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Giro finale
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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 20 - Saturday, July 23: Saint-Etienne - Saint-Etienne ITT, 55 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Hedwig Kröner

Live report

Live coverage starts: 10:55 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 20 profile
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It could very well be
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
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10:51 CEST   
A big welcome to our loyal weekend audience for Cyclingnews' live coverage of the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, a difficult 55 km individual time trial starting and finishing in St. Etienne. It was on a similar parcours to this eight years ago that Jan Ullrich pummeled his rivals (the nearest of which was Richard Virenque) into the ground by winning the stage by over three minutes, and of course sealing his Tour victory in the process.

Today, we suspect things will be different as we witness the final ever mano-a-mano battle between the undisputed Tour king Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) and Ullrich, with a strong performance expected from Ivan Basso (CSC) as well. It will be better than any Celebrity Deathmatch you have seen yet. Lance will be super motivated to win this final test against the clock, and he has only been beaten in the Tour's final time trial once (in 2003) since he started winning the race in 1999. Surprisingly, Armstrong hasn't won a race this year, even though he will almost certainly take yellow home in Paris. But he probably won't want to join the five-member club (LeMond, Walkowiak, Lambot, Aimar, Nencini) of Tour winners who won without winning a stage.

Equally, Ullrich will be gunning for a stage victory and the last chance to beat his main rival over the last seven years. Ullrich will be further motivated by the chance to topple Michael Rasmussen from the podium. Rasmussen is in third place, 2'12 in front of Ullrich at the moment, and if his past record in TTs is anything to go by, he will be hard pressed to hold off Der Jan.

And then there is Ivan Basso, who has ridden a great Tour so far, especially after his Giro fell apart, and has improved his time trialling significantly over the last year. Basso's second place on the podium seems secure, unless he has an absolute shockah and Ullrich (at 3'12) or Rasmussen (at 1'00) gets past him. That is unlikely.

We can also expect the top 20 GC riders to go all out in defending or improving their positions. Look for good rides from Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Alexandre Vinokourov, George Hincapie. Francisco Mancebo's fifth spot on GC is definitely threatened by Leipheimer, who is only 1'04 behind the Spanish climber.

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. Rafael Nuritdinov (Domina Vacanze) is just about to set off.

The first rider to watch for a good time will probably be Marc Wauters (Rabobank), who finished 19th in the opening TT in Noirmoutier.

11:19 CEST   
Wauters is now leaving the start house, chasing former Finnish champ Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi). Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Michael Albasini (Liquigas-Bianchi), Jose Vicente García Acosta (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), and Rafael Nuritdinov (Domina Vacanze) are also on the parcours.

11:27 CEST   
Mauro Facci (Fassa Bortolo) sets off two minutes behind Wauters, followed by two FDJ sprinters, Baden Cooke and the chess playing Bernhard Eisel, who are split by Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon-Lotto).

11:35 CEST   
Not surprisingly, Servais Knaven, a past national champion in the TT, has come through the 17 km check in first position. He clocked 28'57 for the distance, which shows you how hard the first part of the course is. It's mostly uphill.

Wim Vansevenant is next at 52 seconds, followed by lanterne rouge Iker Flores at 1'23 and Janek Tombak at 1'57.

11:44 CEST   
Knaven still holds the quickest time at km 17 as more riders come through the first check. The Dutchman hasn't reached the second check at km 35 yet.

11:55 CEST   
Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), who left the start gate at 11:41, told Cyclingnews that he doesn't know the parcours today, and is just going off the profile on paper.

11:57 CEST   
Knaven's mark at km 17 has been superseded [note to self: there is no c in superseded] by Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi), who clocks 28'52 at that point, five seconds quicker than Servais.

12:13 CEST   
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue Curtain, has filed his pre-stage 20 reportage:

"As to be expected, the crowds are already thick around the Discovery Channel bus. Noval and Padrnos are on their trainers warming up. Assistant DS Sean Yates tells us that Lance has pre-ridden the course in training days prior, and that he and Popovych drove the course this morning as well. As is the usual DC drill, all the riders and follow cars will immediately file reports after their ride to Johan and Lance as they look to his ride at 4:22 local time."

12:17 CEST   
The green jersey of Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) has just left the starting house, and will be looking to take it easy today we think. He'll want to keep all his reserves for tomorrow's expected sprint on the Champs Elysées, as he only has a 15 point lead over Stuart O'Grady, and a more comfortable 21 points over Robbie McEwen.

12:27 CEST   
We just spoke with Rabobank's Erik Dekker, who was chillin' in his chair while waiting for his start at 12:25. Another Dutch TT champ, Dekker told us, "I'm fine, I'm fine."

