'Last minute' Tour de France wins from recent history

With a 2:05 buffer over second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Team Sky's Geraint Thomas should – should – have enough of an advantage to hold the Dutchman off over Saturday's 31km individual time trial on stage 20.

Dumoulin is, of course, the reigning time trial world champion, and won the opening time trial stage at this year's Giro d'Italia. But Thomas, remember, is the current British time trial champion, and has two Olympic golds and three Worlds titles in the team pursuit on the track to his name – not to mention his win in the opening time trial stage at last year's Tour.

Barring technical problem or accident, the two should be a good match for each other on Saturday's stage.

Final time trials at the Tour de France in recent years have, however, occasionally changed the whole outcome of the race – and none more famously than in 1989 when the USA's Greg LeMond overhauled a 50-second deficit to French rival Laurent Fignon to win the Tour by just eight seconds.

That time trial was run as the final stage of the '89 Tour, but the last TT tends to be on either the race's penultimate day – as it is this year – or within the last few days of the Tour's arrival in Paris, in an attempt to keep an element of suspense going in the final week.

Tour winners have often proved themselves to be the best rider over the course of almost three weeks, and so they inevitably arrive at that final time trial with a healthy cushion over their closest rivals.

Occasionally, though, that time gap is small enough to give said rivals a glimmer of hope that they can ride the time trial of their lives and overhaul the race leader to steal the yellow jersey at the last minute.

Here, then, is our reminder of the recent occasions when the final time trial has seen the race lead change at the 11th hour, with 'the race of truth' crowning the Tour de France winner within spitting distance of Paris.

2011: Evans overpowers Andy Schleck in final time trial

Australian cycling fans will remember this one. After almost three weeks of struggling in to work each morning, having stayed up until the early hours to see if their man Cadel Evans could finally convert his second places from 2007 and 2008 into a top-of-the-podium finish in 2011, Australians could finally heave a collective sigh of relief just a day away from Paris.

Evans finished second to stage winner Tony Martin in stage 20's 42.5km test around Grenoble, but 2:31 ahead of Andy Schleck to take the race lead away from the Luxemburger, having made up what was a 57-second deficit going into the stage.

The Australian could stand on top of the podium between Andy and his brother Frank Schleck in the French capital the next day, having won his first and only Tour by a slender 1:34.

1990: LeMond storms to Tour victory at Lac de Vassivière

The 1990 Tour de France was, in its own way, an extremely exciting race in that a four-man breakaway gained a big enough time gap on the opening road stage that it took almost the entire Tour to reel them all back in.

Frans Maassen, Steve Bauer, Claudio Chiappucci and Greg LeMond's Z teammate Ronan Pensec took more than 10 minutes out of the main bunch on stage 1, and while Maassen won the stage, the other three members of the break all wore the yellow jersey at that year's Tour.

On the penultimate stage, going into the 45.5km individual time trial that was stage 20 at Lac de Vassivière, Chiappucci still held the race lead by five seconds from defending champion LeMond. And although Dutchman Erik Breukink won the stage, LeMond did enough to finish fourth, and took an impressive 2:21 back from Chiappucci to win his third and final Tour title by 2:16 in Paris.

1989: LeMond overhauls Fignon on final stage TT

What more is there to be said about the greatest comeback in cycling – and, arguably, sporting – history that was Greg LeMond's win in the 1989 Tour's final time trial when the American pulled back what was a 50-second deficit going into the 24.5km stage to win the race by just eight seconds after racing across 3,285 kilometres?

LeMond had been the victim of a horrific hunting accident in April 1987, nine months after winning the 1986 Tour de France. He was lucky to have even survived being shot, but to make it back to the professional peloton and then be competing for a second Tour crown in 1989 was beyond anyone's expectations.

In part thanks to the revolutionary 'clip-on' handlebars he used to adopt a more aerodynamic position on the bike when racing against the clock, LeMond had the last word in what had been a hugely enjoyable race, with the lead swapping between the American and Frenchman multiple times through the Pyrenees and the Alps, before finally resting on LeMond's shoulders in Paris.

1987: Roche gets the better of Delgado thanks to final TT

Perhaps Stephen Roche's 1987 Tour de France was in no small part won thanks to his "It looks like Roche!" moment, when commentator Phil Liggett famously spotted that the Irishman had clawed his way back to stay within reach of race leader Pedro Delgado on the Tour's 21st stage to the top of La Plagne, four days away from Paris.

While Roche was stretchered away at the stage finish with an oxygen mask strapped to his face and a deficit of 39 seconds still to Delgado, the eventual race winner was able to recover enough to take back 18 seconds from the Spaniard the next day en route to Morzine, and then two days later was the superior time triallist of the two men when on stage 24 – a 38km test around Dijon – Roche bested the Spaniard by 1:01 to win the Tour in Paris the next day by just 40 seconds.

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