Tyler Farrar pedaled around Grenoble for about an hour Saturday morning with only two things on his mind.
The rider from Wenatchee wanted to safely complete the 20th stage individual time trial of the Tour de France and then focus on Sunday’s race finale and the last sprinters’ stage.
Farrar, the 10th starter on the 26.4-mile loop, accomplished the first goal. While riding conservatively, he finished in 1 hour, 3 minutes and 7 seconds, placing 142nd among the remaining field of 167.
About 5 1/2 hours later, Cadel Evans (BMC) of Australia rode to a second-place finish and overtook Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) of Luxembourg to likely win the race’s 98th edition.
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), a time trial specialist from Germany, won the stage in 55 minutes, 33.91 seconds and at average speed of 34.38 mph — his first Tour de France career stage win.
Evans, who began the day in third place and trailing Schleck by 57 seconds, placed second, seven seconds behind Martin. Schleck finished 17th and now trails Evans by 1:34 and will likely finish second in the three-week race — cycling’s most prestigious — for the third straight year.
Evans, who barring catastrophe will finish the event for the seventh straight year, finished overall second in 2007 and 2008.
The race ends with the traditionally ceremonial final stage for overall title contenders. But the concluding day race will offer sprinters a final opportunity for a win in one of the shortest concluding road stages in Tour de France history.
The 21st stage will take the riders 59 miles from Creteil to Paris and the race’s annual finish on the cobblestones of the Champs Elysees and with a backdrop of French monoliths lie the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower.
The field will make eight, 3.7-mile loops on the cobblestones with four-time stage winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) of Great Britain, stage winner Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) of Germany and Farrar among the expected riders at the front for the final sprint. Cavendish won the final stage last year.
Farrar and the other sprinters knew nine of the race’s 21 stages could have been finished in mass finishes. The Garmin-Cervelo rider competing in his third Tour de France has been in the mix on three occasions, with three top-three finishes including his stage 3 win.
During the three mountain stages in the Pyrenees, followed by three mountain stages in the Alps, Farrar rode as expected in the “gruppetto,” the pack of cyclists that forms at the back of the field.
The gruppetto has to finish within a percent of the winner or they’re eliminated from the race. In stages 18 and 19, which combined had five beyond category climbs (the most difficult), the gruppetto finished outside the limit.
But the gruppetto was so large — 82 riders in stage 19 and nearly half the field — the organization also has a rule it can’t eliminate more than 20 percent of the field if it finishes outside the time frame. In other words, there’s strength in numbers.