Tour de France news round-up: stage 20

Contador, winners and losers, Armstrong, jerseys

Contador hands Spain a 13th Tour crown

Alberto Contador took Spain's tally to 13 wins in 97 editions of the Tour de France when he wrapped up his third victory on Sunday after wins in 2007 and 2009.

Reputed climber Federico Bahamontes, nicknamed the 'Eagle of Toledo', broke new ground for his countrymen by winning the race in 1959 after years of domination by the French, the Italians and Belgians.

Following in Bahamontes' trail, albeit 14 years later was Luis Ocana, who claimed his only win in 1973 in an era dominated by Belgian great Eddy Merckx.

It took another 15 years for Spain to hail a winner, in the shape of Pedro Delgado, in 1988.

Only three years later, in 1991, Miguel Indurain showed a pioneering streak by crushing his rivals in the time trials while proving solid in the mountains stages. Those skills allowed him to become the first five-time consecutive winner, his reign lasting until halfway through the 1996 race when Denmark's Bjarne Riis took control on his way to overall victory.

It took another 11 years for Spain to hail a new yellow jersey champion, and it came in controversial fashion.

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro finished second in the 2006 race, but was proclaimed champion a year later when American Floyd Landis, who tested positive for testosterone during the race's stage 17, was officially disqualified.

Similarly, Contador claimed his first Tour victory in 2007 when he inherited the yellow jersey late in the race after Denmark's race leader Michael Rasmussen was ejected for suspected doping.

Contador virtually secured his first Tour de France triumph in the penultimate stage time trial to beat Australia's Cadel Evans by 23secs.

In 2008 another Spaniard triumphed, and again Evans was the runner-up when Carlos Sastre, then riding for the CSC team, claimed his first victory in the race.

After missing the race in 2008 because Astana were not invited, Contador started as the pre-race favourite in 2009 and, despite the presence of cycling icon Lance Armstrong in his team the Spaniard was a class above the rest.

Due to his crushing victory in 2009 Contador started the 97th edition as the big favourite, however the Spaniard this time did not have it so easy.

Main rival Andy Schleck, who finished runner-up in 2009, proved a tough customer and went into the penultimate stage time trial with only an eight-second deficit. Schleck finished only 39sec behind in the overall standings, signaling his intention to push Contador even further in next year's race.

Wins by country after 97 editions

  • 36: France
  • 18: Belgium
  • 13: Spain
  • 10: United States
  •  9: Italy
  •  4: Luxembourg
  •  2: Netherlands, Switzerland
  •  1: Germany, Denmark, Ireland

Contador's winning margin among Tour's smallest

Alberto Contador won his third Tour de France on Sunday following the race's final stage to Paris, having earned a 39sec lead over rival Andy Schleck in the penultimate stage time trial.

Below is a list of the smallest winning margins in the 107-year history of the Tour de France.

  • 1989: Greg LeMond (USA) bt Laurent Fignon (FRA) by 8sec
  • 2007: Alberto Contador (ESP) bt Cadel Evans (AUS) by 23sec
  • 1968: Jan Janssen (NED) bt Herman Van Springel (BEL) by 38sec
  • 2010: Alberto Contador (ESP) bt Andy Schleck (LUX) by 39sec
  • 1987: Stephen Roche (IRL) bt Pedro Delgado (ESP) by 40sec
  • 1977: Bernard Thevenet (FRA) bt Hennie Kuiper (NED) by 48sec
  • 1964: Jacques Anquetil (FRA) bt Raymond Poulidor (FRA) by 55sec

Spanish press hail 'king' Contador after Tour win

King Contador

Spanish media hailed Alberto Contador on Sunday after he won the Tour de France for the third time, calling him the "king" of cycling's premier event.

"King of the Tour," wrote the online edition of sports daily AS below a photo of the cyclist wearing the leader's yellow jersey.

"Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has won his third Tour de France with a meagre lead of 39 seconds over Andy Schleck of Luxembourg of Saxo Bank," it said.

Contador's win, following victories in 2007 and last year, took Spain's tally to 13 wins in 97 editions of the Tour de France.

"Contador scores a triplet in Paris," wrote the online edition of rival sports daily Marca on its main page.

"Alberto Contador already has his third tour under his belt and is nearing the five managed by Miguel Indurain," it added.

"Contador once again reigns in Paris," wrote the online edition of daily El Mundo.

"This is one of the greatest Spanish sportsmen of all time," it added.

"Contador wins his third Tour of France," wrote top-selling daily El Pais.

Menchov podium a huge boost for Rabobank

Denis Menchov (R) made the podium for Rabobank

Dutch outfit Rabobank finished the Tour de France on a high Sunday, and with hope they may now have a home-grown future challenger for the race's coveted yellow jersey.

