53.5km (33.4mi) might not seem long in the context of the Tour de France, but it takes an eternity when you're by yourself, tired from three weeks of racing, and fighting for every second. Today's time trial, from Bonneval to Chartres, is long by Tour standards, and the long, flat, fairly straight course seemingly made for the two men atop the standings, Yellow Jersey Bradley Wiggins and his Sky teammate, Chris Froome.
It doesn't play to the strengths of Vincenzo Nibali, sitting in third place, only 36 seconds out of second. All he can do is give his all, empty himself on the roads and hope that's enough to make up his deficit on Froome.
The final time trial in a Tour is often a tale of two races. There's the race for the Tour, which is fought out among the most tired in the pack. There's the race for the stage, which is often taken by fresher riders who conserved their efforts over the previous few days.
This year, the favorites were the best. American Tejay Van Garderen, the holder of the White Jersey as the best young rider, and also in fifth place, blazed out of the start, setting the course on fire, taking the lead at the early time checks, even passing defending champion Cadel Evans, his team leader.
Starting third from the end, Nibali, went out strongly as well, slotting into the top ten at the first time check.
But the final riders, Froome and Wiggins, were in the midst of their own race. Froome flew to the best times at all the checks, with Wiggins, starting three minutes behind, going even faster.
At the finish, Van Garderen faded to fourth, Nibali rode to a solid sixteenth place, and Wiggins and Froome rode away from everybody. Wiggins expanded his lead over his teammate, who expanded his lead on Nibali, who expanded his lead on Lotto-Belisol's Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who saved his fourth place in the overall standings from Van Garderen.
Tomorrow: Paris. This year, the final stage travels 120km (75mi) from Rambouillet to Paris and finishes with eight laps of a 6km circuit that goes up and down le Avenue des Champs-Élysées (French for Elysian Fields). It takes 69km to arrive at the circuit, and then it's another 51km to the finish. There are two climbs and one intermediate sprint on route. The racers will probably ride easy to the Avenue, then race for the intermediate sprint, and go full-gas to the finish.
Whether or not Peter Sagan scores any points at the intermediate sprint or the finish, his lead in the points competition is unassailable. He will finish with the Green Jersey in Paris as the winner of the Points competition. To celebrate his success, Cannondale designed a Super Six EVO for Peter to ride on the final stage into Paris, hopefully sprinting to victory on the Champs-Élysées. It's a showy bike to reflect Sagan's youthful penchant for finish line theatrics. The frame is green to go with the Maillot Vert Sagan will be wearing. If you start at the rear wheel and check out the seat stays, you'll find the names of the towns in which Sagan won stages, with room for decals to score the final sprint stage, Stage 20. When you look at the top tube, you'll find a detail from the Slovakian flag to honor his heritage.
The Green Jersey-clad Peter Sagan on a green Cannondale Super Six EVO sprinting through the Elysian Fields in the City of Light will be an unforgettable sight.
Stage 19 Results—Bonneval to Chartres 53.5km Time Trial
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 1:04:13
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
3. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank 0:01:50
4. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:02
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:02:25
Stage 19 Liquigas-Cannondale
14. Daniel Oss (Ita) 0:03:27
16. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) 0:03:38
25. Dominik Nerz (Ger) 0:04:14
38. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:05:15
45. Peter Sagan (Svk) 0:05:34
72. Kristijan Koren (Slo) 0:06:24
89. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) 0:07:12
129. Federico Canuti (Ita) 0:09:03
147. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 0:10:18
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 84:26:31
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:03:21
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:06:19
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:10:15
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:11:04
25. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:59:44
43. Peter Sagan (Svk) 1:38:46
47. Dominik Nerz (Ger) 1:42:12
71. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) 2:15:59
98. Kristijan Koren (Slo) 2:51:18
105. Daniel Oss (Ita) 2:55:04
114. Federico Canuti (Ita) 2:58:12
118. Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) 3:04:23
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 386pts
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team 264
3. Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 238
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling 175
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 146