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95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 20 - Saturday, July 26: Cérilly - Saint Amand Montrond (ITT), 53km

Complete live report

By Susan Westemeyer

If the overall classification is anything like as close as it was last year, we should once again be treated to a dramatic final time trial today. Unlike the time trial in the first week, this one is over a much more usual distance. The course gradient rolls without getting properly hilly and so it should suit a more powerful rider over a climber. The Tour visits another first time stage town in Cérilly, but this is the second visit to Saint Amand Montrond. The previous time – 2001 – was also the finish of the final time trial and saw Lance Armstrong (US Postal) further increase his lead over Jan Ullrich (Telekom) with his fourth stage win of that year's Tour.

12:13 CEST    Hello and welcome back to the closing weekend of this year's Tour de France. Today we have the individual time trial which will decide our overall winner. Will we have a new wearer of the yellow jersey today after 53 km?

12:24 CEST    We have a special treat today: Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson is riding in the CSC-Saxo Bank team car behind Jens Voigt and will be calling in with reports. Jens takes off at 14:52 The German is usually known for his attacks, and he has been holding himself back in this Tour. He has also been known to win a time trial here and there. Is this his day?

12:34 CEST    Bernhard Eisel kicked things off at 11:18 this morning. We currently have 38 riders underway, with the most recent one being Julian Dean, who left at 12:32.

12:42 CEST    Eisel, of Team Columbia, was the first one out and logically, also the first one in. He set a time of 1:13:12 for the others to meet. So far we have four riders in, with AG2R's Christophe Riblon topping the charts at 1:08:17.

12:48 CEST    Today's course doesn't look particularly difficult. It is rolling and has three small climbs. At least it looks that way to us up here in the blimp. No doubt it looks much harder to those down there on their bikes.

12:55 CEST    We have three intermediate time checks today, at 18km in Rond-Bernard, 35km in Charenton-du-Cher and 47.5km in Les Piots Doux. That will give us a good idea of who is doing well along the way. So far, Leif Hoste of Silence Lotto has the best time at the first check (22'28), and at the second one (45'16) and at the third one (1:01:33) – hmm, we think we see a pattern here. He beat the best times of Milram's Brett Lancaster, who currently has the best end time of 1:08:11.

12:59 CEST    It is cloudy and humid, and the roads are wet from overnight rain. More rain is forecast for the day. We hope it doesn't interfere with the blimp or the race.

13:01 CEST    Danny Pate is off. The Garmin rider revealed his thoughts to Cyclingnews Hedwig Kröner before the start. "I am tired after the mountains. I don't think the wind will be a factor today. It is just a light breeze." He jokingly added that "I hope it will start to rain again later..." More than thinking about the win today, Pate had some other competition in mind. "I really want to beat Christian [Vande Velde], because he beat me in the last Giro time trial by two seconds. I have to get back at him."

13:02 CEST    Currently it is not raining, but overcast and heavy, gray clouds hanging low over the course. Pate may indeed get his wish of rain later for the course, when all the favourites go out. Surprise, surprise ... Hoste has the new best time, of 1:07:40, which is 20 seconds faster than Lancaster.

13:11 CEST    Robert Hunter of Barloworld just set the 14th best time at the first intermediate check. Looks like this year he doesn't have to worry about missing the time limit, as he did in the final time trial in 2006.

13:13 CEST    Björn Schröder (Team Milram) is well underway. He started about half an hour ago. You can check his speed and wattage with our live rider data. The link is on the upper right.

13:18 CEST    Steven De Jongh of Quick Step is the most recent one to cross the finish line. His time of 1:13:05 is nearly five and half minutes behind that of current leader Hoste.

13:19 CEST    Adam Hansen (Columbia) also is providing us with live data. The Aussie started at 12:30 and should get to the finish in about 25 minutes. His heart rate is 139 and he pedals along at 36 km/h - must be uphill.

13:25 CEST    Papa Schleck (of Fränk and Andy fame) told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson, "I'm very proud of my two boys, yes. It was very emotional seeing my young Fränk in yellow. Today isn't a time trial for either of them. There are only little hills and no mountains. For the overall Evans and Carlos {Sastre} are both very good,but I think that Carlos can still hold on for the overall win. Hopefully Fränk can still finish in the top five."

