Cadel Evans (BMC) decimated Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) in the final time trial of the 2011 Tour de France in Grenoble today, virtually winning himself the race title with a storming performance that almost landed him the stage win too.
Evans finished 2-31 ahead of Andy Schleck, giving himself a 1-34 lead over the Luxembourgean in the GC classification.
He was only seven seconds behind stage winner Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), and Evans needs only reach the finish in Paris tomorrow to make himself the first ever Australian to win the Tour de France.
He was emotional as he stood on the podium, and it now looks, disasters aside, that he will finally take the prize that has eluded him on so many occasions before.
Tony Martin takes the stage
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) took the stage with a time of 53-33, which only Evans came close to.
Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), who was expected to be challenging for the stage win along with Martin, finished eighth, 1-42 down on Martin. He went of earlier than Martin, when conditions on the road were a little damper, which may have hampered his performance. His slower-than-expected time may also be due to the work he did in the Alps in aid of the Schlecks.
The frailty of Cancellara's time became clear when Richie Porte (Saxo-Bank Sungard) and then a surprise performance from Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) dislodged him at the top of the leader-board.
As it was, Tony Martin blew the rest of the field out of the water as he went 1-29 faster than De Gendt. Only Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) of the riders outside the GC top ten could have threatened Martin's dominance. He ended up 2-10 down on Martin, but looked strong at the first time check and lost time after a problem with his tri-bars caused him to change his bike soon after.
Contador was close at the early time checks, and rode strongly, but Martin looked untouchable until Evans took to the road.
The Australian's performance was worthy of a Tour winner, underlining the strength that he has shown throughout the Tour and showing that he is indeed the strongest of the GC contenders this year.
He was only a few seconds down on Martin for most of the course, possibly spurred on by his dreams of yellow, and Martin admitted afterwards to being nervous as he watched Evans on the TV screens at the finish.
Indeed, the advantage that Evans takes to Paris is largely a reflection of the strength he showed over the 42.5km course rather than an unexpectadly poor performance from Andy Schleck.
Schleck never looked particularly comfortable and haemorrhaged time to Evans throughout, but his time was only about one and a half minutes slower than the likes of Contador, and he came in in 17th position.
Rolland keeps white as Voeckler holds off strong Contador
Pierre Rolland (Europcar) held onto the white jersey, losing time on Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), but finishing 46 seconds ahead of him overall.
The French rider, who picked up his first stage win yesterday with a sensational ride to Alpe d'Huez, has some time trial pedigree, and although Taaramae was consistently up on him at the intermediate checkpoints, he managed to limit his losses and only lost 0-47 to the Estonian in the end.
In the GC top ten there was little change outside the obvious change in the top three. Alberto Contador's (Saxo-Bank Sungard) strong performance gave him third place on the stage at just over one minute behind Martin, but his gains were not enough to threaten either Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) or Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek) in the overall standings.
Frank Schleck finished 20th, 2-41 down, but with Thomas Voeckler only going 27 seconds faster than him, he held onto his podium place. Though Voeckler did not do enough to threaten Schleck, he did hold off Contador, finishing with a 27-second cushion on the Spaniard.
A strong performance from Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), saw him move up one place to sixth overall, as Daminano Cunego (Lampre), who is not a noted time trialling talent, fell to seventh.
Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) held onto ninth position, while a strong performance from Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) saw him leap-frog Pierre Rolland into the top 10.
Brits feeling effects of tough Tour
It was tough going for the two Brits whose time trialling abilities might have got them into the stage's top 10. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) admitted that "it's been a one day too many for me" as he pedalled to 46th position, 4-24 down.
David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo), meanwhile, finished 32nd, 3-41 back on Martin. He has contracted bronchitis in the last few days, and said afterwards that he couldn't compete at his usual level.
