The 2008 Tour de France is reaching its exciting climax, and the dilemma exercising hearts and minds since Wednesday has been: Evans or Carlos Sastre? Cadel Evans or Carlos Sastre? Cadel Evans or Carlos Sastre?
It doesn't matter how many times you say it, how much you think about it, it doesn't get any easier. My personal hunch is that Sastre will hold on in tomorrow's final time trial to Saint Amand-Montrond to win the Tour by between 15 and 30 seconds, but I'm certainly not confident enough to feel that the 17/10 one UK bookmaker was offering against the Spaniard yesterday was worth a punt. I'll also confess that I'd prefer an Evans win.
Yes, I know I took exception to Cuddles's, er, boisterous approach to media relations the other day, but my suspicion is that lurking under that rather rough-edged exterior lies a sensitive and intriguing personality. More important than that, I think victory in Paris would mean more to Cadel than it would to Carlos.
But enough of my ramblings. Over the past 24 hours, I've been polling riders, team managers, pundits and fellow journalists to get their predictions. Here's what they said:
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre): Evans is the favourite, but based on how they've been riding over the past few days, plus the fact that the yellow jersey will give him wings, I'll take Sastre to win by a few seconds.
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre): Hmmm, I'm not sure. I hope it's Evans, and, ultimately, that's who I think will probably win. It'll be very close, but he should do it.
Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia): I say Evans. Over 53 kilometres he should be able to take back the minute and a half he needs. I think the podium will be Evans, Sastre then Menchov.
Claudio Corti (Barloworld team manager): In theory it should be Evans, but I'm not sure it will be. If I had to pick, I'd go for a very narrow Evans victory. Maybe by no more than ten seconds.
Paolo Tomaselli (journalist, Corriere della Sera): I'd give Evans a 60 per cent chance, Sastre 40 per cent. If you look back at the precedents, it's pretty close. Sastre also has the jersey in his favour, plus the fact that the yellow jersey often gains a few seconds from the TV motorbikes in front of him. Evans is the favourite, but it's no foregone conclusion.
Stefano Zanatta (Liquigas directeur sportif): Six times out of ten, Evans would take the time he needs to beat Sastre. And that's what I predict will happen.
Marco Marzano (Lampre): It's actually a much harder course than people realize. I think that will suit Evans, and that he'll win by a few seconds. [Smiling] Having said that, we've seen Cancellara flying up mountains, so maybe Sastre will fly in the time trial.
Bob Stapleton (Team Columbia manager): Sastre looks really good to me. He's ridden a really smart Tour, not really extending himself too much until Alpe d'Huez. I just don't think that Evans will ride the time trial of his life. We've seen what a toll this race has taken on our guys, so freshness is going to be so important. It's Sastre's race to lose. Oh, and the big surprise will be Bernhard Kohl holding on to third overall. He's a much better time trialist than people give him credit for.
Leon De Kort (journalist, Algemeen Dagblad): Jérôme Pineau will win the Tour....Nah, I'm joking. I'd like Sastre and Evans to finish on equal time. That would be a fitting end to a Tour where no-one has really stood out.
Chris Froome (Barloworld): I think Sastre has enough time. We've seen what effect the yellow jersey has had before.
David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle): Cadel. No question. I think Sastre will hold on for second, and Christian [Vande velde] will finish third. Oh, and Fabian Cancellara will win the time trial.
Richard Moore (journalist, The Scotsman): Cadel Evans. The heart tells me Carlos, the head Cadel. I'd quite like to see Cadel win to see if he lightens up a bit.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas): I'd give Evans an 80 per cent chance. Normally, in the final time trial of the Tour, on a course like that, I'd expect him to put three minutes into Sastre. Last year Evans was really strong in the final time trial.
Peter Cossins (Editor, Procycling magazine): Carlos Sastre might be a better time triallist than people give him credit for. I think he'll hold on. He's also the kind of rider who gets better in the third week.
Gerald Ciolek (Team Columbia): I haven't really thought about it, but I'll say Evans.
Bert Heyvaert (journalist, Het Nieuwsblad): Sastre will win. He had the best form on Alpe d'Huez, and he has the best form generally. The yellow jersey is also worth 30 seconds. He'll win by about 10 seconds.
Raymond Poulidor (three-time Tour runner-up): Evans won the Tour on Alpe D'Huez. CSC and Sastre should have taken more time there.
Johan Bruyneel (Astana team manager): Evans will win. It won't be so easy that he can relax, but he should do it.
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner): I don't know. It's pretty close but I'd pick Cadel.
Hendrik Redant (Silence-Lotto, directeur sportif): Obviously I hope and think that it'll be Cadel. He might only win by one second, but that will be enough.
Final score: Evans: 14, Sastre: 5 (or 6 if you include me)