Tour de France: How much time does Schleck need?

Even Andy Schleck admits he needs a head start going into Saturday’s time trial if he has any chance of winning the Tour.

Everyone knows Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) needs a head start going into Saturday’s time trial if he has any chance of winning the 2010 Tour de France against Alberto Contador (Astana). Schleck has even admitted that.

With just eight seconds separating the two leaders going into Wednesday’s rest day, speculation is already brewing over what kind of time difference Schleck will need on the 52km test against the clock from Bordeaux to Pauillac.

Schleck saw his 31-second lead turn into an eight-second deficit on Monday, but vows to attack again Thursday up the Tourmalet to regain an advantage. And then there’s Denis Menchov (Rabobank), a proven strong time trialist looming in fourth place at 2:13.

VeloNews polled some key voices in the Tour peloton to gauge their responses:

Alberto Contador (Astana) “Of course (Andy) can be tough in the time trial, he’s a great rider. Don’t forget he’s the Luxembourg national TT champion and I know he’s been working hard on his time trial. I don’t expect to take as much time on him as last year’s final time trial. It’s difficult to calculate what the differences will be. The final time trial comes down to who has strength left. It’s a difficult time trial course, long, on good asphalt. It depends a lot on the wind. If there’s headwind, the differences could be big.

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) “One minute.”

Giuseppi Martinelli, sport director Astana “Starting the final time trial in the yellow jersey would give Andy extra motivation. We are comfortable with eight seconds. Schleck needs to take time, but we have seen that they are almost equal in the mountains. When can he take it? And we’d like to take time back on Schleck before the time trial if possible.”

Bjarne Riis, sport director Saxo Bank “Of course Andy needs more time. We don’t know how much. They seem to be even in the mountains. We have to attack, we have no choice.”

Alain Gallopin, sport director RadioShack “You don’t want to underestimate Andy. With 1:30 in the final time trial, he would be difficult to catch. He would have the advantage of starting behind Alberto and having the time references, which could be destabilizing for Alberto.”

Roberto Damiani, sport director Omega-Lotto “I think Contador could win even if he started three minutes behind, but it’s hard to imagine that he could lose much time to Schleck in the coming stages unless he has a true crisis. If he goes bad, Schleck could win with just 1 minute.”

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) “Andy has improved in the time trial, but Contador is still a level above. Having the yellow jersey will help Schleck, but I think Contador can take back 1:30. It will be very difficult for Schleck to gain an extra minute on Contador ahead of the final time trial.”

John Wilcockson, editor-at-large VeloNews “I think he needs 1:20. It’s the end of the Tour, he’ll be a lot stronger than at the start of the Tour. I think he’ll also be more confident, because his brother, Frank, won the Tour de Suisse in the final time trial. He’s gotten better in the time trial. He’s been coached by Bobby Julich.”

Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) “I think the smart money is on Alberto. He’s strong enough now, he looks like he’s getting stronger. Obviously, with (eight) seconds, on the time trial, he wins it easy.”

Alex Sans Vega, sport director at Cervélo “1:15 — the final time trial is always a test of strength, not a test for the specialists. If you’re strong, you can do very well even if you’re one of the best time trialists. Look at Carlos Sastre (in 2008), he didn’t lose that much time to Evans when everyone said he would lose the yellow jersey. Having the lead is a very big advantage.”

Sean Kelly, retired professional cyclist “I would say he needs a minimum of a minute and a half on Contador. He’s in a position now where he has to attack, first of all to test Contador, then to see if he can crack him. He also has to take time on Menchov.”

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Stage 16, 2010 Tour de France
Stage 16, 2010 Tour de France
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Stage 16, 2010 Tour de France
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