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Cognac - Angouleme ITT Preview

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And then there was one... stage of importance. There's little to say about this course. It's flat. If I'm reading this course map correctly, the race will take place largely on minor highways (D15, D939?). There appear to be a couple turns getting out of Cognac, and a 90-degree left turn shortly before the finish, but really this is an all-out power course.

The west-east orientation invites the potential for tailwinds to determine the outcome of the entire Tour de France, and if it were held today, Contador would probably sail home on a 12mph breeze. Obviously the same wind will help everyone equally, but the effect of a strong wind is to take this 55km stage and make it feel more like, say, 40km. The gaps would shrink by some percentage across the board. Anyway, tomorrow's forecast is overcast, so there may not be any wind after all. Rain appears unlikely.

Ultimately, the guy with the most left in the tank will perform the best -- namely Evans or Leipheimer, not (un-)Evil Bert. But with 1.50 in hand (after Evans' cheeky move to join the sprint and pick up three seconds today), Contador doesn't have to be better than anyone, just not 1.51 worse.

Past results tell us almost nothing about this race. It's been too long since the Tour featured a truly flat time trial; you have to go back to 2004 at least. Contador's past results mean nothing, given his youth and sudden development. Evans has consistently put time into Leipheimer (1-3 minutes) on rolling courses, but I still have it stuck in my mind for some reason that Evans doesn't excel on truly flat surfaces. Anyway, we'll know more in 21 hours or so.

My prediction: I'll stay with Evans to move up on GC but by the thinnest of margins, possibly in Tour history. Tony Montana, Vlad Karpets and Vlad Gusev will duke it out for the stage win.