Froome's power of recovery give him a shot at the podium
Tour top four are probably best time triallists in the field
Starts 11am Saturday, ITV4 & Eurosport 1
Geraint Thomas was imperious again on Friday as he came out of the final mountains test with a slightly extended lead over Tom Dumoulin, having taken a six-second bonus for second place on the stage behind Primoz Roglic.
Thomas leads Dumoulin by two minutes five seconds with Roglic, who attacked repeatedly on the final climb of the Col d'Aubisque and with decisive effect on the descent, up to third overall at 2m 24secs.
Roglic won the stage by 19 seconds and took a ten-second time bonus, which moved him up the standings above Chris Froome. The pre-race favourite, repeatedly in trouble on the Aubisque while Thomas was untroubled, is down to fourth at 2:37.
The top four are probably the best time-triallists in the field too, which sets the stage for the final battle of the Tour in Saturday's 31km individual race against the clock.
One calculation this week indicated that Dumoulin, the world champion at this discipline, could expect to take back 1.89sec per kilometre – based on time-trial results against Thomas since 2015 – and that would give him 58.73 seconds over the distance of Saturday's stage.
Rough calculation on what we can expect in the Time Trial between Dumoulin vs Thomas (with the obvious caveats, doesn’t take into account GC, motivation, domestiquing etc.)— Cillian Kelly (@irishpeloton) July 26, 2018
(Obvious) Conclusion: Barring a Thomas-esque crash, Thomas will win the 2018 Tour de France#TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/i2kuY0T8nQ
Among the variables that might tip the balance a little more towards Dumoulin are that his biggest gaps have come over longer distances late in grand tours – stage 17 of the 2015 Vuelta and stage 18 of the 2016 Tour de France.
But against that is the fact that Thomas has generally not been riding for his GC position, whereas this time he will be riding flat out to secure the biggest victory of his career.
Using top time-triallist Rohan Dennis as a yardstick, about a minute between Dumoulin and Thomas feels about right, and it is most likely to be less than more given how strongly Thomas has been riding in the yellow jersey.
In last year's Giro, when Dumoulin was on his way to overall victory, he was first and Thomas was second in the stage ten time trial, with 49 seconds between them over 39km.
Today’s course is a tough test, featuring four intermediate climbs and other hilly sections, although it does not seem that technical. The descending should not be a problem for Thomas, but there is always the threat of a mechanical or puncture that could make things tight.
It’s a slight surprise that Dumoulin is not favourite – bet365 make Roglic 11-10 – given that the Frenchman is the holder of the rainbow jersey at this discipline. Although Dumoulin's win-rate in grand tour time trials is only just over 50 per cent since 2014, most of the riders who have beaten him are absent from this race.
An exception is Froome, who beat him by 21 seconds over a climbing 17km at the end of the 2016 Tour. The course will suit him and he is the each-way pick as he tries to regain his podium position over Roglic.
Roglic and Froome are very evenly matched in time trials.— Cillian Kelly (@irishpeloton) July 27, 2018
Roglic seems to be improving as the Tour goes on, Froome the opposite.
I think Froome will need to attack Roglic today to keep his 3rd place. But will that mean attacking Thomas as well? Fascinating. pic.twitter.com/6GmqiikW60
The four-time Tour winner had a tough day on Friday, but so did the others and his powers of recovery give him a shot.
1pt each-way 12-1 bet365
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