Cycling: Landis relishes chance to take Tour to the wire

With three favourites for final victory in the Tour de France on Sunday separated by just 30 seconds overall, the tension will be agonisingly high in this afternoon's time trial.

Yesterday's win in a three-man sprint for Matteo Tosatto was good news for Italy, given it was the country's first victory this year in the Tour.

However, the overall contenders probably spent the stage thinking of little more than the final race against the clock. The entire Tour is talking of little else. For three riders - race leader Oscar Pereiro, his compatriot Carlos Sastre, 12 seconds behind, and the American Floyd Landis at half a minute - to be separated by so little time is rare enough in any major stage race, let alone after 3,450 kilometres of racing in cycling's top event.

The Tour has only been here before in a geographical sense: in 1998 Jan Ullrich won the same time trial stage - a 57-kilometre run through heavy terrain between Le Creusot and Montceau-les-Mines - albeit in the opposite direction.

Yesterday T-Mobil said the 1997 winner had been shown the door after his implication in the Madrid doping scandals. A team spokesman, Luc Eisenga, said: "Ullrich and team-mate Oscar Sevilla were given a period to prove their innocence. They did not provide any fresh information to do this, so their initial suspension has become a formal termination of their contract."

Ullrich responded that he did not accept the decision and that it was "not right that he should be informed by fax and not in person." Gripes over form apart, this represents a dismal exit for the German - who has never finished lower than fourth in the eight Tours - from what was effectively his life-long team.

If the German now almost belongs to Tour history, the major favourite for yellow in Paris this year - and for today's stage - has to be Landis. In the Tour's first long race against the clock in Rennes, the Phonak rider finished 1min 40sec ahead of Pereiro and 1:10 ahead of Sastre, despite nearly wrecking his bike and losing 40 seconds after hitting a roundabout.

Landis also has rock-solid morale after his superb ride through the Alps on Thursday, culminating in a stage win which for many - whether he takes the Tour or not - will make him the moral victor. "I'm not predicting anything." Landis said yesterday. "There've been too many twists and turns in this race to do that."

His caution is understandable: 24 hours before his Alpine epic brought him back into the frame, the American had suffered a major collapse in this Tour of real surprises.

Pereiro, though, is the first to recognise that his margin for error or weakness is more than limited. "We've now got a guest at the final party [Landis] that nobody counted on, but now he'd have to have a complete disaster for me to win the Tour," he said. " I'm in yellow, though and I'm not going to think about whether I finish second, third or 25th in the time trial. We'll see."

The exceptionally high stakes will make it much more difficult for Britain's time trial specialists, David Millar and Bradley Wiggins, to make inroads on the stage classification.

The winner of the Tour's final time trial in 2003, Millar promised he would "give it 100 per cent. But given the context, it's hard to predict what'll happen". Something also true for the entire race itself.

Time trials Traumas and triumphs

* 1968: Before the final stage, a time trial, Jan Janssen lay third, 16 seconds adrift of the leader Herman van Springel - whom he beat by 54sec. He won overall by 38sec.

* 1987: The penultimate-day time trial seemed to have given Stephen Roche victory, till Pedro Delgado broke away on the Sunday seeking an improbable upset. He only just failed.

* 1989: Laurent Fignon looked impregnable, but on the final-day time-trial he cracked as the American Greg LeMond looked on in disbelief, winning by 8sec, the Tour's smallest winning margin.

v
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A rewarding opportunity to work with an easy-...

Recruitment Genius: National Sales Account Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - Cyber Security

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager for Cyber Secur...

Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst - Application Support - Central London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum