Tour de France Stage 20: Sastre Assured Yellow Jersey

Carlos Sastre finished today’s 32-mile time trial fast enough to keep the yellow jersey. Barring an accident or surprise in tomorrow’s final stage in Paris, Sastre is the new Tour de France Champion. He is 65 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans, who pundits incorrectly predicted would overtake the yellow jersey today. But Evans didn’t have the legs and the pundits failed to consider the power of yellow, “when worn,” they say, “it gives a rider wings.”

The time trial is the “test of truth,” and today, new truths were revealed. World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara learned there is someone faster than him in the game. Germany’s Stefan Schumacher beat Cancellara today by 21 seconds. When Schumacher beat Cancellara in stage four’s time trial, critics wrote it off as an unusually bad day for “Fabulous C.” But Schumacher’s victory today was no fluke.

Another moment of truth: America’s new tour hopeful Christian Vandevelde is one bad-ass time trialist– a necessary talent for any Tour champion. VdV finished fourth in the time trial– a minute ahead of the top contenders. His outstanding performance moves him up to fifth place in the overall standings. That’s great news for the new team in argyle, Garmin Chipotle, which touts its cleanliness and shows riders can do well at the Tour without dope.

Team Columbia‘s Kim Kirchen finished an impressive third place in the time trial. That moves him into the top ten. Kirchen was my pick to win the Tour. He wore the yellow jersey for four days and green sprinter’s jersey for six stages. He’s a good all-around rider and finished seventh in last year’s Tour. He won’t win this year, but he’ll have his day in yellow again.

Another name to remember: Bernhard “Burn Hard” Kohl. The German from team Gerolsteiner is one of the most clumsy-looking riders in the Tour, but he is “King of the Mountains.” Kohl is awarded the red and white polka dot jersey for earning the most points over the mountain climbs. He and teammate Schumacher will be a heck of a duo in the future.

Team CSC brothers Frank and Andy Schleck became household names in this Tour. Their leader Carlos Sastre owes them and the entire team a lot of thanks for all of the pulls and pushes in the mountains. Andy Schleck won the white young rider’s jersey– the shirt that indicates future Tour champions. Andy has earned his wings. The nine CSC boys will stand on the podium in Paris as the best team. They deserve it.

The final day of the Tour de France is more of a parade than a race. The sprinters will put on a show in the final laps through the Champs-Élysées, but the 89-miles will be essentially a time for riders to glow in glory and say goodbye. It’s been an intense three weeks of competition and it’s going to be a shame to see it end. Of course, there’s still tomorrow in Paris.

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Filed under le tour 2008

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