13:33 CEST    30 riders have finished the stage. Hoste still leads, and the slowest so far was Matthieu Sprick of Bouygues Telecom, who came in 1:15:20, which is over seven minutes down.

13:35 CEST    Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson will be in the team car behind CSC-Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt a little later on. Earlier, Jens told him, "I think I'm getting more and more tired and I'm looking forward to the end of the race. If we had two more days like yesterday, I'm not so sure that I’d be making it to Paris. Today my job will be to help secure the team classification. I think if I go full gas we can do it."

13:40 CEST    So if you are not contending, why not sit back, wait for your two-minute man and take his draft? Well, the rules are clear. A rider who gets passed will have to stay 25 metres back. Also, a rider who passes another one needs to do so with at least two metres of clearance. But, but... Yes, in reality, both rules get violated occasionally. Depending on severity and GC, this may just bring us back to answering the question on how riders get negative points... A little fine slapped on. Maybe a few euros. But they won't get kicked out of the race for such an offense. On the other hand, if Kohl decided to slipstream Evans, should the Australian pass the Austrian, the penalty is likely to be much harder.

13:42 CEST    Sebastien Rosseler of Quick Step just zipped through the second time check with a new best time of 45:10. Will Pate be able to top that?

13:45 CEST    Paul of Austin, Texas, USA, asks, "Could someone get eliminated on time today and not make it to Paris? That would suck... If so, am I correct in remembering the cut-off is 20% off the winner's time?" Yes, indeedy, you can lose it all right here, right now. As we said earlier, that happened to Robert Hunter in 2006. But it is 25% and not 20%. Since the Blimp Lady doesn't have her calculator with her in the blimp, Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake figured it out and noted that 25% of the current time of 1:07:40 would be 16:55 minutes. So Spick is safe with his seven minutes.

13:49 CEST    Today will bring the decision and everyone is very nervous. Cadel Evans decided to actually not even hang out with his team-mates in the Lotto bus. Instead, the team must have rented a room in a house in the residential area. We will tell you it is number 10, but will keep the street name secret for privacy reasons. Moments ago Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson observed Evans' bodyguard go into the house with some water. On the bright side, in the start area the roads are now dry and it is quite warm, even though still overcast. Even though the Lotto-Silence team is sponsored by the Belgian lottery, Evans will want to make sure not to win (or lose) on pure luck. He has trained hard for this moment. Then again, so have Sastre, Schleck, Kohl and Menchov...

13:51 CEST    Yes, Pate has held his speed and set the new best time at the second check, too, a whopping 43 seconds ahead of Rosseler. At the finish line, his team-mate Julian Dean has now come in with a time of 1:13:24, which is 5:44 behind Hoste.

13:54 CEST    Speaking of Robert Hunter, Christian in Saudi Arabia reminds us, "In 2006 Hunter worked for Landis throughout the Tour and had so many saddle sores that he could not sit for the duration of the time trial. He came in just outside the time limit..."

13:56 CEST    Wow, we have three Australians in the top five right now! Lancaster second at 1:08:01, O'Grady third at 1:08:02, and Hansen fifth at 1:09:43.

13:59 CEST    Rosseler takes the lead at the third intermediate time check, at 1:01:26, which is seven seconds ahead of Hoste's time.

14:01 CEST    Pate is really putting on a show here! He just knocked 39 seconds off of Rosseler's time at the third time check.

14:04 CEST    Rosseler goes on to give us the new best finishing time, of 1:07:22. But we expect Pate to break that momentarily. No sooner said than done. The American comes in at 1:06:45, which is 37 seconds faster than Rosseler, and 56 seconds faster than Hoste's earlier best time.

14:06 CEST    Many have asked about what happens in case of a tie. Well, we definitely will have a winner on Sunday. As a first tie-breaker, the hundredths of seconds from the time trials will be consulted. Should that still leave two or more contenders equal on time, then the places for each stages are added up (the one with the lower number wins). As a final resort, the ranking of the final stage will be counted. We had a similar scenario in stage one, for the polka dot battle. Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Björn Schröder (Team Milram) were equal on points (eight). Voeckler got the jersey by finishing 126th. Schröder came in three riders later. Et voilà – maillot à pois for France!

