Contador confirms he’s top dog in Tour de France
July 23, 2009 —
The strongest man always wins the Tour de France – that’s the refrain that’s part of racing lore dating back decades.
If there were any remaining doubts about Alberto Contador going into Thursday’s decisive time trial, he erased them with a vengeance in the 40.5km power course around Lake Annecy in the shadow of the Alps.
Contador might have snagged the Tour’s yellow jersey with thrilling attacks in the Pyrenees and Alps, but he all but secured overall victory with a dominate stage win against the time trial specialists.
“This is a day I will never forget,” Contador said. “To win this stage wearing yellow is one of the most important days of my career. I am extremely happy.”
Starting last, dressed head-to-toe in yellow, Contador set the fastest times at two intermediate time checks and then hung on to beat Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) by three seconds.
With only three stages left to Paris, Contador takes firm control of the yellow jersey.
He now leads second-place Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) by 4:11 while Lance Armstrong (Astana) climbed back into third place, now 5:25 back.
Armstrong tried to roar back into contention for victory, but the seven-time Tour champ just doesn’t have the same speed he did when he dominated the sport before retiring in 2005.
“I perhaps started too strong. I felt good at first, I felt aero, but there was a tailwind, and everyone felt good,” Armstrong said. “I lost too much time on the climb. The motivation was there (to win), but I cannot be satisfied with the result (16th at 1:30). We’ll see if I can still finish on the podium.”
Contador now only has to avoid trouble in Saturday’s penultimate stage up the Mont Ventoux summit to win the Tour for the second time in three years.
“Now I am more comfortable going ahead toward the GC. This stage victory is very important for the overall. I am very tired after the stage, I gave the maximum. It went better than I expected,” Contador said. “Ventoux is a hard mountain, it can betray you, but I have confidence the legs will respond.”
They’ve responded in every key stage so far, so it’s hard to imagine that Contador’s legs can hold up against what many call the hardest climb in France.Former Vail Daily editor Andrew Hood now lives in Spain and covers cycling. His reports on the 96th Tour de France will appear daily on RealVail.com. Also follow him on twitter at twitter.com/eurohoody.
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