Time trial to play big role in outcome

Saturday, July 22, 2006

MACON, France -- After a leisurely ride Friday, one of the most dramatic Tour de France editions in years reaches a crucial stage today -- the individual time trial.

The question on everyone's lips: Can American Floyd Landis overcome a 30-second deficit and wrest the yellow jersey away from race leader Oscar Pereiro of Spain?

The two men have traded the yellow jersey back and forth since last Saturday. Now, the time trial likely will determine who will wear the maillot jaune when it counts -- Sunday in Paris.

"I feel pretty good about my chances," Landis said after Friday's mostly flat stage, in which the leading contenders rode together, trying to recharge after three agonizing days in the Alps.

"I'm optimistic."

Today's race against the clock is a 35.4-mile ride that snakes from Le Creusot to Montceau-les-Mines. It shouldn't take riders, who will leave one by one in reverse order of the standings, much more than an hour to complete.

Friday, Landis and the other top riders took it easy as Italy's Matteo Tosatto won the 18th stage

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