Philippe Gilbert, the great Philippe Gilbert, rolls over the line to end his stage. Sunday’s final stage will be his final day on the Tour – he’s calling it a day at the end of the season at the age of 40, having made his debut in the Tour way back in 2005.
All eyes on Fred Wright hitting the second checkpoint … where he’s fifth fastest, 21 seconds down on Ganna. He’s still on track for a fantastic day, though.
Having said Fred Wright won’t be troubling Ganna and co, he’s just gone one second faster through the first checkpoint! What a Tour the 23-year-old is having.
Bissegger – at this point, as my dad would say, with a right bag on – rolls over the line disconsolately more than four minutes down on Ganna. He more or less sat up over the final third of the stage.
Fred Wright, the Londoner who has had a terrific three weeks, sets off for his day. He’s a useful time triallist (he was fourth in the British championships last year) though won’t be troubling Ganna and co today.
He gave a lovely interview to Eurosport after coming close to a stage win on Friday:
Filippo Ganna storms up a slope as he enters the final kilometre of the stage – one of those short 7-8% ramps that barely register on the Tour but for us mere mortals would be some hideous leg-destroying hill, the climbing of which would demand immediate reward at the nearest hostelry or cafe.
The Italian meanwhile powers over the line to set the fastest time at 48min 41sec – 1min 41sec quicker than Bjerg and 43 seconds quicker than Cattaneo. That will take some beating.
Ganna, you won’t be surprised to learn, is fastest through the third checkpoint (he’s just hit an eye-watering 71kph on a descent), over a minute quicker than Bjerg and 27 seconds faster than his nearest challenger, his compatriot Mattia Cattaneo. Meanwhile, the hapless Bissegger is fifth fastest at the midway point.
Here’s Guy Hornsby:
Yep there’ll be some reshuffling in the top 10 for sure. They won’t be out on the road for an hour or two but worth reminding ourselves of the business end of the GC as it stands:
1) Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 75hrs 45mins 39secs
2) Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 3mins 26secs,
3) Geraint Thomas (GB) Ineos Grenadiers at 8:00
4) David Gaudu (Fr) Groupama-FDJ at 11:05
5) Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic at 13:35
6) Louis Meintjes (SA) Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert at 13:43
7) Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) BORA-hansgrohe at 14:10
8) Romain Bardet (Fr) Team DSM at 16:11
9) Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team at 20:29
10) Adam Yates (GB) Ineos Grenadiers at 20:37
Despite that delay Bissegger goes through the first checkpoint fifth fastest, which tells you something about where he could have been.
Poor old Stefan Bissegger’s chances have gone and he’s only seven minutes into the stage. It was some sort of mechanical (possibly electronic) issue and he needs to change his bike. Having crashed twice in the wet during the opening time trial, it’s fair to say his Tour has not gone as planned.
Ganna goes through the second checkpoint (at around the midpoint of the stag) and he’s still quickest – 36 seconds quicker than Bjerg as it stands.
Stefan Bissegger, another of the big time-trial hitters, rolls down the ramp to start his day. He’s a live contender today – the EF Education–EasyPost rider was fifth in the final time trial of the 2021 edition of the Tour.
It transpires Pogacar was in the team car behind Bjerg, having a good look at the course. The Dane says his day was “super, super hard”. Meanwhile, Ganna has blasted through the first checkpoint 14 seconds quicker than Bjerg.
Mikkel Bjerg sets the fastest time of the day so far at 50min 22sec. He’s two and a half minutes quicker than anyone else.
Here comes Filippo Ganna, the world time trial champion resplendent in his rainbow jersey. What a rider this guy is – the Italian is an Olympic and world champion on the track too. After a low-key race (his first Tour de France) thus far he’ll have been focussing on this stage for a good while.
Caleb Ewan was the first to start but he’s very nearly not the first to finish – Rohan Janse van Rensburg is close to catching him before the line. Janse van Rensburg sets the quickest time at 53min 54sec.
Lampaert goes through the first time check more than 20 seconds slower than Bjerg – today is not going to be his day. Bjerg’s final time will be a good early marker – he was inside the top 20 in the time trial at the world championships last year and in the top 10 on the time-trial stage of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year.
Yves Lampaert, who after winning the opening time trial became the first yellow jersey wearer of this year’s Tour, rolls down the ramp in Lacapelle-Marival to start his day.
21 riders are scattered along the road now. UAE Team Emirates’ man Mikkel Bjerg is the fastest through the first checkpoint thus far.
Pretty sure there’s a contractual obligation whenever we get to the final time trial of the Tour to mention the Greatest Tour De France Time Trial Of All Time. So consider that box ticked:
Fignon writes beautifully about that famous day:
Everyone has seen the pictures at least once in their lives. I cross the finish line and collapse. Simply to get my breath back. A bit of air, please. Just a bit of air, if I may.
At that precise moment, I don’t know what is going on. I’m gasping “Well?” again and again, to the people who flutter around me. There’s no answer. I ask again. Still no answer.
No one dares to look me in the eye and show me reality.
The reality of which everyone is now aware apart from me: I’ve lost. By eight seconds. Eight seconds in Hell.
So who’ll win the stage? It’s probably between the aforementioned Ganna, Wout van Aert and possibly Pogacar. Tom Pidcock and Geraint Thomas will be eyeing top 10 finishes at least.
Ganna starts at 1.05pm BST while Van Aert begins at 3.16pm and Pogacar at 3.58pm.
The banged-up and bandaged Caleb Ewan rolls down the ramp to start the day’s contre la montre action. He’ll just want today over and done with, ideally keeping something in reserve for the Champs Elysees sprint tomorrow.
So can Pogacar make up more than three minutes?
Umm, no. The Slovenian is a tremendous time-trialler but Vingegaard isn’t far behind him at all. The most recent example of that came in the opening TT three weeks ago, when Vingegaard was just eight seconds slower than his rival over the 13.2km around Copenhagen. The time-trial stage of the Dauphiné last month was over 31.9km and Vingegaard was just 1min 12sec slower than the winner, Filippo Ganna, the world’s premier time-trialler. Back in March Vingegaard lost 35 seconds to Pogacar over the 13.9km Tirreno-Adriatico TT but even that extended over today’s distance won’t be enough and Vingegaard is clearly in significantly better shape now. So if the Jumbo-Visma man stays upright, he stays in yellow.
There’s a description of time trials from Victor Hugo Peña, the time-trial specialist who in 2003 became the first Colombian to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour, in Matt Rendell’s fascinating book A Significant Other that has always stuck with me:
Time trials are about maintaining a constant pace, like a continuous hum. But they are also about pain, an agonising heat you feel in the stomach, a burning that affects your breathing. You get into a rhythm, and when the pain comes, you tunnel into it, exploring it to the bitter end … From top to bottom, front to back, I gather it into a smooth ball of pain that spins around in my mind until the time trial is over.
That is what the combatants are faced with today – 40.7km of tunnelling into the pain. For Jonas Vingegaard the light at the end of that tunnel is becoming the first Danish winner of the Tour de France (or, at least, the first Danish winner without a gigantic asterisk next to his name). To do so, he has to finish within 3min 25sec of Tadej Pogacar’s time across the Causses du Quercy in south eastern France – something, barring injury or accident, he is basically certain to do.
The first rider – last placed Caleb Ewan – is scheduled to come down the ramp at 12.05pm BST, with Vingegaard last out at 4pm.