Do you wish the Tour was two weeks longer, like us? "Yeah, yeah!

After the Tour, Dekker said he was going on holidays. Where? "I don't know, the Tour of Benelux." Is that a holiday? "Yes, something like it."

12:34 CEST   
18 blood tests were carried out on the best placed riders on GC from the following teams: Discovery, Rabobank, CSC, Gerolsteiner, Illes Balears, Credit Agricole, Phonak, and T-Mobile. The controls were carried out between 7:40am and 9:15am this morning. No riders were declared unfit to start.

12:52 CEST   
Yesterday's unlucky rider (unlucky in that he missed the winning break) Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Caffita) is now on the start ramp, ready for his 55 km of moderate suffering.

Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
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12:59 CEST   
We have an update at the finish, as Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi) comes through in 1.19.12. He has the top time so far, with Michael Albasini (Liquigas-Bianchi) at 1.12, Servais Knaven (Quick.Step) at 1.13, Wim Vansevenant (Davitamon-Lotto) at 1.56, and Rafael Nuritdinov (Domina Vacanze) at 2.10.

But out on the course, Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) has gone under the hour for the 49 km check, better than Johan Vansummeren, who has also done a good ride to that point.

13:10 CEST   
Speaking of Cancellara, we can report that he will ride for CSC for the next three years. See our latest news for the story.

13:15 CEST   
Cyclingnews' paparazzo Anthony Tan was lurking at the start with his camera, and has filed some pics. Click here to view the photo gallery.

13:17 CEST   
Discovery Channel sports manager Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney this morning, "I expect Lance to do a good time trial today. It's a good course for him...we came to preview it and he did it twice in training and he's looked at it twice in the car. So we know the course and Lance is motivated to win. He's definitely motivated for one more Tour stage win before his career is over.
But he will balance that off by staying out of trouble, by riding safely. He has to not go crazy in the corners.

"On the other hand, Ullrich has to go all out to take back as much time as he can from Rasmussen to get on the podium. I think that Lance and Ullrich are more or less on the same level as time trialists, but the motivation to get on the podium could make the difference (for Ullrich)."

13:24 CEST   
And Cancellara has finished in a great time of 1'15'19, which smashes Carlstrom's mark by over three minutes. The Swiss rider is in the hot seat now, and might stay there for some time.

13:26 CEST   
The top four so far:

1 Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) 1.15.49
2 Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) 0.34
3 Johan Van Summeren (Davitamon-Lotto) 2.05
4 Marcus Ljungqvist (Liquigas-Bianchi) 2.54

13:30 CEST   
Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues) has moved into third at the finish, 1'49 behind Cancellara.

13:41 CEST   
We're following Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann at the moment. It's really tough to find a rhythm on this course. It's clear that this parcours is a very tough one - windy and twisty. There are some sections of good tarmac, but others that are not.

13:42 CEST   
So it looks like Luke Roberts is doing a pretty good ride out there today. The Team CSC rider went through the first time check second behind Cancellara, but is ahead of him at the km 35 and km 42 points. We're waiting to see how he fares at the next time check at the km 49.7 point.

The former trackie is showing good speed at the end of his first Tour.

13:45 CEST   
Phonak's Oscar Pereiro has been voted most combative rider of this year's Tour. He was up the road again yesterday and moved to tenth overall. He and Christophe Moreau will slug it out today for that position, so it will be interesting to see if yesterday's exertions will stunt his speed today

13:49 CEST   
Roberts' next time check is in and he is still ahead of Cancellara. There's an interesting profile here; the Aussie was fractionally ahead of the Swiss rider at the 35 km point, but pulled out his advantage to 0'20 5.2 km later. The most recent time check has just 0'04 between them so it could be close at the finish for the provisional best time...

Both will ride for CSC next season, as the team has confirmed Cancellara's signature.

13:53 CEST   
He does it... There is 0'15 seconds between them at the end. So it is currently Roberts first, ahead of Cancellara and Bodrogi.

Spanish champion Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval) has left the starthouse. He won't be able to wear his colours today, though, as this is a TT

13:56 CEST   
That's a nice ride by Roberts on a very untrack like course! Today is by no means flat..

14:03 CEST   
Swedish rider Thomas Lövkvist is now underway... The FDJ rider is seen as one of the most promising talents on the circuit. Completing the Tour (well, barring misfortune tomorrow) at 21 years of age also marks him out as pretty damn hard. Lance Armstrong pulled out halfway through his first Tour, also at 21. Then again, he won a stage (and went on to take the worlds that year).

