By Daniel Benson in Montluçon
There are exactly 53 kilometres of time trialing standing between a podium place for Christian Vande Velde after the 32 year-old American and Garmin team leader finished safely in the bunch on Friday's 19th stage between Roanne and Montluçon. Despite it being a relatively uneventful day for the overall contenders, Vande Velde was quick to reveal that it had it had been tougher than he'd expected.
"Today was hard. Perhaps it was one of the hardest stages in the Tour so far. It was relentless all day long, but I have no idea why they [the peloton] were pulling so fast at the end of the stage with one kilometre to go."
When asked of his chances of climbing onto the podium in Paris, he was relaxed but confident. "I'm gonna give it all I've got. I don't want to get too excited and I'm not gonna change my style of riding for tomorrow.
"I've not even seen the course yet, but with today being hard it bodes well for me."
Vande Velde currently lies in sixth position, 4'41 down on the yellow jersey and 3'11 behind third placed Bernhard Kohl of Austria.