As you will remember, Wim Vansevenant had to thread a needle today in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, an individual time trial. Yesterday Bernhard Eisel lost 13 1/2 minutes relative to Wim’s overall time, becoming the new Lanterne Rouge by 42 seconds. In order for Wim to make history by earning the Lanterne Rouge for the third Tour in a row, he had to come in at least 43 seconds slower than Eisel today.
Not too difficult, perhaps; Eisel beat Wim by a full minute in the shorter time trial in stage 4, and he got to start the TT after Eisel today, so he’d know the time to beat. However, Eisel’s crashed repeatedly during this tour, and the group he finished with yesterday were all so beat up and bandaged that they might have been the cast of The Mummy Returns. What if Eisel was on his last legs yesterday? Today he might have finished outside the time limit (1.25 times the winner’s time) and been disqualified. Today Wim had to race fast enough to stay inside the time limit — something I’m probably not capable of on my best day — while ensuring that, if Eisel was also inside the limit, he’d finish at least 43 seconds behind him. A lot of calculations to make on the fly while performing in a world-class sporting event.
Well, the nice thing about the individual time trial is that they start in reverse order of their standing in the general classification, so by the time I got up this morning, Wim and Eisel had both already finished the race.
Vansevenant came in 1:35 behind Eisel; by my calculations, he’s back in last place by a margin of 53 seconds. Close, but a deficit he should be able to maintain tomorrow all the way to the Champs-Élysées. Nobody else is within striking distance — Sven Kraus was the closest, 1:12 ahead of Wim yesterday, and finished well ahead of him today. What about the cutoff time? Wim’s okay as long as the winner doesn’t come in under 51:49, a superhuman 38 mph average speed. That looks safe so, I’d say unless something weird happens tomorrow, Wim’s going to make history by coming in last in the Tour de France a third time. Go Wim!
Oh, yeah, and this stage will probably decide the yellow jersey too. It would be nice if Cadel Evans won, so that Silence-Lotto could make bookends around the tour.
Update: It’s official. Wim’s again the Lanterne Rouge of the TdF, and only the flat stage to Paris remains. Teammate Cadel Evans didn’t pull out an overall victory, though, and will be 2nd to Carlos Sastre.
More on Wim and the Lanterne Rouge at the TdF Lanterne Rouge blog.