Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tour de France: Stage 19

Cognac to Angouleme 55.5 km

Time trial. Racing. GNB Sports, Stage 19. Hello.

Didi Senft, our old friend the Devil is jumping up and down near the start gate as Leipheimer takes the field. *smiles* What good luck for the riders today.

All riders are on course. The three who count for the podium: Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans, and Alberto Contador, none of whom have reached the first time check. Unofficially Leipheimer is kicking everyone's ass.

Here comes the first check for the final three: Leipheimer is under 20! First person under 20 minutes. 19:49 for Leipheimer. Evans 14 seconds back at 20:03. Levi needs 59 seconds on Evans to take over second place. Alberto Contador takes the checkpoint at 20:12. Okay, here it is. Evans is gaining on 1st place Contador but losing ground to 3rd place Leipheimer. All three riders are coming together. Right now we can't say who will be 1 - 2 - 3 in the Tour 40 minutes from now or what the gap will be. Which leaves an interesting question... Traditionally no one attacks the Tour GC Leader on stage 20 into Paris. But if the gap between 1 - 2 - 3 is tiny? This has not been a traditional tour...

Vladimar Karpets takes a new best time of 1.04:40. Levi will win the stage we believe so Karpets' time isn't going to hold up. Doesn't mean we're dissing it.

Programing Note: We're not certain where all our colleagues are either but at the moment y'all seem stuck with just us. That's why this is the Group News Blog.

Second check point. Levi blowing everyone away @ 39:44, the winner of the Tour de California this year. Go baby go! He's doing over 40 kph uphill. Tear it up... Pereiro just crossed the finish. May move him into a top ten finish for the Tour. Cadel Evans crosses the second check @ 40:19, giving Evans just a 29 second advantage over Leipheimer in the GC classification from the start of today. Evans damn well better catch Contador because Leipheimer is catching Evans!!!

Here comes Contador across the second check: He's in trouble! 41:13 puts him in fifth overall for the checkpoint, letting Evans come up on him easy. We can't do maths in our head easily but the quick version is, Evans needs less than a minute more either of him going faster or Contador going slower to take the Yellow Jersey off Contador. But that's not enough because Levi Leipheimer is tearing up the GC on Evans; it isn't enough for Evans to catch Contador. He must fight off Levi Leipheimer who could win the Tour de France right here, right now.

Levi Leipheimer passes Carlos Sastre who started ahead of him by three minutes, Sastre who sits in fourth place in the Tour de France. We've never seen anyone ride like this except perhaps Lance Armstrong. This is a ride of the old man who is seeing Yellow. Levi Leipheimer is going to win the stage. He is riding now for the right to wear the Yellow Jersey.

Remember the 10 second penalty Levi got for the bidon pull early in the Tour? He had to get back to the peloton before they started the climb. Had to. So no complaining about it now. One does what one must and deals with the consequences later.

Levi's under the 1 km red kite. Faster, faster! The long straight to the finish has a nasty climb. He's going over 50 kph. Ride Levi. He's in an aero position no one else has seen. He is 8 seconds behind Evans at the last time check. Levi must take Evans RIGHT NOW to win the Tour.

Levi crosses the line. Levi is over with a time of 1.02:44, that's 53.1 kph! Here comes Cadel Evans trying to hold on to a final ranking above Levi. And he does it! Cadel Evans does it. He saves himself with a magical last 5 kilometers over Levi. Alberto Contador on the final kilometer may make it in with 10-15 seconds to spare. He's racing with all he's got. Cadel could still win this and we're not even talking about time bonuses tomorrow. Lance Armstrong rides in the car behind him the greatest rider ever with Johan Bruyneel the greatest team manger ever coaching their rider...CONTADOR SAVES HIS TOUR. CONTADOR STAYS IN YELLOW. CONTADOR WINS BY TWENTY-THREE SECONDS. The final Tour podium is: Contador - Evans - Leipheimer, with Leipheimer wining stage 19 with a glorious ride.

Nineteen stages and the GC first to third place is just 31 seconds. Levi is only 8 seconds behind Cadel Evans. While there are time bonuses on the road and at the finish tomorrow, Levi just confirmed in a television interview what anyone who has watched Levi over the years knew: Levi respects Tour tradition; he will not attack Cadel on stage 20. These are the final podium placements.

Congratulations to Alberto, Cadel and Levi for their final placement in the Tour, for riding an amazing stage today, and special congratulations to Levi Leipheimer after all these years of being the true professional for everyone else now finally winning a Tour stage for himself and for finishing on the podium in Paris: Way to go Levi. Thank you for years of wonderful racing. More than anyone else, you and George are the true heart of American racing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is GNB Sports. See you tomorrow for the ride to Paris and the final podium. Good day.

Stage 20 LIVE in the U.S. on Versus: Early Start: Sunday, July 29, 7:30 AM - 12:00 PM ET/4:30 - 9:00 AM PT.

Today's video highlights -- Great Tour coverage at VeloNews

A Feast on Wheels: Behind the scenes Tour coverage by correspondent Bonnie DeSimone of ESPN, Boston Globe and the Oregonian.

Cyclelicious -- What's Your Source of News for Le Tour?

TDF Stage 19 Results -- Top 10:
The top 10 in stage 19 is:
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC - 53.1kmh in 1h02'44"000
2. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 0'51"
3. Vladimir Karpets (RUS) GCE at 01'56"
4. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) DSC at 02'01"
5. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 02'18"
6. José Ivan Gutierrez (ESP) GCE at 02'27"
7. George Hincapie (USA) DSC at 02'33"
8. Oscar Pereiro Sio (ESP) GCE at 02'36"
9. Leif Hoste (BEL) PRL at 02'48"
10. Mikel Astarloza (ESP) EUS at 02'50"

TDF: Standings after Stage 19

1 112 CONTADOR, Alberto ESP DSC 87:09:18.000 00:00:00.000
2 041 EVANS, Cadel AUS PRL 87:09:41.000 00:00:23.000
3 111 LEIPHEIMER, Levi USA DSC 87:09:49.000 00:00:31.000
4 031 SASTRE, Carlos ESP CSC 87:16:26.000 00:07:08.000
5 071 ZUBELDIA, Haimar ESP EUS 87:17:35.000 00:08:17.000
6 018 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP GCE 87:20:55.000 00:11:37.000
7 027 KIRCHEN, Kim LUX TMO 87:21:36.000 00:12:18.000
8 118 POPOVYCH, Yaroslav UKR DSC 87:21:48.000 00:12:30.000
9 073 ASTARLOZA, Mikel ESP EUS 87:23:32.000 00:14:14.000
PEREIRO SIO, Oscar ESP GCE 87:23:43.000 00:14:25.000