14:10 CEST    Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) is about to start. He just gets his bike measured. Arvesen wasn't concerned about his time trial. "It doesn't matter what I do here. I am really happy with my Tour. Now, I am just looking forward to get to Paris. I have done my job here." Not surprisingly, CSC is happy. "The morale is good in the team." Arvesen himself felt the last three weeks in his legs. "I am tired. It will be hard to just get up to the start ramp."

14:17 CEST    The riders are going off at two minute intervals, with the top twenty going at three minute intervals. That means we can expect to see Carlos Sastre rolling down the ramp at 16:26 this afternoon, and we expect everything to be over by about 17:30.

14:21 CEST    Looks like Pate won't be able to enjoy his best times for very long. Someone just knocked off 43 seconds at the first time check, someone named Cancellara ... multiple time trial World Champion Fabian Cancellara of CSC-Saxo Bank, of course.

14:23 CEST    We have some real powerhouses on the road right now. Before Cancellara, David Millar had set a new best time at the first check. The best time at the second check is now held by Gerolsteiner's time trial expert Sebastian Lang.

14:26 CEST    Cancellara is so fast underway, that he broke the 50 km/h mark at the first time check. Will he be able to keep that up?

14:32 CEST    We lost four riders in yesterday's stage, with Christophe Brandt dropping out and Fabian Wegmann. Juan Antonio Flecha and Romain Feillu missed the time limit. That leaves only three teams with a complete nine-man squad: CSC-Saxo Bank, Euskaltel and Milram.

14:38 CEST    Yesterday's stage winner is still on a roll. Sylvain Chavanel has posted the second best time at the first check, 22:11.

14:40 CEST    Lang sets a new best time to take the lead. He came in at 1:06:09.

14:42 CEST    Millar broke Lang's time at the second check, but Cancellara flew through and blasted them both with a time of 42:38, which was more than a minute faster than Millar.

14:46 CEST    One of the riders to fall out of the time limit yesterday was Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann, who was suffering the results of too many crashes. "My immune system just didn't want to play along any more. I have felt really rotten the last few days," he noted on fabianwegmann.de, "but this allergic reaction on my hands, feet and bottom was just too much."

14:49 CEST    Erik Zabel has just gone down the start ramp. The Milram sprinter just wants to get through today so that he can have a chance at the sprint finish tomorrow in Paris.

14:51 CEST    Jens Voigt has finished his warm-up. He had his iPod on and looked very focused. Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson will follow the German (in the team car, we may add). Jens goes off in less than three minutes.

14:53 CEST    Daniel Benson: "We're at the start now. I'm in the car with Thomas, a mechanic with CSC. He'll be driving behind Jens today. Speaking of Jens, he's just popped up at the start. He's looking strong right now as he clips in. The crowd are applauding as he adjusts his glasses."

14:55 CEST    Millar has set a new best time at third check. He is the first man to go under one hour, at 59:36.

14:56 CEST    Daniel Benson: "He's straight out of the saddle through the twisting streets. Typing is pretty hard. EEK We're already pushing 60 km/h."

14:57 CEST    Daniel Benson: "We're just on the first climb and Jens is getting encouragement from the team car. Come on, come on, Thomas is shouting into the radio. Here comes a downhill section. 80 km/h, no problem."

14:58 CEST    And Cancellara becomes the first man to go through the third time check in less than 59 minutes. He cuts 1:10 off of Millar's time.

15:01 CEST    Cancellara is now in with a time of 1:04:12 That is the new best time, of course, and is 1:16 ahead of Millar. Will anyone be able to top that?

15:03 CEST    Daniel Benson: "Thomas, the CSC mechanic, wants to know the time splits for Fabian so he can give them to Jens on the radio. Where else are we getting them from but CN. If Jens wins I expect a beer!"

15:05 CEST    Another one who missed the time limit yesterday was Juan Antonio Flecha of Rabobank. The team reports that "Flecha already indicated over the past few days that he was completely done for. Unfortunately, Friday offered no chance for recovery, because the stage's pace was frighteningly fast once again."

15:06 CEST    Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom) goes through a section that is barely two metres with the barriers. Good thing nobody needs to pass. Remember that two-metre rule???

15:07 CEST    Cancellara has advice for Sastre: "Just push, push!"

15:09 CEST    Daniel Benson: "We can already see the rider ahead of Jens. He's just cresting the top of the hill in front, so he's perhaps a minute ahead of us." The Blimp Lady notes that that would be Eduardo Gonzalo of Agritubel.

