Podium places to be decided in final time trial
By Julien Pretot
BERGERAC France (Reuters) - After almost three weeks of action-packed racing the minor podium places in the Tour de France are likely to be decided in Saturday's final time trial.
The 54-km solo effort against the clock between Bergerac and Perigueux should be won by German Tony Martin, triple world champion in the discipline, but most eyes will be on a couple of Frenchmen and Spain's Alejandro Valverde.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali is expected to wrap up the Tour title as he leads Thibaut Pinot by 7:10 - a virtually unassailable lead if the Astana rider avoids crashes on a straightforward course.
"There are no risks to be taken but I will honor the yellow jersey, the Tour, my team mates and ride it like a leader," Nibali told reporters.
Pinot, who is not a time trial specialist but has dramatically improved in the discipline this season, holds a 13-second lead over compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud while Valverde lies fourth overall, two seconds further back.
French FDJ.fr rider Pinot could drop to fourth while Peraud and Valverde, who both have national time trial titles, may be battling for second.
"Pinot has really improved a lot in time trials. Many will be surprised," Andy Flickinger, a sports director at French rival team Europcar, told Reuters.
FDJ.fr sports director Yvon Madiot also told Reuters: "He's as fresh as them. He was one of the easiest in the climb (to Hautacam in the last mountain stage on Thursday). Continued...