Andy Schleck, the main threat to Alberto Contador's quest for a third Tour de France victory, is convinced the race will be won or lost in Thursday's tough climb up the Col du Tourmalet, the final mountain stage.
"There are only eight seconds between us. It's nothing at all," the Luxembourg rider said after Tuesday's 16th stage.
"I believe the Tour will be decided on the Tourmalet. The first guy up there will also win the Tour."
Schleck, second behind the Spaniard in the Tour last year, is considered to be of the same calibre as overall leader Contador in the mountains but weaker in time trials.
As a result, there have been countless calculations and discussions in the peloton about the gap Schleck would need over Contador ahead of Saturday's 52-km time trial between Bordeaux and Pauillac to stand a chance for final victory.
The two rivals themselves mentioned 90 seconds as the probable difference between them in the last timed effort.
But Contador warned that things might not be that simple.
"I fear Schleck in the time-trial simply because he's a great rider. He won the Luxembourg time trial championship, which proves he's improved in the discipline," he said.
"What's for certain is that there's going to be a great battle between us," Schleck said.
(Editing by Justin Palmer
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