After 3488 kilometers (2167 miles) and 18 stages, merely eight seconds separate Astana’s Alb
erto Contador and Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck. After three weeks of racing, the entire race will be settled on a flat, 52-kilometer course: the Stage 19 Time Trial.
Schleck, just turned 25, has yet to reach the peak of his form. He has proved himself to be one of the two best climbers in the world, but he has not mastered the other two aspects of cycling—sprints, and time trials.
Contador, three years older, is at his peak, and has perfected all the skills needed to win Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta d’Espagne)—he has won all of them, one of five riders in history to do so.
Saturday’s stage will pit these two head-to-head to determine who will win the 2010 Tour de France
‘I hope to win the stage’
Though primarily known as a climber, Alberto Contador is acknowledged to be the one of best time trailers in the Tour—probably on the planet.
He has at least 11 major time trial wins in his career, including two in the 2009 Tour de France; eight came in the last two seasons, plus the Spanish Nation Time Trial Championship. He finished fourth in the discipline in the 2008 Olympics. Contador finished sixth in the 2010 Tour de France Prologue a very short time trial stage.
In 2009, Alberto Contador beat Andy Schleck in the final time trial to win the Tour. But he is not certain of his victory tomorrow.
“At the present time I am in front, but tomorrow I’m not sure I’ll be in the same situation. In a three-week race, anything can happen at the last moment. Besides, physically I feel fine today but it may very well change from one day to another,” he told LeTour.fr after Friday’s race.
“Tomorrow I know it’s a flat course, in the vineyards. It does not offer much of a chance to dance on the pedals [ride out of the saddle] throughout the course.
“Of course, I have to give my all and not just for me but based on the times that Andy posts. I also hope to win the stage.”
‘Tomorrow is going to be the most important day of my cycling life’
Andy Schleck has never been a great time trialist. He won the Luxembourg National Time Trial Championship in 2005 and 2010 and the Under-23 National Championship in 2004, but those were against small fields. Schleck has never won a major time trial stage in a major or classic event.
In the 2010 Tour de France Prologue, Schleck finished 122nd.
Schleck understands the situation facing him.
“I hope my legs will be okay, he told LeTour.fr. “I know tomorrow is going to be the most important day of my cycling life. I’m ready to fight.
“I know it was a fairly hard day yesterday and I’m a little surprised with how good I feel today. I could spin the legs at a time when I saw many riders were pushing heavy gears because they’re just dead.
“For my part I felt pretty good and today was basically a case of economizing and not spending too much energy and have it for tomorrow.”