15:11 CEST    Daniel Benson: "Just a word on the CSC van I'm in. It's like a treasure chest of bike bits. Just behind me are half a dozen Zipp 404 wheels. On the roof are two extra bikes and in the boot – well, the boot is a mess."

15:13 CEST    Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown caught up with Garmin's Danny Pate after his run today. "It is good be to be done today, even when you are good with time trials it is still never easy," he said. As to the conditions, "There is a lot of headwind out there and chip seal, so you have to look for the sweet spot in the road. It is an hour time trial, it did not have a lot of hills but it is hard after 20 days of racing. "I could see a lot of flags blowing hard. From 15 to five kilometres to go it is brutal. There are false flats with chip seal, which makes it a grind."

15:14 CEST    "It is nice to go early then you can be the 'temporary leader''," Pate continued. "I think think the fastest time will be three minutes better than mine – maybe less. "It is a power TT course, not like the first TT. This one is for the guys that usually do good at TTs."

15:17 CEST    We have a new slowest rider: Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom. His time is 1:5:09, which is nearly 11 minutes slower than Cancellara.

15:18 CEST    Stefan Schumacher is the next to go. Remember, he won the first time trial to take the yellow jersey, and has been extremely active in recent stages. He surely wouldn't mind winning again today.

15:19 CEST    Chavanel did well once again. He is currently sixth. "I think I pleased a lot of people today. I think Cancellara will be hard to beat. The parcours is difficult. It is one for power riders, like Cancellara. For me, it was tough. We went fast yesterday [Chavanel was in a long break and won stage 19 at 45km/h -ed.]. I didn't sleep well." For the duel later, Chavanel thought that "not many talk about Menchov. He may create a surprise. But between Sastre and Evans, I'd pick Evans."

15:22 CEST    Voigt went through the first time check as 14th, in 22:45.

15:24 CEST    Daniel Benson: "Voigt's style hasn't changed since we started. The lower back still continues to rock back and forth with each pedal stroke. He might be low down on the overall but you wouldn't think it by the way he is riding. Awesome, he's about to pass his first rider of the day. 'Yeah, I eat riders like you for breakfast',' he's probably thinking.

15:26 CEST    Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) was a tad exhausted after his run. But he was quiet casual about his approach. "I started out slowly and then paid off for my good performance today." Slowly at 50km/h? Oh well. Cancellara added that the wind wasn't a factor. "There is cross wind, tail wind, head wind. Most of the course is in the forest, so it is not too bad. It is a fast course and Carlos [Sastre] will have a hard time. But as they say, the yellow jersey gives you wings. I hope he can do the time trial of his life."

15:27 CEST    Cancellara wasn't sure if his time would hold up. But he knew one thing. "I felt great today and when I feel great I can go very fast." He cautioned that "Schumacher is very strong, too." Indeed, Schumacher is out on the course right now.

15:28 CEST    So far we haven't had any of the predicted rain. There are some very dramatic clouds, but enough sun is peeking through to cast a few shadows.

15:30 CEST    George Hincapie (Columbia) shows the results of his crash the other day. His left leg is encased in gauze.

15:32 CEST    Daniel Benson: "We're on another long drag now and Jens is out of the saddle for the first time today. Meanwhile, the crowds are getting bigger at each village we go through on the course."

15:34 CEST    David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30) told Gregor Brown after the stage, "The first week was good and then the last two weeks was getting worse and worse. It has never been like that before and I need to take a look at what happened after the Tour. Christian has been keeping my morale high and giving me a job to do to keep my head up. "The team has been fantastic and has been exceeding all expectations. We have a chance of a stage win for Christian. From what I have seen in the last week, he really has a chance of winning today. If Menchov does not have the best day then he may even have a chance of being on the podium."

15:35 CEST    As to today's parcours, Millar said, "Jonathan knows it like the back of his hand. He will be feeding all the information back to Christian, he has it ingrained in his brain."

15:37 CEST    Vincenzo Nibali is now underway, and will soon be followed by Columbia's Kanstantsin Siutsou.

15:37 CEST    Daniel Benson: "We can make another rider's car out in the distance. Some of these poor guys would have looked at the start list this morning and thought, 'How long will I last before Voigt catches me?'"

15:39 CEST    Schumacher is going through one of those wooded sections. He should be at the first time check soon, so we can get an idea of how he is going.

