Tour de France`s big guns target Sunday time trial

Paris: Some of the biggest `guns` in the Tour de France peloton will be on show Sunday when the destination of the yellow jersey could be decided for the coming week.

As part of their wish to dispense with the flatter stages favoured by the sprinters, organisers have shaken up the opening week of the July 2-24 event.

Stage two is a team time trial around Les Essarts and although big time gaps are not expected -- it is only 23 km and over mainly flat terrain -- whichever team wins is likely to see one of its riders pull on the fabled yellow jersey.

As well as the stage win itself, that prospect has several big names -- as well as their sponsors -- licking their lips.

"We`re very excited about the time trial stage on Sunday," said American George Hincapie, whose BMC team is one of several who will ride newly-built hi-tech bikes in the hope of stealing a march on their rivals.

BMC, whose leader is former two-time yellow jersey runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia, are not alone.

HTC-Highroad, Garmin-Cervelo, Team Sky and RadioShack all fancy their chances of standing together atop the Tour podium on Sunday.

HTC-Highroad sporting director Allan Peiper said: "It`s a very big goal. For whatever reasons, the status of it has risen in the last years and winning the TTT in the Tour or any other race is a very prestigious thing.

"This year it`s even more crucial because you`re setting your team up for leadership which could last till stage eight or nine."

Garmin`s David Millar, who was second behind Swiss Fabian Cancellara in the 2010 world time trial championship, said his American outfit expect to be in the mix.

"I would rate our team among the top three," Millar said on Saturday.

"It`s an important stage because it affects everything. Whoever takes it (yellow jersey) will want to keep it throughout the week, although that depends on which team and rider and what their ambitions are."

British outfit Team Sky are dead set on putting their efforts into hoisting Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, fourth overall in 2009, onto the podium.

And although they are hoping to be economic with their efforts until the crucial third week in the Alps, they have two Olympic champions in Wiggins and Geraint Thomas in their squad.

Welshman Thomas revealed: "It`s all for Brad and the team. But for me personally the team time trial is a big objective."

Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer are expected to lead RadioShack`s bid, the duo having finished second and third respectively behind Cancellara when he won the final time trial, over 32 km, in the recent Tour of Switzerland.

Bureau Report

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