14:09 CEST   
The average speed of Roberts' time is just 43.68 km/h, which gives an idea of how tough this course is. Fellow Aussie Bradley McGee finished sixth. He came into the Tour hoping for big things, but had a bad crash which messed things up somewhat.

Another talented young rider Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick.Step) has just left the start house. He won the 2004 Tour of Germany and is going to T-Mobile next year (much to his current team manager's disgust).

14:09 CEST   
Chris Brewer reports from the Discovery camp: "Lance Armstrong just walked into the Discovery Channel team area. The crowd is simply huge but very respectful and the American presence is significant. Lance's entire family is present and the mood behind the ropes is very positive indeed."

14:11 CEST   
The top five so far:

1 Luke Roberts (Team CSC) 1.15.33
2 Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) 0.16
3 Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) 0.50
4 Bert Grabsch (Phonak) 1.08
5 Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues) 2.05

14:14 CEST   
Now Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is off. He was riding strongly yesterday but finished back in ninth. Part of the problem was that the chasing group he was in was messing around all day, rather than working together. Chavanel and Commesso were pretty strong but just couldn't shake off the other riders/the hangers-on.

14:21 CEST   
At 14:23 Santiago Botero (Phonak) gets his race against the clock underway. It will be interesting to see how he does. He's a former world TT champ who beat Lance Armstrong to win the first long time trial in the 2002 Tour de France. He's had a patchy Tour, riding high early on but then starting a freefall down the general classification to 51st overall, over 1 hour and 41 minutes behind Lance Armstrong. Botero is totally unpredictable, blowing hot and cold. He could do well today. Then again, he might not.

14:23 CEST   
Chavanel is out on the course, pedaling smoothly. He's in his French TT champ's kit and it looks pretty good.

Botero's in the start house now, not looking very focussed.

14:26 CEST   
We have some more reports from out on the parcours, where Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner has been following Fabian Wegmann in the Gerolsteiner team car. Overall, the roads are very narrow and twisty: two cars can barely pass each other, and there's no section where you can get rolling.

The first descent after 25 km is quite technical, but the second one after the 40 km mark is somewhat easier. The last kilometre before the Cat. 3 climb is packed with people, only parting for the rider. It's like a mountain stage here.

14:28 CEST   
Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) sets the new best time at the 17 km point. He goes through in 27'25, which shows just how hard this opening section is.

Iban Mayo is out on the course. He's had a very disappointing Tour, and a pretty poor year. It's one thing to be in rip-roaring form before the Tour, win loads of races and then flop (as he did last year). But when you prepare specifically for the race and then ride anonymously...oooops!

He was reportedly two or three kilos heavier than last year coming into the race, which suggests his preparation wasn't very good.

14:30 CEST   
Wow...Botero got it all wrong on that corner, pulling a nice skid and then going straight when he should have gone right. He narrowly missed clattering a few photographers and spectators. He's underway again but lost a bit of time there (while gaining a few grey hairs)

14:38 CEST   
Menchov (Rabobank) comes home to finish provisional 13th. French road race champion Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom) is in the first couple of kilometres of his test.

Botero is climbing. Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) is starting now. Like Mayo, he's had a shocker this year. He's said he won't ride the Tour again, with the 2005 Giro a likely target. Before then he'll try to win his fourth Tour of Spain. Team-mate Joseba Beloki has said that he'll also ride the race in order to assist Heras. Beloki, second in the 2002 Tour and third in 2000 and 2001, did 13 stages of the Giro this year, then the Tour. He's trying to get back to something like his old form.

Steinhauser finishes sixth. His job is to post reference points for Ullrich, who, incidentally, is dating Steinhauser's sister.

There's a familiar face - it's Eddy Merckx!
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

14:38 CEST   
Chris Brewer reports that to add to the controlled pandemonium at the Discovery team bus, Eddy Merckx and US Senator John Kerry are in the area. It's a journo's dream day...

14:40 CEST   
Karpets (Illes Balears) is out on the course. He was best young rider in last year's Tour but came into this year's race very fatigued after doing the Giro. Unlike Ivan Basso, it didn't work out so well for him and he had nothing left in the tank. Cue corny phrases such as 'Karpets bombs' (groan)

14:41 CEST   
World TT champion Michael Rogers is in the start house now. He's another who hasn't shone in this year's Tour, but a good TT ride would soften the blow a little.

14:45 CEST   
Wegmann finishes his ride in 1.18.00, which puts him in 15th. A fairly solid performance from the young Gerolsteiner lad.

14:48 CEST   
Ukrainian TT champ Andrei Grivko (Domina Vacanze) comes in for fifth place, doing a 1:16:49 for the distance.

Botero's just been caught and passed by Karpets, so we guess he didn't have his TT head on today.

