While the Tour favourites battle for the overall classification today, Bradley Wiggins will instead be targeting the final time trial in Bordeaux on Saturday. The Briton said yesterday that that he is feeling "on top of my game again, and I'm looking forward to it".
He believes an impressive performance there could save his tour. "If I did well in it, then it would transform the perception of how I did this year," he said.
Wiggins checked out the time trial course with Sky team-mate Steve Cummings and Michael Barry early last month and at that point described it as very suitable to his type of racing. "Once you get out of Bordeaux, it's basically a long, straight line, and will require a lot of concentration," he said.
Wiggins also revealed that Sky's sports scientists have identified a lack of preparation at altitude – sleeping and training at heights of over 1,500 metres – as one of the root causes of his problems in this year's Tour. "They tell me that's what been a stumbling block," the Sky leader said. "I've been struggling within four kilometres of the summit of the big climbs and that has to do with handling altitude. It's not the only reason I've not been performing well, but it's a limiting factor."
He also said that racing hard in the Tour of Italy – a race in which he won the prologue – could also have had a negative effect on his performance. "It seems everybody here that did the Tour of Italy is on their knees and it was a lot more demanding than in other years," he said. Wiggins said a return to the Giro was unlikely and that he would adopt a different strategy next year – "you live and learn".
Sky's Team Principal Dave Brailsford was in a similarly upbeat mood about Wiggins' chances in the last chapters of the 2010 Tour. "We're nearly in Paris, but we're not there yet and there's still everything to play for. The time trial could be good and there's still a lot of racing."
Cavendish the lone British charger
After a poor start he got his first win on stage 5 then a second on stage 6, putting him 5th in the green jersey standings. A second-placed finish on stage 13 proved he could cope without his lead out man, Mark Renshaw, who was disqualified earlier in the week, but an aggressive ride on tomorrow's stage is needed to challenge for the green.
The 24-year-old put on the best showing in the early stages, claiming the white jersey, awarded to the fastest young rider, and climbing to second overall. He kept the jersey until stage 7, at which point he suffered badly in the heat and the hills, moving from 2nd back to 31st, and has since failed to make his was back into contention.
The 30-year-old started his bid for a podium place on stage 3, moving to 14th overall but after stage 8 he lay 2min 45sec behind the leader Cadel Evans, prompting France's L'Equipe to write: "Wiggins, bye bye podium." Wiggins conceded it had been a disapointing performance: "I've got nothing. I just don't have the form, it's as simple as that."
The veteran Millar finished third in the prologue and, despite being brought down by a stray dog on stage 2, stayed 15th overall between stages 3 and 6. However, a series of injuries from earlier in the tour has forced him off the pace and he is now 159th.
Racing for UCI ProTour, Cummings has proved to be the best of the unknown British cyclists by moving up to 66th on stage 6. However, the trials of the steep mountain stages have pushed him all the way back to 152nd.
Wegelius, who has competed in the tour twice before with a 45th place finish in 2007, moved up to 83rd on stage 8 but has since faltered in the mountains and pulled out.
UCI Professional Continental cyclist, Hunt has been unable to better his 130th-place standing at the end of stage 6 and now sits 165th, the lowest of the Britsh cyclists still racing.
The 29-year-old is cycling for the Cervélo Test Team in his first Tour de France. He moved up to 147th on stage 4 but has since fallen back to 163rd.