• Australia's Richie Porte crosses the finish line of the 13th stage of the 106th edition of the Tour de France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
We've seen them climb, battle the crosswinds, avoid crashes, battle back from punctures. Now the final standings in Paris will come down to the 36.2-kilometre time trial from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

19 Sep 2020 - 8:53 AM  UPDATED 19 Sep 2020 - 8:55 AM

The Course

A mostly flat run to the base of the final climb will suit the specialists of the discipline. There's one pinch where they'll have to get out of the saddle just after the first time check in Le Raddon and also a technical descent from the Col de la Chevestraye, but the time trial specialists will make big time on the first 30 kilometres of the route.

The climb is what will decide the race however. Containing some brutally steep sections and despite its short length, it regularly establishes big splits during normal road stage finishes. Those gaps will be exaggerated by the fact that it's a time trial with no drafting help of the bunch, as well as the energy they'll have to expend before they even start climbing.

All contenders will do a bike change ahead of the hill unless an equipment manufacturer has some sort of climbing time-trial rig set up.

The climb would be enough to make sure that a GC rider takes the win in normal circumstances, but there's a freak called Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) who has looked like the strongest rider in the race. 

The General Classification riders

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) 1st overall, 57 second lead over 2nd

Roglič is an excellent time-triallist, he'll handle the flat section and the climb equally well. The highest-profile time trial he's competed with a similar course is the 2017 world championships, where he was second behind Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma). 

His record in Grand Tours, in particular, is superb. He's won three of the last four individual time trials that he's competed in during Grand Tours. He's managed to keep himself relatively well-rested with his strong team shouldering most of the burden of work during the race, so the likelihood of a end-of-Tour TT flameout seems especially low. 

His one weak point is that he has lost a time-trial to Pogačar in his most recent outing in the discipline, conceding nine seconds to his young rival in the Slovenian nationals. The course also had a tough climb, in that case followed by a flatter section, and Roglič conceded nine seconds over 16 kilometres to the man in second place overall. 

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) 2nd overall, 57 seconds behind 1st, 30 seconds ahead of 3rd

Pogačar doesn't have the long history of time-trialling like many of his rivals, so it's a bit difficult to get a clear read on his ability. Clearly, he's at least very good, you don't beat Roglič or place well in Grand Tour fields as a rookie by accident.

The time-trial discipline is as much about time spent perfecting your position, aerodynamics and feeling on the bike. It's unclear whether Pogačar has spent much time doing this in his short career and his latest win over Roglič was on a climbing-heavy course. It did involve a big change though.

This young star of the sport has taken to everything seemingly with ease since rising to the WorldTour and while taking 57 seconds off Roglič might seem impossible, how far would the yellow jersey need to be off his best for it to be a possibility? Not that much you'd suspect.

Miguel Ángel López (Astana) 3rd overall, 30 seconds behind 2nd, 1'39 minutes ahead of 4th

The enigma of this field, the question that many Australian fans are asking coming into this time trial is "how well does 'Superman' go in the TT?" 

It's a question that López himself would probably like the answer to as well as he's been unpredictable in his outings against the clock. He can range from very good to really bad, not quite Franck Schleck level, but certainly in the realm of losing three and four minutes at a time. Juxtapose those results with his fifth on a relatively flat time trial at the Volta Algarve, behind specialists Evenepoel, Dennis, Kung and Schachmann. 

The most similar time trial routes he's faced do offer some solace for Porte. A 34-kilometre time trial on Stage 9 of the 2019 Giro with a climb into the finish saw him lose 3'45 to Roglič, while another loss to Roglič at the 2019 Vuelta on a hilly course saw him concede 2'00. Clearly the Colombian is climbing well, but a predicted headwind on the flat sections will make those bits harder and put the race in favour of the better exponents of the 'race of truth'.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) 4th overall, 1'39 minutes behind 3rd, 22 seconds ahead of 5th

You have to go back to the 2017 Dauphine to find an individual time trial that Porte has won, but there's little reason to suggest that the Tasmanian won't go well in this battle against the clock and his rivals. Looking back at the last few years of results and the consistent them is that he's regularly about half a minute behind the level of the best climber/time triallist at the race. Think names like Geraint Thomas, Tom Dumoulin.

His time trials of recent years haven't been that similar to the course he'll face here, and he hasn't raced head to head with López in the past, so there's no reference there either. 

At his best, Porte can be competitive with the likes of Roglič. You would expect that he'll need to do that here and then hope that López is not on one of his good days.

Cheers I guess 😂 #tassie

Posted by Richie Porte on Friday, 18 September 2020

Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) 5th overall, 22 seconds behind 4th, 51 seconds ahead of 6th (Enric Mas) 

If López is unpredictable in the races against the clock, Landa is certainly more reliable, if not actually better. He's upgraded from the rider that lost the 2015 Giro d'Italia by dint of his poor results against the clock, and is now about average. His recent results on flat courses have been better than those of the past, and he might have turned a bit of a corner, but he's not going to threaten the top-tier riders here.

In terms of comparison results on similar tests, Landa also competed in the 2019 Giro, and on the same similar stage where López lost 3'45, Landa lost 3'03. 

Landa sits just 22 seconds behind Porte, but he has never beaten the Australian in an individual time trial in the seven times they've competed in the past.

The 2020 Tour de France continues with Stage 20's 36.2km individual time trial from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles, a race against time for Australian Richie Porte to find 99 seconds and the third step on the Paris podium. Watch on SBS HD and SBS On Demand from 8:30pm AEST and the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker from 8:50pm AEST.