Mick Rogers look faster, though. He comes to Botero's corner but the worried-looking photogs have nothing to fear.

Merckx rolls down the start ramp.

14:51 CEST   
We've just spotted a group of true jersey cows, clad out in the colours of the different maillots of the Tour. It's probably the biggest mountains jersey ever seen on the race.

Beloki finishes in a respectable time of 1:18:55. He crosses himself three times, quickly, looking like an obsessive-compulsive worshipper as he wheels across the line.

14:55 CEST   
Lang's still doing well, passing the Col de Gachet check (40 km) some 1.4 seconds faster than Roberts.

However, Karpets has gone quickest at the first time check, some 0'27 quicker than Lang.

O'Grady finishes for a time of 1:20:30. He won't add any points to his total today but tomorrow will be all-out.

Rogers has a little aerial coming out the back of his TT helmet, keeping him in touch with his team car. Either that or Quick.Step wheeled out the remote control replica for today's race.

14:59 CEST   
Vasseur is heading up the first climb, with a throng of crowds urging him on. Meanwhile, Chris Horner gets underway.

Lövkvist goes through the first check in 1:00:17, fifth best at this stage.

To recap, the finishing order thus far looks like this:

1 Luke Roberts (Team CSC) 1.15.33
2 Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) 0.16
3 Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) 0.50
4 Bert Grabsch (Phonak) 1.08
5 Andrei Grivko (Domina Vacanze) 1.16
6 Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) 1.26
7 Tobias Steinhauser (T-Mobile Team) 1.53
8 Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues) 2.05
9 Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel) 2.06
10 Bradley McGee (Française Des Jeux)

15:05 CEST   
Lance Armstrong is in the warm up area, looking very relaxed as he plays with his son Luke. Sheryl is also there. He's not due to get his last-ever Tour time trial underway until 16:22 CEST.

Garzelli's now starting, complete with custom-painted TT helmet.

Both of Armstrong's daughters is also there (Grace and Isabella, for those who are curious). He's got the ipod earphones ready and is now up on the rollers, so the warmup is underway. He said he's motivated to ride well in front of his kids today. Taking a first stage win of this year's Tour will also be a big carrot.

Lang is 0'04 up on Roberts at kilometre 49.7.

15:07 CEST   
Rogers is still looking fast and focussed, so it will be interesting to see his first split.

Sandy Casar (FDJ) is 'in da house' now (start house). He was disappointed with second place yesterday behind Guerini as he felt that he was the fastest finisher there in the four man group.

15:08 CEST   
Garate finishes in 17th, 1:18:40. And now here comes Lang, pushing it all the way. New best time! 1:15:12, 21 seconds quicker.. Nice.

15:14 CEST   
Chavanel goes through the first check, getting a load of encouragement from the crowd. He's back in 28th or 29th, though.

Rogers was third at the 17 km point, 0'29 back from Karpets.

Georg Totschnig, the stage 15 winner, rolls down the start ramp to get his afternoon of pain underway.

Cioni goes up the climb...third in 59:25 at km 40. The crowds are really impressive here, giving the riders a boost as they toil up the slopes.

15:15 CEST   
Cyclingnews Anthony Tan caught up with CSC's Luke Roberts minutes after he set the fastest time of 59 minutes and 23 seconds, his time 21 seconds faster than Fassa Bortolo rider Fabian Cancellara, who will joining him at CSC next season.

The 28 year-old hadn't ridden the course until today, but judging by his time, you wouldn't have known it. "Bjarne [Riis] drove 'round it last night and took some notes; I had a radio in and was going on what he was telling me," Roberts said. "I just had to trust him on a few of the corners - some of them he said you can take it full gas, and I was thinking, 'You reckon?!'

"I knew I had pretty good legs at the start of the race, so I wanted to go hard today, I didn't want to roll around. Tomorrow's the last day, so no point going home tomorrow night with anything left in the tank," he said.

Roberts' objective was to give his manager Bjarne Riis some time splits for team leader Ivan Basso, other than those provided by the race organisation, but the Australian added he wasn't under a great deal of pressure today. "I could've taken it easy if I wanted to; I joked to Bjarne I wanted to finish in the top 100 on GC," he said with a grin. "I was 106th at the start of the day, so I needed to take six minutes out of some guys to make it."

Quizzed on the difficulty of the parcours, Roberts said that climbs weren't overly difficult, but mentioned was important to maintain a steady tempo in order to really go for it on the other parts of the course. So does he think it's a course that will see Der Jan on der podium?

"Yeah, for sure," he said without hesitation. "The course does get pretty tough, and on some of the earlier parts, it feels like you're going up the whole time. So someone who's got good legs can go a lot quicker than someone who might struggle on it."