After an underwhelming start to the race Russian Denis Menchov secured the third and last place on the Champs Elysées podium thanks to a late charge on the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday.

And with Robert Gesink's sixth place finish on only his second participation, the Dutch team believe the future is bright.

Rabobank sports director Erik Breukink hinted that he fully expected Menchov, who was fourth overall and 21sec behind Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez before the race against the clock, to dislodge the Olympic road race champion.

"Denis is really happy, he's on the podium and he got the best time of all the (yellow jersey) favourites," said Breukink. "The wind was changing and had become really strong but Denis likes these kinds of tough conditions."

Menchov's 11th place finish in the time trial on Saturday, 3min 51sec behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara, was enough to leave him in third 1:39 ahead of Sanchez prior to Sunday's largely celebratory final stage.

Despite taking 1:52 off race winner Alberto Contador in the final time trial, leaving him with regrets of not trying to stick closer to the Spaniard in the mountains, Menchov was satisfied with his race.

"I didn't want to get obsessed by the yellow jersey, I was afraid of being disappointed again," said the Russian. "So this (third place) is more than welcome to me and the team."

Breukink believes the Russian, who was given third place on the race in 2008 after the disqualification of Bernhard Kohl for doping, perhaps benefited from an unplanned change of pre-Tour strategy after suffering a health problem.

"He had to change his preparation for the Tour because of breathing problems," said Breukink. "Because of that he did an altitude training camp after the Dauphine Criterium (June 6-13) instead of doing it as planned before the race.

"Maybe that went in his favour. At the end of the day he's on the podium, and with (Robert) Gesink in sixth we're very happy."

A winner of the Giro d'Italia in 2009, Menchov, 32, may yet have a few years of challenging for the yellow jersey although Dutchman Gesink showed promise on only his second participation.

Gesink, who has shown plenty of promise on the climbs of many top races in recent years, now must focus on improving his time trial. The skinny 24-year-old finished 109th on Saturday at 8:33 behind Cancellara.

Armstrong's men in black fall foul of Tour officials

Lance Armstrong riled Tour de France officials on his final day on the race after appearing on the podium in black-coloured team strips. RadioShack's team colours are red and grey.

However, seven-time champion Armstrong and his teammates showed up for the 20th and final stage wearing black outfits emblazoned with the number 28. That is a reference to the 28 million people Armstrong's Livestrong foundation estimates are living with cancer.

The American famously battled cancer in 1998 to return to racing and win the Tour seven times consecutively.

In recent years his Livestrong foundation has been involved in raising awareness, and funds, in a bid to beat the disease. But his latest bid was kept in check by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials on Sunday.

After turning up wearing black for the 20th and final stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysées in Paris, the rest of the peloton had to wait while they were forced to change back to red and grey.

Race jury president Francesco Cenere told French TV: "It is forbidden to change jersey in a stage race without an authorisation from the UCI. They had to change jersey otherwise they would have been excluded from the race."

Armstrong decided to try again after the stage, when he and his team turned up at the podium to receive their prize for dominating the teams' classification wearing black.

"In the end, I think the fact we had to change the jerseys (before the stage) gave us some publicity," Armstrong told France Televisions.

On what was his final Tour campaign, Armstrong finished the race nearly 40 minutes behind Spain's three-time winner Alberto Contador, his former teammate at Astana in 2009.

The 38-year-old American is at the centre of serious doping allegations levelled recently by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis's accusations have led to the launching of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices of Armstrong and other riders at his former team, US Postal.

Tour de France jersey winners

Jersey winners at the 97th edition of the Tour de France, which ended on Sunday:

Yellow jersey (general classification): Alberto Contador (ESP/AST)

White jersey (best young rider aged 25 and under): Andy Schleck (LUX/SAX)

Green jersey (points classification): Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM)

Polka dot jersey (best climber's competition): Anthony Charteau (FRA/BBX)

Teams classification: RadioShack (USA)

Most aggressive rider: Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/QST)

Winners and losers on the 2010 Tour de France

Winners

Alberto Contador (ESP)

Contador went into this year's race as the clear favourite, and despite being pushed all the way by Andy Schleck the Spaniard's tactical nous was key to his third yellow jersey success and fifth title from a Grand Tour. Although coming under fire from some fans for his stage 15 attack on Schleck when the Luxembourger suffered a mechanical problem, Contador was absolved by the experts. A Contador v Schleck duel now looks on the horizon for years to come.

Andy Schleck (LUX)

Schleck will leave the race with the white jersey for the best-placed rider aged 25 or under for the third time, and although finishing runner-up to Contador for the second consecutive year the Luxembourger must take solace from having pushed the Spanish ace all the way. Luxembourg has not had a Tour champion since Charly Gaul in 1958, but Schleck, who matched Contador in all of the tough mountain climbs and only lost 31sec to him in the final, long time trial, looks almost certain to end that victory drought.

