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July 23 post: I haven't checked, but we can assume it has been a very long time since the first individual time-trial has been held so late at the Tour de France. In the late '90s and early in this decade, there was lots of indivdual time-trialing, sometimes well over 100 km spread over two or three stages. Times have change and I for one am glad to see less emphasis against the clock.

Thanks, in part, to the lack of time bonuses and time-trialing, we have the closest margin between first and second place in the Tour's history. Just eight seconds separate Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. However, Contador is one of the best time-trialers and Schleck is only mediocre so it's highly likely Contador will stretch out his lead with most estimates giving him a minute to 1.5 minutes advantage. The more interesting battle will be between Denis Menchov who is 21 seconds back of Samual Sanchez for the final podium spot.

The course itself will be picturesque. Starting at the stage 18 finish in Bordeaux, the route wind through its streets and buildings for 15 km before heading north along the Gironde river past the famous vineyards of the region.

The route is long (52 km), flat and non technical after leaving Bordeaux. Expect some surprises as there usually are in a long TT so late in a Grand Tour especially if the wind sweeps across the exposed portion along the river. [Update: The forecasted tailwind will be welcomed by the tired riders... now a crosswind] This stage will be an opportunity for riders like Bradley Wiggins to redeem themselves after a lackluster Tour. — Steve

  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 19 in english and en français (01:31) —
Stage 19 ITT Start Order and Times (CET; subtract 6 hrs for EDT)

(Y! 2010 Edition)