Spain?s Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) is set to seal victory in the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday after holding off rival Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) in Saturday’s 55.5km time trial.
Contador and Levi Leipheimer both showed that Discovery Channel are still a force to be reckoned with in the post-Lance Armstrong era. Contador defied his critics by restricting his losses to prevent second-placed Cadel Evans from snatching the yellow jersey.
Leipheimer looked at one point that he would take the race lead himself, and obliterated the field to win the stage. Discovery riders Yaroslav Popovych and George Hincapie also featured in the top ten, giving a good show to former leader Armstrong who was in attendance at the stage.
With a 35 second advantage over Evans going into the final stage to Paris on Sunday, barring any disasters – and who knows what is around the corner at this year’s Tour – Contador has all but secured the overall win. However, just eight seconds separate second-placed Evans and third-placed Leipheimer, a situation that could be reversed if Leipheimer picks up sprint time bonuses on the way to the Champs Elysees.
In 2004 suffered Contador collapsed while racing with a brain aneurysm but made a miraculous recovery, and is set to become the first Spaniard to win the Tour de France since Miguel Indurain in 1995.
?Two years ago I was afraid I?d never have a normal life again. Fortunately an operation saved me and meant I could make a comeback and win the Tour de France,? Contador said.
?For a moment during the time trial I was worried that I?d lost too much time to Evans and my legs were hurting but then the gap stayed the same and in the final kilometres I?d knew I?d done enough to keep the yellow jersey.?
Britain’s David Millar (Saunier Duval) had set out to make an impression on the stage, but his hopes were dashed when his rear feel fell apart shortly after he left the start gate. Millar threw his bike down in disgust, and although a replacement was quickly underneath him, his ride was ruined and he came in a disappointing 87th, just under eight minutes adrift of Leipheimer.
?Two of my disk wheels exploded in the opening five hundred metres. It was bizarre,? Millar said.
?I didn?t give up and went as hard as I could until the first time check, telling myself I?d keep going hard if I was within a minute. I was over that and so just shut it down to save something for the Champs Elysees.?
TOUR DE FRANCE 2007: STAGE 19 ITT RESULTS
1 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) in 1-02-44
2 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) at 0-51
3 Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne) at 1-56
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) at 2-01
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) at 2-18
6 Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) at 2-27
7 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) at 2-33
8 Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) at 2-36
9 Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) at 2-48
10 Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) at 2-50
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 19
1 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) in 87-09-18
2 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) at 23secs
3 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) at 31 secs
4 Carlos Sastre (CSC) at 7-08
5 Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) at 8-17
6 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) at 11-37
7 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) at 12-18
8 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) at 12-30
9 Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) at 14-14
10 Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) at 14-25