The 2008 Tour de France is reaching its exciting climax, and the dilemma exercising hearts and minds since Wednesday has been: Evans or Carlos Sastre? Cadel Evans or Carlos Sastre? Cadel Evans or Carlos Sastre? BikeRadar's features editor Daniel Friebe has polled the press and the riders of the Tour peloton and reveals who everyone thinks will come out on top of the stage 20 time trial. You can find the results of his poll at BikeRadar's blog section.
Ever analytical, we've examined the average speeds of these riders during the past three Tours which, incidentally, provide an interesting insight to the riders' ability to race under pressure. In 2006, Sastre was just 12 seconds off of yellow heading into the final test - a 57 kilometre run over slightly undulating terrain. It was hot, humid, and Sastre cracked, losing 3'31 to Floyd Landis, and 2'02 to Oscar Pereiro. Andreas Klöden knocked him off the podium for a time, but after Landis was disqualified, Sastre ended up in third overall.
Consequently, Evans wasn't in contention for the podium that year, but put in a solid final time trial, ending up eighth 1'01 faster than Sastre.
Last year it was Evans' turn to chase yellow. He came into the final time trial 1'50" down on Alberto Contador, and made up all by 23 seconds of that in a 55.5 kilometre test. On the pancake flat course, Sastre was 2'33 slower than the Australian.
Looking back at 2005 when neither rider was chasing a podium finish, both performed well on a much hillier course than they will face on Saturday. All three Tours, Evans has out-performed Sastre in the final time trials over a similar distance, and on stage four, he was 1'16" faster over only 29.5 kilometres. But never underestimate the power of the yellow jersey and the fatigue of three weeks of racing.
The chart below gives the average speeds of both riders over the past three years, and what Saturday's time gap might be if they ride the same relative speeds. Does it give any answers? You decide!