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The Livestream Diaries, entry #20: Bjarne reads the tea leaves

Editor’s note: Dan Wuori is one of the funniest Twitter bards in the cycling world (follow him at @dwuori). This month, he will be expanding a bit beyond 140 characters to share periodic journals during the Tour de France.

Saxo Bank-Sungard manager Bjarne Riis ruled out a second consecutive Tour victory for Alberto Contador Thursday. The proclamation came as a surprise to many, especially given its timing – some two weeks after even casual observers concluded the same. Riis — who first detailed his struggles to grasp the obvious in his 2009 memoir Eat, Dope, Love — named the Spaniard as one of several riders he now considers “highly unlikely” to top the podium in Paris — including Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov, American cyclocross legend Jeremy Powers and the late Fausto Coppi.

In other Tour-related news, a 36-year-old Boston man was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Massachusetts General Hospital Friday after hearing Weezer’s Brave New World for the 6,128th time this month. The man, clad in red Izod coveralls despite the intense summer heat, is also said to be suffering from vivid nightmares that Bob Roll is in his shower.

Officially out of contention for the CG victory, Contador lit up Friday’s stage 19 just for the fun of it. The Spaniard attacked hard from the outset of the short but grueling stage — turning an already difficult day at the office into a lesson in suffering not unlike viewing Transformers 3.

When the pace proved too much for Thomas Voeckler (who would ultimately lose 3:22 and the maillot jaune on l’Alpe d’Huez), opportunity knocked for his faithful Europcar lieutenant Pierre Rolland. The savvy Frenchman bridged to Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Sammy Sanchez, refused to share the work as the pair closed the gap to Contador and then attacked the waning Spaniards to take a solo victory.

Strong riding saw the Schlecks and Cadel Evans cross the line 0:57 behind Rolland – putting Andy into yellow, with brother Frank and Evans trailing at 0:53 and 0:57 respectively.

Saturday’s 42.5km individual time trial in Grenoble will determine the year’s final podium. With neither Schleck known a time-trialing sensation (Frank once lost to himself), each will spend one more night in mortal fear of Evans – who’ll need the ride of his life to wear yellow into Paris.

Dan’s pick for stage 20: Look for a TT win from Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara and BMC’s Evans to ascend one more podium step.

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