15:15 CEST   
Savoldelli has just got underway. He's a great descender so his start ramp split will doubtlessly be the best of the day ; )

15:18 CEST   
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) departs after Il Falco, and gets it wound up quickly.

Savoldelli thought about taking an alternative route, a la Botero, but managed to correct it and gets around a roundabout without losing too much speed.

15:20 CEST   
Carlos Sastre (CSC) is next to set off, as Savoldelli takes another corner and starts the first climb. This course is incredibly technical, and it's no surprise that the top average speed so far is about 44 km/h.

15:24 CEST   
Yesterday's winner Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) sets off next, and although he's not the most elegant rider to watch, he has a bit of power in those legs.

Karpets has done a great ride on the Gachet, and crosses the summit in 59'02, 20 seconds better than Lang.

Savoldelli is not riding with a disk wheel, even though most riders are. He's using a normal deep dish carbon wheel on the rear.

15:31 CEST   
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) finishes his ride in 1.21.30, 6 minutes off the pace of Lang.

Bobby Julich is now on his way, sporting a camelbak tucked under his skinsuit.

15:35 CEST   
Karpets keeps his advantage over Lang at km 49.7, still 21 seconds better. He's on track to the new best time, although Lang did ride very well in the finale.

15:38 CEST   
Jörg Jaksche (Liberty) starts his ride as his teammate Roberto Heras crosses the summit of the Col de la Gachet in 1.01.48, for 29th place.

George Hincapie (Discovery) has left, also not riding a rear disk.

15:41 CEST   
Karpets is flying today! He comes into the finish in Saint-Etienne with a great time of 1.14.51 (44.09 km/h) for first. That should give him a good spot at the end of the stage.

Julich is tackling the first climb, riding with his ovalised chainrings and a focused look on his face.

15:42 CEST   
Rogers is at the summit of the climb in 1.00.34 (10th). Not a world beating performance, but not as bad as his first stage ride.

15:44 CEST   
Santi Botero finishes his ride in 1.20.04, not looking too stressed about it.

Hincapie remains on the bars as he rides up the climb.

15:47 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) is next off, and powers down the starting ramp and gets up to top speed.

15:48 CEST   
Hincapie gets out of the saddle at last as the climb steepens, but only for 15 seconds. He looks very focused.

Axel Merckx is riding OK, crossing the summit of the Gachet in 1.01.13 (23rd).

15:49 CEST   
Fedrigo, the French road champion, comes across the line in 1.17.33 for 13th, not a bad ride at all.

15:54 CEST   
Popo is into his stride, riding up the first climb rock solid. Meanwhile, Christophe Moreau has started, trying to regain his 10th place from Oscar Pereiro, who overtook him yesterday.

Heras finishes his ride in 1.18.57 for 34th.

15:58 CEST   
Chris Horner catches Pietro Caucchioli on the Col de la Gachet, and crosses the summit in 1.00.04 for 6th. Nice riding by the American.

Jaksche is further down the climb, really driving it hard.

Rogers finishes in a time of 1.17.23, just out of the top 10.

16:00 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro has started, followed at three minutes by Floyd Landis, his Phonak teammate. Floyd is currently in ninth place, but will be aiming for

Julich is the new best time at 17 km, with 26'21! Second is Carlos Sastre in 26'43.

Top five at the finish:

1 Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) 1.14.51
2 Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) 0.21
3 Luke Roberts (Team CSC) 0.42
4 Dario Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi) 0.46
5 Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) 0.58

16:04 CEST   
Alexandre Vinokourov, in his normal T-Mobile jersey, not his blue/yellow Kazakhstan national champion's colours. That's because he is not his country's TT champion. Vino has a special relationship with St Etienne, as it's here he started his cycling career. He also lost his friend and compatriot Andrei Kivilev to a crash in St Etienne in the 2003 edition of Paris-Nice.

Marcos Serrano finishes in a very good time of 1.16.44 for 9th place.

Cadel Evans is ready to roll. He'll have to do a good ride to defend his seventh place.

16:04 CEST   
Axel Merckx finishes his ride in 1.17.39 for 17th. Good ride by the Belgian.

16:05 CEST   
Hincapie is second fastest at km 17 in 26'41, behind Julich.

Landis is motoring up the climb.

16:08 CEST   
The top five at km 17:

1 Bobby Julich (Team CSC) 26.21
2 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) 0.20
3 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) 0.22
4 Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) 0.37
5 Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) 1.04

16:08 CEST   
Landis also maintains his aero position on the first climb, pedaling a largish gear very smoothly.

