(Photos: Yuzuru Sunada)
French hope Pierre Rolland reinforced his grip on the Tour de France white jersey despite being given a fright by Estonian rival Rein Taaramae on the penultimate stage of the race
Rolland became the leader of the race's classification for riders aged 25 and under Friday after a sensational maiden stage win on Alpe d'Huez. He went into the 42.5 km time trial around Grenoble with a 1min 33sec lead on Cofidis all-rounder Taaramae, who finished 10th in the race against the clock 2:03 behind Germany's Tony Martin.
Despite harboring doubts, Europcar rider Rolland limited the damage to finish 21st, only 47sec behind. It means he is likely to keep the jersey after the final stage to the Champs Elysees on Sunday.
"There are only four jerseys on the Champs Elysees podium, and I'm going to be in one of them," beamed Rolland, who sits 11th overall in the race 10:43 behind Australia's Cadel Evans.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."
The white jersey winner is usually regarded as a future winner of the yellow jersey and had been won the past three years by Luxembourg's Andy Schleck. Schleck, now 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 57sec on Evans during the penultimate stage time trial.