15:42 CEST    Schumacher has gone through with the same time as Cancellara, so he may well be on course to repeat his earlier win. He has also just passed Sylvester Szmd of Lampre, who started two minutes ahead of him.

Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank) crushed everyone's time so far. Is it enough to win?
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

15:44 CEST    Daniel Benson, "We must be on the only climb in today's stage. Jens only jumps out of the saddle for a few strokes. The supporters are two to three deep on this hill though."

15:47 CEST    Hans-Michael Holczer is hoping for a good time from Schumacher again. "Sebastian Lang was about two minutes slower than Fabian Cancellara. For each split [I measured], Schumacher was always around 10-12 seconds faster than Lang, so it may be enough in the end."

15:49 CEST    Daniel Benson, "The rider ahead looks like Le Mevel. He's wearing Credit Agricole kit. Jen sweeps past him and goes back to the same rhythm as before. Le Mevel won't move for us to pass in the van yet. The Blimp Lady notes that Le Mevel started four minutes ahead of Voigt and urges him to get out of the way."

15:50 CEST    Young Thomas Lovkvist of Team Columbia has finished with the fourth best time. He was fifth at the first time check, and fourth at the next two.

15:51 CEST    Daniel Benson: "Can Jens catch his countryman Erik Zabel before the finish? He's the next rider on our radar. Thomas is telling Jens about the course profile, all the ups and down before the flat finish. The Blimp Lady notes that not only are Voigt and Zabel landsmen, they are also old friends."

15:52 CEST    Denis Menchov wipes the sweat from his face as he puts in his warm-up time on the roller.

15:53 CEST    Roman Kreuziger is now on the course. He still has hopes of winning the White Jersey for the best young rider away from Andy Schleck. He is only 1:58 back – can he make up that much today?

15:54 CEST    Andy (Schleck the Younger) is also underway. In fact, he started three minutes after Kreuziger. We are into the top twenty now, so they are going off at three minute intervals.

15:55 CEST    Daniel Benson: " Just six kilometers to go now for Jens now. I can see he's giving all he can. He'll leave it all out on the road today, that's for sure."

15:56 CEST    Kim Kirchen is now on the road. Only ten riders left to go!

15:57 CEST    Daniel Benson: "For all our Australian fans, we've seen Adam Hansen's name plenty of times on the road today."

15:58 CEST    Daniel Benson: "I'm belting up now. He's just taken a corner at over 60 km/h and I'm sure we've left some tyre marks on the tarmac he Blimp Lady notes that Voigt did not catch Zabel, who just crossed the finish line as 76th."

15:59 CEST    Daniel Benson: "He's coming to the line now! That's it. I have to turn off the road."

16:00 CEST    Voigt finished seventh, but we are still waiting for his time.

British TT champion David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) had a great ride, but Cancellara was too strong
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:01 CEST    Did Schumacher start out too fast? He is second at the second time check, having lost 13 seconds.

16:04 CEST    Voigt's time was 1:06:48.

16:05 CEST    Gregor Brown talked to Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin), who currently has two riders in the top five. Will Vande Velde make the podium? "Christian will have to ride the time trial in the nude. You got to have three guys do a milky ride and if Christian lives up to his potential he should knock off Kohl and Schleck – Menchov or Sastre have to just melt. And how about the overall win? "It is hard. After Alpe d'Huez, I said Sastre because I feel he is going to be fresher and he will a better time trial. However, after seeing the course I believe it is the worse possible course for him – it is power and flat, without corners and without any hills of significance."

16:07 CEST    Samuel Sanchez is now on the course, and Alejandro Valverde will be the next to go.

16:08 CEST    Vaughters continued, "For the stage win I would say Christian or Cancellara, but for the overall I would have to go with Cadel Evans. I could be wrong. Sastre will have the time trial of his life, but I don't know if it will be enough – it will be tight. "If the weather changes we will go with some 23 tires versus 20. His gearing should be 56-46 and 11-23 in the back."

16:09 CEST    If Gerolsteiner is unable to find a new sponsor for next year and has to disband, Berni Kohl probably won't have to worry about finding a new team after his stellar performance here in the Tour. In fact, Patrick Lefevere of Quick Step has already expressed his interest in the Austrian climber.

16:10 CEST    Cadel Evans makes his way towards the starting ramp, accompanied by his bodyguard.

