Time trial stages often the deciding factors 

Unlike the traditional multicyclist stages, where the riders can draft off each other and work with teammates to maintain a strategic game plan, competitors in time trials must fend for themselves.

The thrill of the chase, where the main peloton tracks down a group of bold breaking riders, is one of the most revered and exciting aspects of professional cycling, but the time trial stages — individual legs where riders race against the clock — are often the deciding factors in the major tours.

Unlike the traditional multicyclist stages, where the riders can draft off each other and work with teammates to maintain a strategic game plan, competitors in time trials must fend for themselves. This usually means putting their heads down and flat-out sprinting for miles on end (although, depending on the tour, time-trials can range from mountain climbs to laps around a track.)

Traditionally, time-trial stages have been the domain of veteran riders — cyclists who can count on their experience and technique to guide them along the course. In countless examples, the European Grand Tours have been decided by heroic time trial performances.

In 1989, Greg LeMond entered the final stage of the Tour de France — a time trial — trailing leader Laurent Fignon by 50 seconds. With a scorching final performance, LeMond was able to make up the deficit and win his third General Classification title of the Tour de France.

Saturday’s Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California — a 20.9-mile time trial through the streets of Los Angeles — again established that notion of veteran superiority. Michael Rogers, David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer — the three experienced favorites of the event — posted the second, third and fourth fastest times in the stage.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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