Tour 2008: Stage 19 – The Stage is Set!

The 19th stage of the 2008 Tour de France once again went off as predicted, and there were no changes at the top of the General Classification. The 165.5 km (103 mile) course from Roanne to Montluçon was won by Sylvain Chavanel of France, with countryman Jeremy Roy coming right behind, but Carlos Sastre of Spain held on to the Yellow Jersey and a 1 minute, 24 second lead over teammate Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, and is 1 minute, 33 seconds in front of Austria’s Bernard Kohl. His biggest threat however, comes in the form of Australia’s Cadel Evan, currently in fourth place just one second behind Kohl.

This sets the stage for tomorrows individual time trial that will have Sastre hoping that his minute and 34 second lead is enough of a cushion to to fend of Evans, one of the best time trialist in the world. The 53 km (33 mile) ride from Cérilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond seems too long of a distance for Sastre to fend off the hard charging Evans, but in Le Tour, anything can happen.

Tomorrow’s ride will make for great television for fans of cycling. The event is broadcast on Versus here in the States and I have no doubt their coverage will be impeccable. The riders well head out in the reverse order of their ranking, so Evans will be fourth from last with Sastre leaving the gate from the final spot. From there, the clock will be ticking and Evans will hope to make up the ground with plenty of miles to go to build a cushion. Should he stumble, Russian Denis Menchov, in 5th place, and 2 minutes and 39 seconds behind Sastre, would have an outside shot, but it would likely be Kohl or Schleck who would be contending for the title. Sastre has more chance of fending off their attacks then those from Evans.

The leader tomorrow will ride into Paris on Sunday as the victor. The final stage is largely ceremonial for the man in the Yellow Jersey, and the celebration on the Champs-Elysee is one of the best ending to any sporting event in the world. Enjoy the last two days of the Tour. it’s been a good one, and the finish should be spectacular.

Kraig Becker

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