16:11 CEST    There has been a lot of drama associated with closing time trials in the past. Who will ever forget 1989, when the TT was the final stage, and saw American Greg Lemond snatch the overall win away from Laurent Fignon? Lemond ended up winning by a whole eight seconds, still the closest Tour finish ever.

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) won his first ever Tour stage yesterday. The French TT champ did another solid ride today. He is currently ranked 10th.
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:12 CEST    And now Vande Velde has taken the start. Like so many others, he is hoping for the time trial of his life, with hopes of moving on to the final podium. Only five riders left to start.

16:15 CEST    Hendrik Redant, Silence DS, is confident of his rider, he told Gregor Brown. "I think it is a course that suits Evans well, there is some wind and it is slightly uphill - it is a power course. It is a course that we usually see at the end of the Tour - it is nothing special - the organisers usually take it on this type of road. Almost about 80 percent of the course will be a head wind - slightly from the left to right side. There are about two or three turns will you need to take care. "It will be close. 1'35" is nothing, but it is possible. The yellow jersey will give wings to Sastre."

16:15 CEST    Menchov has started.

16:16 CEST    Vande Velde has a spoiler on his back under his jersey. It may be quite aerodynamic, but it looks funny.

16:17 CEST    Cadel Evans takes the countdown and heads out on his journey to get the yellow jersey. Will he become the first Australian to win the Tour de France?

16:18 CEST    Bernhard Kohl seems to have fallen off the backside of the starting ramp. He shakes his arm and may have damaged his bike. Oh, dear...

16:19 CEST    Schumacher has not only made up for lost time, he has done better. He came through the third intermediate time check 14 seconds faster than Cancellara!

16:20 CEST    Kohl's bike must be ok, as he has just taken to the course. Let's hope that the little Austrian can put that behind him and concentrate on doing his best.

16:21 CEST    Schumacher powers his way into the finish and will take it!

16:22 CEST    He does it! 1:03:50, which is 21 seconds better than Cancellara. Looks like he has won both time trials in this Tour!

16:23 CEST    Fränk Schleck takes off. Only one man to go, the man in the yellow jersey.

16:24 CEST    Evans is underway, looking smooth and calm.

16:26 CEST    Sastre is now on the road, hoping to do better than he ever has before.

16:27 CEST    Evans is up, out of the saddle.

16:28 CEST    Sastre is in a yellow and white bodysuit. But it is not the same yellow as the background of his number which is pinned on his back.

16:30 CEST    David Millar of Garmin-Chipotle is picking Cadel Evans to take the yellow jersey away from Carlos Sastre. Of course, he also hopes that his team-mate Christian Vande Velde will do well enough to move up on to the podium.

16:32 CEST    John Trevorrow talked to Chiara Evans, who said "I am so nervous. I just want to get to the finish of this day."

16:35 CEST    Duncan of Austin, Texas, writes, "My son is keenly following your TT coverage with me this morning, and would like to know, "Who is the Blimp Lady???" The Blimp Lady is the one writing this live report. She is riding in the Cyclingnews blimp and is female, therefore she is the Blimp Lady.

16:37 CEST    Checking out the fight for the White Jersey, we see that Kreuziger went through the first check at 22:22 an Andy Schleck at 22:57. He has a total of 1:58 to make up.

16:38 CEST    Vande Velde went through the first time check with the fourth fastest time, 28 seconds back.

16:40 CEST    Well, well, maybe Kreuziger has a chance. At the second time check he was 1:03 faster than Schleck!

16:41 CEST    Menchov is doing his best to move on to the podium. He set the third best time at the first time check, 21:52.

16:43 CEST    Here's a surprise: Kohl comes through the first checkpoint four seconds faster than Evans!

16:45 CEST    Kohl is in one of the wooded sections, going up a slight climb. That should be no problem for this year's King of the Mountains!

16:48 CEST    That was it for Fränk Schleck - he was 1:31 down at the first time check. Bernhard Kohl's podium place is suddenly looking more secure. Any chance of his taking Sastre? Will a climber win the Tour in a time trial?

16:48 CEST    Sastre is being followed by not only his team car but by a cast of thousands.

16:49 CEST    Sastre is 46 seconds down at the first time check.

16:52 CEST    If the race were to end right now, Sastre would win by 1:21 over Kohl, with Evans third, Frank Schleck fourth and Menchov fifth.