16:10 CEST   
Paco Mancebo, removes a dangly bit from his visor and gets ready to start. Jan Ullrich stands behind him, imposingly.

16:10 CEST   
Mancebo starts off slowly - his 5th place is in danger today from Leipheimer, who has set off already.

16:12 CEST   
Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery) finishes in 1.17.10 for 13th.

16:13 CEST   

16:14 CEST   
Chris Horner (Saunier Duval) finishes his ride in 1.16.31 for eighth, looking very good.

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
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16:16 CEST   
Jan Ullrich is now underway, looking powerful as he heads out of St. Etienne. He knows that a good ride today will lift him to third overall, and an absolutely spectacular one into second. But it's unlikely that Basso will lose enough time for that to happen.

Ullrich's big GC rival today, Michael Rasmussen, is ready to go. He's even got polka-dot socks on. No shoe covers, though.

16:18 CEST   
Ullrich is romping along, looking real fast. His ribs are visible through his skinsuit...if only he could be in this shape earlier, he'd certainly have a better chance in the Tour.

Sastre and Karpets are equal on time at kilometre 35.

The CSC rider is coming up to the 42 km checkpoint, and goes through in 58:35, some 26 seconds quicker than Karpets. That's good....

Basso's ready now for his effort. He's looking focussed as he waits for the beeps.

16:19 CEST   
And he's off

Rasmussen has crashed! He went down on the roundabout where Savoldelli nearly copped it.

16:22 CEST   
He's up and rolling again, but he'll have lost important time. The right leg of his shorts is torn and dirty now. He seems to be going pretty good on this uphill section, though.

Armstrong's ready to go, on his Trek TT machine complete with iconography (see Lenny Futura interview for details).

He rolls down the start ramp to a big cheer. He's quickly up to speed for his second-last day of competitive racing.

16:26 CEST   
Guerini's going ok...9th at the 40 km point.

Armstrong looks real fast at this stage.

Rasmussen's crash looked like a replay of Ullrich's fall in the final TT of 2003, although the roads are obviously dry today.

The German has already taken 0'47 seconds out of Rasmussen...some of this will be down to the fall, though.

Landis goes second behind Julich at the 17 km check.

16:28 CEST   
Ullrich is now just 1'23 behind Rasmussen in the overall classification. Brochard finishes for a provisional 25th place.

Rasmussen doesn't look very comfortable. Meanwhile, Pereiro and Moreau, separated by 0'36 overall, were on the same time at the first check.

Armstrong is flying up this early climb...certainly looks the quickest so far.

16:30 CEST   
Vinokourov 0'12 quicker than Julich at 17km!

The CSC rider goes through the 40 km point fastest, about 0'35 quicker than Sastre.

16:33 CEST   
Armstrong's out of the saddle, spinning a smallish gear as he fights for the seconds. He's not using a rear disk either.

Ullrich now just 1'08 behind Rasmussen, having taken over a minute out of him before the first check.

Cadel Evans is going well...! He's posted a time 0'10 slower than Vino, so he's second at the 17km point.

Hincapie comes through the 40 km check 0'38 slower than Julich.

16:33 CEST   
Ullrich looks powerful as he chews up these roads...0'58 behind Rasmussen in the GC. Looking good...

16:38 CEST   
Sastre finishes for provisional second. He was 5 seconds slower than Karpets.

Rasmussen's on the first climb now...great crowds. Ullrich is getting close to the 17 km checkpoint so we'll keep you updated.

Sastre must have lost 0'34 seconds in the last 5km of his ride! He was 29 up on Karpets at the last time check, but went behind in the short distance from there to the line. No idea if he had a bike problem, or if the legs went.

Evans started the day 22 ahead of Vino...this has been halved now, so even though he seems to be doing a good ride, the T-Mobile rider is going better..

16:42 CEST   
Ullrich is noticeably quicker than Rasmussen. He's powering along and, theoretically, could put 5 minutes into the Dane if he keeps this up.

Ullrich is 12 seconds quicker than team-mate Vino at the first checkpoint! So he leads, although Basso and Armstrong have yet to go through.

Armstrong was pulling at the back of his shorts, not sure what that was about.

Ullrich only needs another 0'27 seconds and he passes Rasmussen for that GC podium place..

16:45 CEST   
Julich comes in...great ride, new best time of 1:13:19! That's 1'32 faster than the previous leading time by Karpets.

Ullrich now only 0'11 behind Rasmussen overall!

16:47 CEST   
Rasmussen was 40th at the first check...not bad, considering his fall.

Basso quicker than Ullrich! He was 0'17 seconds up at the 17 km point...amazing...

16:51 CEST   
Ullrich is now just 0'05 behind Rasmussen overall...

