Germany's Stefan Schumacher claimed his second time trial victory from this year's Tour de France when he dominated the 20th penultimate stage on Saturday.
The Gerolsteiner rider clocked a time of 1:03.53 for the 53km course to stun Switzerland's two-time world champion and runner up Fabian Cancellara. The 27-year-old CSC rider could only finish in second place at 21 second adrift of Schumacher, with Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen claiming third place at 1:01 behind to secure his final placing in the race's top ten.
For some, Schumacher was a surprise winner of the fourth stage time trial, held over 29.5km in Cholet. But the 27-year-old German's victory, especially ahead of Cancellara, was an even bigger surprise. Schumacher said he had a valid explanation.
"I did a perfect race. The course was a little bit rolling, which is perfectly suited to me. I got into a good rhythm straight away," he said. "There was a tailwind at the start and afterwards I just kept my head down and focused on the job."
Schumacher's second stage win this year caps a relatively superb campaign for his Gerolsteiner team, which is on the lookout for a new sponsor as the German bottled water company will pull out at the end of the year.
Schumacher's Gerolsteiner teammate Bernhard Kohl will finish third on the podium in Paris
Teammate Bernhard Kohl had secured the polka dot jersey for the 'King of the Mountains' competition on the final day in the Alps, and surprised everyone by finishing inside the top ten in the time trial, at 2:21 behind Schumacher.
Schumacher knows he's put in the best time Saturday
Schumacher admitted: "It's been an incredible Tour for us. We pulled together and we've surpassed expectations, especially Bernhard."
One of Schumacher's big ambitions this year is to go for gold in the Olympic time trial in Beijing, where he will likely come up against a more determined Cancellara. Ahead of that challenge, the Swiss was just happy to see teammate Carlos Sastre virtually secure the yellow jersey with a time trial performance that left rival Cadel Evans in second place overall.
Will 'Spartacus' overtake Schumacher in Beijing?
"We've won the Tour, that's the most important thing," said Cancellara, who was rewarded for his successes this season with a new three-year contract on Friday. "Carlos showed today that he is the authentic winner of this race, he fully deserves it. Cadel and the other challengers weren't ready to really fight with our team."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008