The race of truth

The moment we've been waiting for (well, at least I have): the final time trial of the 2003 Tour de France. Lance vs. Jan, Armstrong vs. Ullrich. Lance has a 65 second lead, and Ullrich has 49km or 30.5 miles to seize it.
A time trial is referred to as "the race of truth" because each rider rides alone, with no teammates or other riders to draft off of. It's just you against the clock. Every rider rides the same exact course.
Riders are launched in reverse order of the GC standings, so Jan will launch second to last, and five minutes later, Lance will be the last man out. They will likely be the last two cyclists on the road that day.
Lance will roll up into the starter box a bit before he's set to go. He'll have already done a warm-up ride in the morning and have spent that time before the time trial on a stationary trainer, keeping his legs warm. He'll sign in at the starter box, viewing the world through the plastic lens of his Giro time trial helmet, custom made just for him. Someone will hold his bike seat so he can clip in with both feet and be ready to sprint out of the box which is elevated a few feet above the ground. He'll be descending a short ramp onto the road.
The road ahead will be barricaded on both sides by metallic or plastic barriers, manned by gendarmes every 10 to 20 meters. Behind those barriers, thousands of fans will be screaming, and their cries will reverberate off of the plastic shell of his helmet, and they will sound to him like the ocean, a muffled roaring through a seashell.
In one ear, Lance will have an earpiece through which he can communicate with his director sportif, Johan Brunyeel. Johan will utter a few words of encouragement, and during the ride he'll be giving Lance updates on Ullrich's times through each time check. Lance will receive constant updates on just where he stands relative to the man ahead of him on the road.
Perhaps it will be raining; it's in the current forecast. If so, the roads will be slick, adding an element of danger in the turns, slowing the riders down.
Ullrich has nothing to lose. He'll be leaving his legs on the road, which is what every rider does in a time trial. Jan and Lance will be averaging approximately 30mph for about an hour of riding. They'll be trying to ride just under their lactate threshold (the point of exertion at which your muscles beging creating lactic acid) for nearly the entire ride, which means their heart rates will be in the 170's. Imagine getting on a stationary bike at the gym and riding a huge gear so hard that your eyes are crossed and sustaining that pace for an hour. Imagine doing it in an aerodynamic tuck position that puts huge strains on your lower back and neck. It's the spinning class from hell.
What will Lance be thinking in the last moments before he's launched? About his loss of 1' 36" to Jan in the previous time trial? About the expectations of his team, who've ridden their hearts out in support of him, sacrificing any opportunity at individual honors? About his sponsor, U.S. Postal, which measures the success of its season almost entirely on Lance's result in the Tour de France? About his numerous other sponsors, like Nike and Oakley and Trek and Subaru, who invest millions of dollars in him? About the millions of cancer survivors around the world who look to him as a hero? About that time of his life when he was lying in a hospital bed, his body eaten away by cancer and chemotherapy, when he thought he would die? About the father who abandoned him? Most people claim that part of Lance's success is the chip on his shoulder, but does he have time to even contemplate such things when out on the road?
I don't know. Perhaps he will think of nothing. Sometimes, when I'm riding, I find my consciousness narrows, and after a ride of several hours I can't remember what I was thinking about. Perhaps his body will be hurting too much to think of anything.
The French starter, the man in a business suit, standing next to Lance, gives him the heads up. It's about time to go. Lance leans forward on his bars, rises up to put weight on his front right pedal, positioned just slightly forward from 12 o'clock.
The starter raises his hand, five fingers open. And then he curls his thumb into his palm, and then his index finger, and...he is saying something.
"Cinq. Quatre. Trois. Deux. Un..."