Stage 20 – Grenoble – 42.5km

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1616: “C’mon Andy!” shouts a fan, but I fear that the team radio will already have told him that it is a rearguard action he is fighting to keep his second spot.

1614: Frank Schleck comes through in 58.14 and that is enough to hold off Contador in the overall standings. Virtual yellow jersey standings: 1. Cadel Evans 2. Andy Schleck 3. Frank Schleck

1612: Two riders still remain on the course; both Schlecks and neither going to be winners of the Tour this year. Andy is now focused on defending his second spot from Alberto Contador. The Spaniard could have the last laugh by depriving his rival of even the scant consolation of a third successive runners-up spot.

1609: That lantern jaw locked, Evans crosses the finish line in 55:40. That puts him second in the day’s standings behind German Tony Martin, but more importantly it is going to be the ride that wins him the yellow jersey.

1607: This is almost cruel. After his heroics in the hills, Andy Schleck is 45 seconds adrift of Evans in the virtual yellow jersey standings.

1602: Alberto Contador, teeth gritted, rips through the finish line and is second only to Tony Martin of the stage finishers with a time of 56.38. The Spaniard needs to put three minutes into Frank Schleck to pull himself up onto the podium after a dreadful start on the first day of the Tour.

1559: They are still awaiting Frank Schleck’s arrival at the second checkpoint, which doesn’t bode well for him. He finally emerges and comes through two minutes 17 seconds adrift of Evans.

1556: Andy Schleck is sliding out of contention very swiftly. Cadel’s advantage over him in the yellow jersey standings is up to 30 seconds. Approximately 22.5km to go and it is going to be some fightback is the prize is going to head to Luxembourg.

1552: Next checkpoint is Saint-Martin-d’Uriage, the course’s highest point at 593m. Virtual yellow jersey: 1. Cadel Evans 2. Andy Schleck 3. Frank Schleck

1549: Wow. Cadel Evans is race leader on the road. The Australian is stomping down and has a four second edge on Schleck in the overall standings according to the computers. After all the build-up, could this be all over already?

1544: Andy Schleck might have left his legs out somewhere on the Galibier. The race leader is 36 seconds behind Evans through the first checkpoint at 15km, even my maths can tell you that over a 42.5km course there is only one winner unless something drastic changes. And he will have an Antipodean twang. Frank Schleck, usually slower than his brother in this discipline, is two seconds faster than his sibling.

1536: Evans rode the Criterium du Dauphine before the start of this year’s Tour on the same course and that knowledge is helping round the twists and turns. The Schlecks are notoriously laissez-faire, I think Andy said he might have a peek at the video guide before setting off.

1532: The cow bells are tolling for Andy Schleck and he certainly has the backing of the local fans. The crowds are packed in, tightly funneling the riders across the course. Reminiscent of the scenes up the Tourmalet last year.

1524: The first checkpoint comes at the small industrial town of Vizille. Leader Tony Martin was clocked at 20.12 through there. Top three: 1. Tony Martin 55:33 2. Thomas de Gendt 57.02 3. Richie Porte 57:03

1519: Resplendent in yellow, Andy Schleck is bellowed on his way by the crowd. The chase is on.

1518: Thomas Voeckler attacks the first of those gentle gradients and he pops out of the saddle and gets a lycraed wiggle on. Those slopes may be Andy Schleck’s saving grace today.

1515: Frank Schleck, with an advantage of four seconds over Evans ahead of him, rolls into play.

1514: Evans is tucked up with legs churning at his trademark high cadence. Our first indication of his progress will be at the 15km checkpoint.

1512: Thomas Voeckler gets under way, but even the crowd’s patriotism is trumped by their excitement as the red BMC jersey of Cadel Evans appears in the hutch.

Mark Cavendish on Twitter:

Well, that’s the TT done AND I’m in a much better mood! Seafood linguini for lunch from team chef, Walter. Now just chilling until podium.

1507: As if we needed any more drama… Alberto Contador makes a complete hash of his exit from the starting house. One foot out of the pedals and for a moment it looks like he is going to plunge off the edge, missing the ramp entirely. In the end he escapes with a rueful shake of the head.

1504: A quick manual refresh should flush out a few gremlins and restart the automatic refresh for you good people. Thanks.

1503: Italian Ivan Basso sets out on his way and is followed by Olympic road-race champion and current king of the mountains Samuel Sanchez. Leopard-Trek’s Maxime Monfort has just crossed and is sixth in the current stage standings. Still 2:35 off Martin’s time though which is looking pretty impregnable.

1458: Mark Cavendish is already out of his green jersey and into his civvies after finishing in 1:04:08. Judging by

his Twitter,

the Manxman seems in a much better mood after a grouchy start to the day…

1453: The white jersey, the Tour’s best young rider, Pierre Rolland has just set out on the 42.5km course. The Frenchman immediately lightened his load with a hefty spit on his exit from the starting house.

1450: The backmarkers in the general classification got us got under way around 0930 BST this morning. So far German Tony Martin has blitzed around the suburbs of Grenoble fastest with a time of 55:33. Belgium’s Thomas de Gendt and Australia’s Richie Porte are second and third. Fabian Cancellara, world and Olympic time-trial champion and many people’s favourite for this one, is fourth.

1447: These are the times when the truth starts to emerge: three-time Tour winner and 2009 time-trial stage winner Alberto Contador rolls out the starting house at 1503 BST, valiant Frenchman Thomas Voeckler follows at 1509 BST, Evans at 1512 BST, the elder Schleck, Frank, at 1515 BST and last of all younger brother and man of the moment Andy at 1518 BST.

1443: There a few lumps and bumps out there around Grenoble that might break up the monotony for the race leader though. “It’s not really a course for time-trial specialists so I think it may suit me,” said the man in yellow.

1438: The time-trial hasn’t been to race leader Andy Schleck’s liking in the past, and Australian Cadel Evans will be licking his lips at the prospects of gobbling up the 57 seconds that separate him from the lead in down in one final gulp. The final ride to Paris tomorrow is a ceremonial procession for all but the sprinters by tradition.

Yellow jersey

Andy Schleck
1434: Eight seconds was the margin of victory in 89′. These are the current gaps in the general classification at the start of today:
1. Andy Schleck 82:48:43
2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg / Leopard) +53″
3. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing) +57″
4. Thomas Voeckler (France / Europcar) +2:10″
5. Damiano Cunego (Italy / Lampre) +3:31″
6. Alberto Contador (Spain / Saxo Bank) +3:55″

1430: “In this solitary exercise, there is no way a rider can bluff or hide in the wheels of their team-mates. But I think that the Tour will have been decided before Grenoble.”

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