Tour de France 2011 stage 20; Grenoble-Grenoble ITT, 42.5km
1. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad in 55-33
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 7 seconds
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Bank Sungard at 1-06 minutes
4. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM at 1-29 minutes
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo-Bank Sungard at 1-30 minutes
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1-33 minutes
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-37 minutes
8. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Leopard-Trek at 1-42 minutes
9. Peter Velits (Svk) (HTC-Highroad) at 2-03 minutes
10. Rein Taaramae (Estonia) Cofidis at 2-03 minutes
General Classification after stage 20
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 1-34 minutes
3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-30 minutes
4. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 3-20 minutes
5. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo-Bank Sungard at 3-57 minutes
6. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4-55 minutes
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 6-05 minutes
8. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 7-23 minutes
9. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 8-15 minutes
10. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 10-11 minutes
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Tour de France 2011: Latest news
Tour analysis: Schleck goes long
2011 Tour de France stage 10: Armstrong's famous bluff
Riis rules Contador out of Tour de France win
Cavendish nearly loses Tour's green jersey
Evans gambles with Tour win
Contador's attacks fail to cause major damage at the Tour
Boasson Hagen's second stage win put Norway joint top
Are the Tour de France's descents too risky?
Kolobnev's Tour de France positive confirmed
Evans in driving seat as Tour heads towards decisive stages
Cavendish's green jersey chances looking 'good'
Evans gains time as the weather leaves its mark
Schlecks falter ahead of Tour's final mountain days
Tour analysis: How the Schlecks can win
Swift sprinting towards Tour win
Cavendish joint seventh in all-time Tour list
Weather wreaks havoc in Etape du Tour
Basso back for Tour de France win
Garmin-Cervelo celebrate third Tour win
Geraint Thomas: "I had goosebumps on the Tourmalet"
Schlecks distance Contador in Tour mountain stage
Greipel gripes about 'crazy' Feillu
Tour de France Feed Zone (July 13)
Greipel's first Tour stage win 'extra special'
Greipel takes first win over Cav since HTC split
UCI defends its stance on tilted saddles
Kolobnev tests positive at Tour
Contador worried by knee injury
Tour rest day review (July 11)
Voeckler living the yellow jersey dream again
Hoogerland's Horror crash
Tour de France 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2011: Official start list
Tour de France 2011: Who's riding?
Tour de France 2011: Team guide
Tour de France 2011: Stage reports
Stage 20: Evans blows Schlecks away and takes yellow to Paris
Stage 19: King Rolland crowned on the Alpe but team-mate Voeckler loses yellow to Andy Schleck
Stage 18: Andy Schleck wins, Contador cracks and Voeckler keeps yellow by seat of his pants
Stage 17: Boasson Hagen makes it two for Sky as Voeckler loses more time
Stage 16: Evans and Contador go on the attack as Hushovd wins in Gap
Stage 15: Cavendish takes fourth stage win in 2011 Tour
Stage 14: Vanendert surprises the favourites as Voeckler holds on
Stage 13: World champ Hushovd takes well deserved solo Tour win
Stage 12: Sanchez wins at Luz Ardiden as Frank Schleck gains on other contenders
Stage 11: Cavendish moves into green after winning in Lavaur
Stage 10: Greipel beats Cavendish in Tour stage 10 sprint
Stage nine: Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs
Stage eight: Costa wins first mountain stage of 2011 Tour
Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour
Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky's first Tour de France win
Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel
Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne
Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon
Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow
Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start
Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos
Stage 19 video highlights
Stage 18 video highlights
Stage 17 video highlights
Stage 16 video highlights
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Video: Feeding the riders at the Tour
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Video: Erik Zabel's role as Cavendish's sprint advisor
Stage five video highlights
Video: The ride of Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries
Stage 20 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 19 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 18 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 17 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 16 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 15 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery
Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones
Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW's text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage
Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
Video: 2003 Centenary Tour
Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective
Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour
Video: Guerini's 1999 stage win
Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour
Video: Armstrong in 1999
Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre
Tour de France 2011: Archive articles1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos
Tour de France 2011: TV schedule
British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean
Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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