, how would the Schlecks have done, if they had raced it?

Well, the Schlecks were over in Switzerland racing the Tour de Suisse which just so happened to have a similar TT course. It was 10km shorter, but possessed two minor bumps to climb over similar to the Grenoble course. The first of these hills climbed about 100m and the second, more significant, about 250m as well before descending to the finish 250m below. We’ll first compare Fabian Cancellara’s performance to Tony Martin’s to get the benchmark.

Fabian Cancellara blew the Suisse course apart, and like Martin would have been going full gas for his win. Cancellara’s final speed was a hair below 47kmph, almost 1 full kmph faster than Martin did in Grenoble. So the question is: Can Cancellara beat Martin by a full 1kmph or was the Suisse course faster than Grenoble? Cancellara only beat Tony Martin in last years Tour de France TT by 17 seconds over 52km. That 17 seconds difference in 2010 is only .2365kmph (51.203kmph vs 50.9665kmph on a flat course) much less than the full 1kmph difference we see in these two courses raced earlier this year. The Tour de Suisse course was likely a faster course than Grenoble but by how much? If we calculate the 32km Tour de Suisse course at even 46.5kmph (.5kmph slower to get a more fair representation of times) Cancellara he would have taken an extra 18 seconds to increase his time to 41’19”

2011 Tour de Suisse – 32km Actual times
1. – Fabian Cancellara (LT)___41’01” (46.957kmph)
39.- Damiano Cunego (Lam)____+2’16”
46.- Andy Schleck (LT)________+2’32″___43’33” (44.08kmph)
60.- Frank Schleck (LT)_______+3’06”

So, if we take Andy’s speed on a similar, but arguably faster Tour de Suisse course and virtually place him on the Grenoble course at the very same speed and then vice-versa we see these results:

Head-to-head if Andy had raced the Grenoble time trial:

Cadel Evans _____44.91kmph____56’47”
Andy Schleck_____44.08kmph____57’51” (+1’04”)

and if Cadel had raced the Tour de Suisse course:

Cadel Evans______44.91kmph____42’45 (-48″)
Andy Schleck_____44.08kmph____43’33

Based on earlier results this looks like it will be very, very close. If we add the 18 seconds+ I calculated for the difference in “course speed” then it stretches even futher to 1’22” for Evans on tomorrow’s course. Now, I know many of you are thinking, but Andy wasn’t going as hard as he will be tomorrow during that Tour de Suisse timetrial. The yellow jersey gives you wings! That’s likely true, but we don’t know. Additionally, the Tour de Suisse time trial was also 10.5km shorter which means less fatigue and could possibly result in slower speeds for Andy tomorrow in Grenoble.

Another factor needing to be considered is the weather. According to Wunderground there is a 70% chance of rain in Grenoble tomorrow. Andy descending on a time trial bike in the rain fills me with less confidence than Evans doing the same. So, I imagine the Schlecks go to bed praying for dry conditions.

The point here is not to say that Evans will win the Tour de France tomorrow, and it’s not to slam on Andy, but just to say that it is very possible for Evans to take 57 seconds out of Andy tomorrow on that course. Add in a little rain? Sheesh. Even if both riders manage to keep the rubber side down it’s going to be a very, very dramatic finish. And this doesn’t even analyze Contador’s possibility of chasing down Frank and Thomas for the final step on the podium.

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