16:53 CEST    But as we know, the stage is not yet over.....

16:55 CEST    Valverde comes into the second checkpoint three minutes down, while Vande Velde gave the third best time.

16:56 CEST    Kreuziger passes under the 1 km to go marker. Will he be wearing white this evening?

16:57 CEST    Sorry, Vande Velde had the fourth best time at the time check, not the third. He was 57 seconds down.

16:57 CEST    Kreuziger crosses the line in 1:07:11. Now we just have to wait for Andy Schleck to come in.

16:59 CEST    Menchov was 1:08 down at the second time check.

16:59 CEST    Menchov's time was the sixth fastest.

17:01 CEST    Evans has made up about 20 seconds on Sastre so far.

17:02 CEST    He came through the second time check with the 7th best time, 1:30 behind Cancellara.

17:03 CEST    Andy Schleck will hold on to his white jersey. He crossed the finish line in 1:07:52, which is only 41 seconds slower than Kreuziger. That cuts into his lead, but he still has more than a minute.

17:05 CEST    Berni Kohl is slowing down slightly. He was eighth fastest over the second time check, and has now lost a few seconds on Evans.

17:06 CEST    "I knew that I had good legs today," Stefan Schumacher said. "I quickly found a good rhythm."

17:07 CEST    20 km to go for Sastre. It looks like he will keep the jersey!

17:08 CEST    Evans may well move up to overtake Kohl, but it seems now highly unlikely that he will capture first place overall. A bad day? Too much pressure?

17:10 CEST    Fränk Schleck is through the second time check, as 53rd. He is 3:49 behind the fastest time.

17:11 CEST    Sastre takes the second time check as 14th, with a time of 44:31.

17:14 CEST    Menchov powers his way on .

17:15 CEST    The Russian was sixth best at the third time check.

17:16 CEST    Vande Velde heads to the finish line, giving it everything he has.

17:17 CEST    The American finishes fourth on the day, at 1:04:55, which is 1:05 down on Schumacher.

17:18 CEST    Evans is 1'52 down at the last time check. How will that compare to Kohl and Sastre?

17:18 CEST    Kohl is now 12 seconds behind Evans on GC.

17:20 CEST    Menchov crosses the finish line as sixth on the day, at 1:05:45. Ten km to go for Sastre.

17:20 CEST    Vande Velde won over Pate by two seconds in the Giro, but today it was two minutes.

17:22 CEST    Kohl was two minutes down at at the last time check, over 1 minute behind Evans on GC. Evans has now gone under the last kilometer marker and he is giving all he has.

17:22 CEST    Evans grimaces as he tears along.

17:23 CEST    Evans crosses the line in 1:05:55, sixth best time on the day.

17:24 CEST    Sastre is about to overtake his teammate Fränk Schleck, who started three minutes ahead of him.

17:25 CEST    Kohl goes under the flamme rouge.

17:25 CEST    Sastre rolls by Fränk. Schleck.

17:26 CEST    No drafting now, Fränk, remember you have to stay 25 m back!

17:27 CEST    Third place overall for Berni Kohl of Team Gerolsteiner! He crosses the finish line in 1:06:11, which places him comfortably ahead of Denis Menchov.

17:27 CEST    Fränk, you should have listened to us! The race jury car just pulled up next to him and reminded him NOT to draft!

17:28 CEST    Sastre pulls away from his team-mate

17:29 CEST    Three kilometers to go for the two CSC riders. They are now keeping a respectable distance from each other.

17:30 CEST    Two kilometers to go, and then Sastre can celebrate.

17:31 CEST    Sastre had a 20 second deficit to Evans at the last check – not enough for the Australian.

17:32 CEST    Sastre moves into the last km. Now he is up out of the saddle and headed to the finish line.

17:33 CEST    The Spaniard takes the time to cross himself and wave his fist in the air before he crosses the finish line.

17:35 CEST    As always, the closing time trial brings a surprise. Who would have supposed that Sastre would have put in such a strong performance, and that Evans would apparently give in to his nerves? Our podium now looks like Sastre, Evans, and Kohl, with Menchov and Vande Velde making up the top five

17:36 CEST    Tomorrow is the final stage. Join us in the celebration of the last day, always a more relaxed day – at least until that final sprint on the Champs Élysées!

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