After finishing two minutes ahead of Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) in the all-deciding time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) will be the one joining overall winner Alberto Contador (Astana) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the podium on the Champs Elysées in Paris on Sunday.
After finishing the time trial Menchov took his time to freshen up, joining teammate Robert Gesink at the team car. Once that was done the Russian talked with the attending media.
"It was a hard time trial. It's always hard but today's wind made it really difficult. I had to fight hard. Looking back it was one of the best time trials of my life," Menchov said.
Before the time trial Sanchez had a twenty-one second lead on Menchov but at the first intermediate point after eighteen kilometres the Russian had already moved past the Spaniard, taking a twenty-seven seconds bonus. "When I saw the course this morning I knew it would be good for me. I felt good right from the beginning and knew I had to start strong in order to make up time [on Sanchez].
"At the first checkpoint it was already good. The gap was already forty-seven seconds . I knew that I was going well so I knew it was possible," Menchov said.
At the second intermediate time-check the Russian had extended his lead over Sanchez to one minute and twenty-one seconds. Eventually he finished exactly two minutes ahead of Sanchez, resulting in a1:39 lead in the general classification.
"It was a very good performance and I'm very happy with it," Menchov said.
The 32-year-old Russian is one of the few riders who finished on the podium in every Grand Tour. While racing for the Rabobank team Menchov has captured the overall victories in both the Tour of Spain (2005 and 2007) and the Tour of Italy (2009).
Back in 2008 he finished fourth in the Tour de France but due to the disqualification of Bernhard Kohl the 32-year-old moved up to third place. This year's third place surely will feel much better, knowing he'll be on the podium on the Champs Elysées in Paris on Sunday.
"For me this is a confirmation. I was going well and had been improving every year. I finally achieved the third place. It's a great result. I'm very satisfied," Menchov said.
Teammate Robert Gesink wasn't thinking about improving his sixth place, rather hoping that he would be able to hold off Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). It was Hesjedal who became the biggest threat, eventually falling short by forty-four seconds.
"I've never in been in as much pain in my life. The last three kilometres Frans [Maassen, director sportif] informed me about the gap on Hesjedal and that motivated me to give that extra notch. With a hard rate of 190 you start calculating, which is not a good thing to do. By the last kilometre I had figured out that the gap was big enough but I kept going because you never know if he could've miscalculated," Gesink joked.
"My front wheel almost flipped away. The wind blew hard and that hurt a lot," Gesink said. When asked how he felt after realizing he would hold on to his sixth place the 24-year-old said he was delighted.
"Certainly, especially on this course. Fifty-two kilometres... I don't know who invents this stuff but that's way too long, especially with the headwind. You're constantly counting down the kilometres, even though it's not good to do so. I'm super satisfied and super proud with my sixth place. It's my third Grand Tour and – looking back – my first full Tour de France.
"Sixth is fantastic and if you'll look back you won't find many riders who pulled that off on their maiden trip through France. Sixth place is very promising, but my results in the past were like that too; I'm content that I could continue improving," Gesink said.