Tour de France … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. All four of this quartet are of the new breed of Grand Tour contender, tall, skeletal and powerful. The days when diminutive climbers dominated stage races, creating big time gaps in the mountain stages and then battling to hang on in the time trials – the best recent example of this being the late Marco Pantani – are gone.In many ways Team Sky’s high tempo style of catenaccio climbing suits riders like Thomas, Dumoulin and Roglic with their highly refined power-to-weight ratios, while it dissuades the more explosive climbers, such as Nairo Quintana and Romain Bardet.The reality is that Quintana, Mikel Landa, Bardet et al can huff and puff all they like in the mountains, snatching seconds here and there. It is dramatic and exciting, but even in a mere 31km against the clock their time trialling capabilities are so limited, that Thomas, Dumoulin, Roglic and Froome will always have the upper hand.This article was amended on 10 August 2018 to correct an erroneous reference to the 2017 Tour time trial Topics Saturday’s time trial route is just 31km. Geraint Thomas climbs final mountain and closes on Tour de France glory Share on Facebook features Tour de France 2018 Read more Reuse this content Share on Messenger Read more Geraint Thomas Since you’re here… Ominously, Thomas’s poor performance benefited Primoz Roglic, winner of Friday’s stage, who went on to win the Swiss race overall.Unlike in 2012, when Bradley Wiggins took his first Tour win, this Tour has been characterised by minimal individual time-trialling, a trend that seems increasingly to be taking hold with the race organisers. Based on past form Geraint Thomas should really have little to fear. “I won the national time trial title before [coming] here,” the Welshman said. “It was good to do that, a 40km-odd time trial, so I feel confident that I’ll be able to do a decent ride.”Recent results suggest the world time trial champion, Tom Dumoulin, who won the 2017 Giro d’Italia by overturning his deficit in the time trial, will be the favourite for the stage, on a course that looks ideally suited to him. Yet it could be very close. In the 2016 Olympic Games time trial in Rio, the Dutchman beat Thomas by 1min 50sec, but Team Sky’s race leader seems untroubled by Dumoulin’s pedigree.“In the 2017 Giro, I had a big crash and only lost 40 seconds to Dumoulin in the time trial,” he said. “It’s a totally different approach this time. Still, you never know.”That much is true, and Thomas has already experienced one time-trial failure this season when he cracked during April’s Tour of Romandie. “I just didn’t have it,” he said that afternoon, “and when you know that, your head just falls off a bit.” Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest The Tour de France will be decided on Saturday afternoon in the French Basque country on a technical and tortuous individual time-trialling course from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette. If these small start and finish towns are little-known, the arduous 31km course itself will not be forgotten by the riders.As tradition dictates, Sunday’s final stage, from Houilles to the Champs Élysées, is effectively neutralised between the main contenders and the battle for the yellow jersey already concluded, but with hardly any flat road between the start and the finish of Saturday’s time trial, this stage will be a brutal climax to the three-week race. ‘It should be enough’: Geraint Thomas confident of Tour de France triumph Share on Twitter Share via Email Share on LinkedIn Cycling Share on WhatsApp Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks. This year’s total, a mere 31km of racing alone against the clock, is the lowest in the modern Tour’s history, after the 2015 Tour which had only 13.8km of the “race of truth”. In contrast, during the 2012 Tour, in which Wiggins won two time-trial stages, there were 101.4km of individual racing against the clock.More kilometres of time trialling during this year’s race would have suited Thomas and, for the clutch of riders within sight of a podium finish in Paris, it will be a make or break stage. That battle is likely to be even more intense given that Thomas, Dumoulin, Chris Froome and Roglic are all strong time triallists, and all capable of winning this final decisive stage.Of the four, it is Froome’s hopes that are perhaps most at risk. With both Dumoulin and Roglic now ahead of him, the defending champion will have to battle to claim a top-three finish.This race has been the Tour of the rouleur-climber – riders with all-round abilities – capable of riding strongly and at high rhythmic speeds in the mountains, holding their own in the crosswinds and on the cobbles, and of winning time trials.