Hincapie finishes...second best time, 0'52 behind Julich.

Now Rasmussen is 0'01 BEHIND Ullrich...that podium placing is gone, unless something drastic happens.

Armstrong is coming up to the first check.

Disaster for Rasmussen! He had to stop and adjust his wheel...puncture. He changed bikes and now has to stop again as there was a problem with the rear wheel. Very sloppy by the team...inexcusable. Now he's got another problem with the bike and is gesturing for his team car.

16:53 CEST   
Julich just gave a post TT interview. He said his goal was to finish in the top five, "hopefully within two or three minutes of Lance".

Basso quicker than Armstrong! 0'07 seconds at that first check...wow...

Evans has lost 15 seconds to Vino..so he's only got 0'07 of his overall advantage left now.

16:57 CEST   
Pereiro is holding his gap on Moreau..he was fractionally quicker than the Frenchman at the 40km point.

It will be interesting to see how Basso fares for the rest of this test. Can he deny Armstrong a stage win? Or will the Texan build up speed as this TT continues?

Armstrong is again pulling at the back of his shorts.

Rasmussen has changed bikes (again!!!!!). This is actually his fourth bike change, he's back on the original one now.

17:03 CEST   
Landis went through km 40 second, 0'32 slower than Julich.

Ullrich is on that technical descent...no problems there.

Vino posts new best time at 40 km...57:33, 0'17.95 quicker than Julich. Looking good for 7th overall.

Rasmussen has crashed on the descent! This is unbelievable..poor guy... He's back up and riding, but he's lost a chunk of time. Could he actually slip to fifth today?

The GC as of this morning was:

General classification after stage 19

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 81.22.19 (41.664 km/h)
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 3.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 7.08
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 8.12
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 9.49
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 10.11
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 10.42
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 12.39

17:08 CEST   
Ullrich is 0'41 quicker than Julich at 35km. Evans was fifth, 0'15 back from Vinokourov.

Basso's heading down another tricky descent, taking it gingerly. This is a very technical course. Just hope everyone else can get through it without crashing.

Rasmussen has had two crashes, one puncture and three bike changes. Ouch.

Ullrich is on the final climb, having got through the technical bit okay.

Moreau finishes, a pretty good time. He's 6th, 1'38 off Julich's time.

Basso is slower than Ullrich at the 35 km point! He's now 0'34 down...

17:09 CEST   
Rasmussen nearly copped it at another corner. It's a day of horrors for the Dane.

Ullrich made up 0'51 on Basso over 18 km! That was mostly descending. Ullrich would be known as being great on the downhills.

The crowds are really thick on this climb.

Armstrong is now 0'19 quicker than Ullrich! Will he get his stage win?

17:11 CEST   
Ullrich goes through the 40km point with the best time, 0'38 better than Vino. Armstrong's yet to arrive there.

Pereiro finishes and holds onto his tenth place... Moreau beat him in the TT but not by enough.

17:12 CEST   
Moreau's team made a mess of it yesterday, waiting too long to chase and so losing that top ten slot overall.

Landis finishes...second to Julich, 0'29 down.

17:13 CEST   
Armstrong is about to catch Rasmussen for 6 minutes...

17:15 CEST   
Armstrong goes by him now. Rasmussen tries to up his speed but can't stay in touch.

Vinokourov takes the new best, 1:13:02.. 0'17 faster that Julich. So will he move past Evans overall? Looks likely...

17:16 CEST   
The top five at the finish now:

1 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team) 1.13.02
2 Bobby Julich (Team CSC) 0.17
3 Floyd Landis (Phonak) 0.46
4 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) 1.09
5 Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) 1.49

17:19 CEST   
Vinokourov said he was thinking about Andrei Kivilev today, his friend who died near here over two years ago during the Paris-Nice race.

Basso started too fast all right...he goes through the 40km checkpoint 0'46 slower than Ullrich, provisionally third. His second place overall should be fine if he stays out of trouble. He's taking it pretty handy on the descents just to make sure.

Evans finishes... 1:13:52, 0'49 behind Vinokourov. Not a bad ride, but he will slip a place overall.

Armstrong is 0'32 quicker than Ullrich at the 40km point. So he's quickest thus far..

Rasmussen went through the checkpoint 6'26 down on Armstrong, in 84th place.

17:24 CEST   
Armstrong is flying along....looking very fast.

Leipheimer looks unlikely to take fifth, unless he beats Rasmussen by the required time. Mancebo has done enough to leapfrog the Dane in the GC.

Levi finishes 10th. We'll keep you informed as to his time vs that of Rasmussen.

