GRENOBLE, France (AFP)— French hope Pierre Rolland (Europcar) reinforced his grip on the Tour de France white jersey despite being given a fright by Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) on the penultimate stage of the race Saturday.
Rolland became the leader of the race’s classification for riders aged 25 and under Friday after a sensational maiden stage win on L’Alpe d’Huez.
He went into the 42.5km time trial around Grenoble with a lead of 1:33 on all-rounder Taaramae, who finished 10th in the race against the clock, 2:03 behind HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin.
But Rolland limited the damage, finishing 21st, only 47 seconds behind. It means he is likely to keep the jersey after the final stage to the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.
“There are only four jerseys on the Champs-Élysées podium, and I’m going to be in one of them,” said a beaming Rolland, who sits 11th overall in the race, 10:43 behind Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team).
Taaramae is 12th overall at 11:29.
Rolland, who spent the best part of the second and third week helping team leader Thomas Voeckler defend the yellow jersey, admitted he simply had better legs than his Estonian rival.
“In theory, Taaramae is a better rider than me but at this stage of the race it comes down to who has the freshest legs, not who has the better physical capabilities,” he said.
The white jersey winner is usually regarded as a future winner of the yellow jersey and had been won the past three years by Andy Schleck.
Leopard-Trek’s Schleck, 26, is set to finish runner-up in the yellow-jersey race for the third consecutive time Sunday after failing to maintain his overnight lead of 57 seconds on Evans during Saturday’s time trial.