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With wind ripping at 25 mph near the summit of Bald Mountain, Columbia-HTC’s Tony Martin battled for a second place finish after riding in a breakaway for nearly the entire 104-mile stage. The strong winds battered the main field throughout the day and made for a challenging chase by the peloton, allowing Martin’s group to stretch their gap to as much as 8 minutes and 45 seconds with 28 miles until the finish.
Massive crowds lined the narrow roadway as the breakaway lifted the pace at the base of the final climb and the group shattered as the grade kicked up. One by one, riders faded backward down the hill as Martin pressed on through a wall of sound, flags, cowbells, noisemakers, and rabid screaming fans.
At the end of the day, he was among just two men to stay away from the chasing GC group of Contador, Armstrong, Wiggins, and the Brothers Schleck. Martin’s lone companion at the summit was Rabobank’s Juan Manuel Garate, who pulled away in the final meters to steal the stage victory from the young German.
Despite the near-miss for the day’s top honors, Martin’s incredible ride bodes well for the future of a man who is sure to become a top GC contender in the coming years. Keep your eye on this one!
The showdown: Schleck attacks not enough to shake up the GC
This was the day everyone was waiting for. 104 miles of truth. 5 climbs primed and ready for race leaders to lay down the pain. A final, grueling battle on the slopes of Mon Ventoux. Heat, wind, and relentless attacking.
When the sparks finally started to fly, Alberto Contador proved to be as unstoppable as many have suspected. Likewise Lance Armstrong, who fended off one attack after another in order to defend his third place position in the overall classification.
Armstrong and Contador rode defensively, splitting duties up the steep grade to mark every move the Schlecks could dish out. Despite their best efforts, the top-five positions of the general classification remained unchanged when the smoke cleared at the top of the Giant of Provence.
The big surprise of the day came from Garmin’s Bradley Wiggins, who clawed his way up the mountain with the leaders in a desperate bid to hold onto his 4th place position in the overall standings. Despite being dropped by the select group in the final kilometer, the British rider was successful – crossing the line with only 3 seconds to spare.
A matter of tradition: The Champs-Élysées
The race isn’t over is it? Yes and no.
We’ve still got one stage to go – and it’s a hugely important one for Team Columbia-HTC – but as far as the general classification is concerned, things are all but wrapped up.
Since 1975, the Tour has ended on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Traditionally, this final stage is treated as a celebration and the atmosphere is almost parade-like. Champagne will flow and the pace will be relatively mellow until the approach to the famous finish in Paris.
With its false-flat uphill cobbles between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, the 'world’s most beautiful avenue' is always a spectacular finish of the Tour, and Cavendish has his sights set on victory in this prestigious venue. The Englishman has a way of delivering on his promises, so you can expect the Columbia train to be out in force tomorrow.
Expect a spectacular sprint finish as Cav’ has a go at one last moment of glory to finish off what has already been an immensely successful Tour.
Stage 20 Results: Top Five Individuals
1. GARATE Juan Manuel RABOBANK 4h 39' 21"
2. MARTIN Tony TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 00' 03"
3. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 00' 38"
4. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 38"
5. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 00' 41"
Top Ten Individual Standings (GC) after Stage 20
1. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA 81h 46' 17"
2. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 04' 11"
3. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 05' 24"
4. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 06' 01"
5. SCHLECK Frank TEAM SAXO BANK + 06' 04"
6. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA + 06' 42"
7. NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS + 07' 35"
8. VANDE VELDE Christian GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 12' 04"
9. KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS + 14' 16"
10. LE MEVEL Christophe FRANCAISE DES JEUX + 14' 25"
Columbia-HTC Individual Standings after Stage 20
19. HINCAPIE George 131. CAVENDISH Mark
27. MONFORT Maxime 134. GRABSCH Bert
36. MARTIN Tony 149. RENSHAW Mark
57. KIRCHEN Kim 150. EISEL Bernhard
101. ROGERS Michael