Evans had this to say at the finish: "It is a good start to a Tour career. I am really happy with how it has gone. I am happy with my time, it's pretty good."

17:26 CEST   
Here come's Ullrich...new best time, 1:12:09, 0'53 seconds quicker than Vinokourov.

Mancebo beat Leipheimer in the TT...that's unexpected, given their history against the clock. Leipheimer was saying he felt very tired in this third week.

17:29 CEST   
At the 40 km checkpoint, Leipheimer was 4 minutes quicker than Rasmussen. He started 4'26 behind him this morning, so it is very possible that he will overtake the Dane on GC. That would mean the GC would be something like this (presuming that

1, Armstrong
2, Basso
3, Ullrich
4, Mancebo
5, Leipheimer
6, Rasmussen

But Evans and Vinokourov might also overtake Rasmussen...we'll keep you posted

17:32 CEST   
Armstrong was 0'35 ahead of Ullrich at the 49.7 km timecheck..so it is looking good for a stage win. Basso was down in 5th, 1'50 back. He'll hold onto second, as expected.

Armstrong is pumping it as he heads towards the finish. Basso's under the kite now, sprinting as he searches for extra seconds. Or, rather, less seconds...if you know what I mean.

17:33 CEST   
Basso finishes... 1:13:40, 1'31 behind Ullrich. Not bad at all.

17:34 CEST   
And now Armstrong comes in, taking his first win of the year!

1:11:46, 0'23 second faster than Ullrich. So the German rode a good finale, taking back 0'12.

17:36 CEST   
So Armstrong wins the time trial and, in all likelihood, the Tour. He's surrounded by bodyguards as he moves through the crowd, then greets his children.

Rasmussen finishes now, looking a sad sight.

He's 76th, 7'47 behind Armstrong. His time for the stage was 1:19:33, so bear with us while we work things out.

17:39 CEST   
Good ride by Ullrich, who really limited his losses. He can be proud of that performance.

All credit to Armstrong, though, who is going out in style on the roads of France. He's just got tomorrow's stage to get through, then it's all over.

17:42 CEST   
Rasmussen drops to 7th on GC! You have to feel for him, he had a shocker of a day and deserved a bit more luck. The provisional GC is as follows:

1, Armstrong
2, Basso
3, Ullrich
4, Mancebo
5, Leipheimer
6, Vinokourov
7, Rasmussen
8, Evans

We'll work all the times out asap.

17:43 CEST   
Leipheimer will be happy with that, he had targeted a top five place overall.

17:50 CEST   
GC times are now posted below, scroll down for those.

So that completes our live coverage for the penultimate stage of this year's Tour de France. Thanks for reading and hope we kept you both informed and entertained! Come back tomorrow for details of the 21st stage of the 2005 Tour.

Intermediate timing

km 17 (all riders through)
1 Ivan Basso (Team CSC)                     25.41
2 Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel)        0.07
3 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team)                0.17
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team)       0.29
5 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)              0.39
6 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)                    0.40
7 Floyd Landis (Phonak)                      0.46
8 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)        1.00
9 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)                   1.02
10 Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)         1.09
km 35 (all riders through)
1 Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel)       46.38
2 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team)                0.19
3 Ivan Basso (Team CSC)                      0.53
4 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)                    0.59
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team)       1.00
6 Floyd Landis (Phonak)                      1.05
7 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)              1.14
8 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)        1.27
9 Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)          1.41
10 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)                  1.45
km 40.2 (all riders through)
1 Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel)      56.23
2 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team)               0.32
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team)      1.10
4 Ivan Basso (Team CSC)                     1.18
5 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)                   1.27
6 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)             1.33
7 Floyd Landis (Phonak)                     2.01
8 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)       2.06
9 Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)         2.10
10 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)                 2.12
km 49.7 (all riders through)
1 Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel)    1.05.52
2 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team)               0.35
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team)      1.21
4 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)                   1.37
5 Ivan Basso (Team CSC)                     1.50
6 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)             2.00
7 Floyd Landis (Phonak)                     2.09
8 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)       2.25
9 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)                  2.30
10 Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)        2.42
Finish - km 55
1 Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel)    1.11.46
2 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile Team)               0.23
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team)      1.16
4 Bobby Julich (Team CSC)                   1.33
5 Ivan Basso (Team CSC)                     1.54
6 Floyd Landis (Phonak)                     2.02
7 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)             2.06
8 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)       2.25
9 Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears)         2.51
10 Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears)         3.05

General classification after stage 20

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery       82.34.05
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                 4.42
3 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team           6.21
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears     9.59   
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner       11.25
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile      11.27
7 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank         11.33
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto        11.55
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                12.44
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak          16.04


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