Denis Menchov (RUS)

Despite his third place finish overall in 2007, Menchov was given little chance of challenging for a podium place among a quality-rich field that included Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre. As that quartet flattered to deceive, Rabobank leader Menchov kept pace in quiet fashion and eventually secured his third place finish with a solid time trial performance on stage 19.

Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL)

Van den Broeck may be no Eddy Merckx, but the Flemish-speaking Belgian handed his country their first ever top five finish on the race since Claude Criquielion in 1986 on only his second participation. Although failing to light up the race with daring attacks in the mountains, former world junior time trial champion van den Broeck displayed a knowledge of the course beyond his years as he battled to keep pace with Schleck and Contador.

Alessandro Petacchi (ITA)

Alessandro Petacchi won two stages at the start of the race and finished with the points classification's green jersey. The Lampre rider did not set out with that goal, but was given a huge push in the right direction after Norwegian sprint rival Thor Hushovd failed to show his usual top end speed in the bunch sprints where most points can be won. Petacchi has now won the points competition in each Grand Tour of Italy, France and Spain.

Mark Cavendish (GBR)

The HTC-Columbia's sprinter's record of six stage wins last year was always going to be tough to beat, but despite compromising his chances of challenging for the race's green jersey in a disastrous first few days Cavendish bounced back in style, and controversy, with success on stages five, six, 11 18 and 20 to take his career stage tally to a stunning 15. His win on stage 11 led to the race expulsion of his Australian lead-out man Mark Renshaw, but a week later Cavendish's green jersey bid was firmly back on track when he claimed his fourth win two days from the end. He closed his Tour with a second successive victory on the Champs Elysées.

Anthony Charteau (FRA)

Bbox-Bouygues rider Charteau began what seemed an unlikely challenge for the race's polka dot jersey in the Alps, and persisted throughout the Pyrenees to be crowned the race's 'King of the Mountains' on stage 17. He finished on a total of 143, 15 ahead of second place compatriot Christophe Moreau. Andy Schleck was third on 116 while Contador was fourth on 112.

French riders

France had more than just Charteau's feat to cheer on this year's race, during which they won an impressive six of the 20 stages thanks to a double from Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), and impressive mountain stage wins from Sandy Casar, Christophe Riblon, Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo. The hosts are still searching for an heir to their last yellow jersey champion, Bernard Hinault (1985), but took every opportunity available in a bid to stamp their mark on the race.

Losers

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Armstrong seemed confident of challenging for an eighth yellow jersey, but failed his first exam in the high mountains and was left racing with the stragglers before finishing way off the pace in 23rd place at 39:20 behind Contador. Armstrong, who successfully battled cancer before winning the race seven times in succession, made the classic veteran's mistake of believing in a late comeback, a belief nourished by his third place finish in 2009 after returning to the race following a four-year absence.

Thor Hushovd (NOR)

Hushovd's bid for a third points competition green jersey was compromised by his lack of top end speed, a major stumbling block when racing against the likes of Cavendish and Petacchi. Hushovd's preparations for the Tour were hampered by a broken collarbone injury in May, and despite a positive start to the race, with victory on the cobblestones of the treacherous stage three to Arenberg, the Cervelo rider did not race to his own lofty standards.

Cadel Evans (AUS)

Trumpeted as Australia's first Tour de France champion in-waiting since a couple of runner-up places in 2007 and 2008, Evans showed for the second year running that victory in the world's biggest bike race is still beyond his grasp. Evans, who finished 30th overall in 2009, began the Tour confidently after strong rides in last year's Tour of Spain and the Giro d'Italia in May. But despite an excellent first week which left him with the yellow jersey on stage eight, Evans' bid was gradually ground down by a fracture he suffered to his elbow in a crash on stage seven. From then on, it was all about survival.

Bradley Wiggins (GBR)

Wiggins proved a revelation on last year's race thanks to an impressive fourth place finish which led to a contractual tug-of-war between his Garmin team and Team Sky for his signature. Sky eventually won, but when it came to racing the Tour the first time the British outfit flattered to deceive. Edvald Boasson Hagen was expected to shine, but didn't despite a number of top five places in bunch sprints. And Wiggins, like several of the pre-race contenders who had been aiming at a minimum top five finish, was left admitting he simply couldn't match the pace on the race's tough climbs.

Carlos Sastre (ESP)

As the race left the Alps on stage nine, podium contender Sastre already had close to a seven-minute deficit to both Schleck and Contador. And despite several attempts to close the gap during four, much tougher stages in the Pyrenees, the Cervelo rider was never in contention. Sastre won the 2008 race while a member of Bjarne Riis's CSC team in 2008, but since leaving the Danish outfit the Spaniard, 17th overall last year at 26:21 behind Contador, has failed to reproduce the same kind of form.

© AFP 2010

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