Tour de France 2012, stage 19 preview: Time for Bradley Wiggins to let loose

Stage 19 of the 99th Tour de France could have provided a dramatic finale before the peloton rode into Paris for the yearly final-day celebration on the cobblestoned loops around the Champs Elysees.

But now the long, flat and fast 33.2-mile penultimate stage on Saturday, July 21st stage will likely be a time for Bradley Wiggins to showcase his nearly two-week lead in the Tour de France and his dominance as a time trialist.

Chartres, France

Chartres, France

Wiggins dominated the first time trial and now with more than a two-minute margin over Chris Froome, his compatriot and Sky teammate, he’ll likely dominate again — if he chooses to do so.

But with his victory in the Tour de France only a few hours of riding away, the question of the day will be: Will Wiggins ride conservatively to just make sure there’s no tragedy? Or, will Wiggins unleash it, knowing that it would be difficult to lose two minutes over 33 miles almost regardless of what transpires.

It would have been interesting to see Fabian Cancellera and Wiggins go head-to-head, but Spartacus left the event to be with his expecting wife. And likewise, Cadel Evans, the defending race titlist, could have made a go for it. And, so, too, for Tony Martin, a world time trial champion who’s no longer in the race.

For Evans, until a few days ago, a podium finish was still feasible. But the Australian veteran rider suffered in the Pyrneees and he’s now eight minutes behind Froome . . . who’s no slouch as a time trialist.

For Americans, the 19th stage will be both celebratory and a relief. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is 8 1/2 minutes behind Wiggins, but he helped teammate Evans for most of the race. Now in fifth overall and the highest among seven Americans, he’ll get to showcase his individual skills.

The final time trial could have also been a stellar day for Levi Leipheimer. But the four-time, top-10 overall Tour de France finisher hasn’t fared as well as he had hoped — the lingering effects of his broken leg April 1.

Remember, Leipheimer won the final-day time trial in 2007 and finished a career-best third. But as he career winds down, Leipheimer is 31st overall and may use the stage just to find his way to Paris.

Tour de France, stage 19 profile

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