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Evans vs. Sastre: Tale of the Tape

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Letour-sq2_1__mediumThis unbelievable Tour de France is coming down to a two-man showdown for yellow, and one that promises to be historically close. On Saturday it will be Evans vs. Sastre for all the marbles... barring a strange event that sees one of them disappear or another rider from a crowded top ten somehow make the leap. Evans is virtually tied with the two riders separating him from Sastre: Frank Schleck and Bernhard Kohl. Evans should easily distance them -- possibly even passing both on the road -- and neither of them is likely to challenge Sastre, aside from Cadel of course.

Predicting who will win is dicey -- mostly you have to go on past performances, which are never perfect predictors but will have to do in the absence of data from future performances. But there are a few other things to think about WRT this matchup besides old times, and they're examined on the flip.

[Feel free to add any other relevant evidence; I'm sure I haven't thought of everything.]

Here's a table showing the last five performances by the two contenders in Tour de France time trials exceeding 50 kilometers. Numbers are their respective deficits from the winner, which neither of them has ever been. Yet.

 

EVANS

SASTRE

’05 St Etienne

+ 2.06

+ 3.10

’06 Rennes

+ 1.49

+ 2.10

’06 Montceau

+ 3.41

+ 4.42

’07 Albi

+ 1.14

+ 4.01

’07 Ang’leme

+ 0.51

+ 3.24

AVERAGE

+ 1.56

+ 3.29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you go.

The averages suggest a very close race, which means Sastre wins the Tour corrected: Evans wins by an average of 1.35... enough to win the Tour by a single second.. But they also vary pretty wildly, and in the most recent edition Evans crushed Sastre by over 2.30 each time -- more than enough to capture the booty. If you flipped the chart upside down, I'd say Sastre's time trialing was getting better, and he's home free. Does anyone remember why Sastre had such a lousy Tour last year? And why this year might not be the same?

Other Recent Time Trials

Sastre got killed by Evans in the Dauphine ITT, 3.32 behind Evans. In the Pais Vasco Sastre lost 1.43... in only 20km. Prologues aside, Evans hasn't finished worse than 11th in a time trial in two years. But Sastre's fitness and motivations can be pretty unknown outside the Tour, around which his season revolves. Meanwhile, in the first chrono of this Tour, Sastre dumped about 1.24 in 30km.

Course Details

Johan Bruyneel was just on Versus saying the course is somewhat hilly. Profiles are notoriously useless, but I suppose you can get a little sense:

Profile20_medium

Of course, Evans won't be hurt by the hills, but the CW is that Sastre would have been at a disadvantage over board-flat roads, so any incline or downhill is one more stretch where Evans doesn't have a huge advantage.

The course is somewhat SE>NW in orientation, except for the starting and finishing sections. This is significant, because it suggests that there could be a headwind... a problem for smaller climbers generally, and for making the course feel even longer and exaggerating the gaps. Current forecast is winds out of the NW at 7mph. Might get Evans a few seconds?

Motivations

Evans is primed to win, but Sastre is holding yellow. And as we all know, the yellow jersey tends to give the bearer a boost of adrenaline. Sastre has waited a long time for this day. He's got to be pumped. Same could be said of Evans too. Oh, and don't ask Laurent Fignon about this supposed boost. Didn't help him in '89.

Who's Got the Legs?

Final factor comes down to who's simply feeling better Saturday. Sastre should have recovered from his massive effort Wednesday. Sastre seems to have engineered a late peak. Evans, meanwhile, has looked fine throughout, but I don't think of him as better than he was when the Tour started.

Tale of the Tape:

Factors favoring Evans: recent time trials, recent TdF long time trials, wind direction.

Factors favoring Sastre: possibly fresher legs? hills on course, being in yellow (theoretically).

Others are a push. My pick? Carlos hangs on.