Cycle Sport’s Big Read 2009 Alberto Contador’s Tour victory was not a surprise but that’s not to say it wasn’t without intrigue. Here is Cycle Sport’s analysis of the 2009 race
This article appeared in the September 2009 issue of Cycle Sport
As the Tour de France slipped into a state of torpor in the middle week, Laurent Fignon observed that the race for the yellow jersey was a little like an episode of Columbo, where they reveal the identity of the murderer in the opening scene, then spend the rest of the programme showing you how he did it.
Fignon was not wrong. Despite the collective will of a million Lance Armstrong fans, it was obvious from the first day that only a crash, illness or sudden bout of food poisoning could prevent Alberto Contador from winning his second Tour in three years. The fun part was finding out how he’d do it, and what obstacles would be thrown in his way.
Most of the opposition came from within his own Astana team and at times it was extremely unedifying to watch. Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel will deny it, but it seemed that short of feeding him some iffy seafood or snipping through his brake cables, they did what they could to undermine his confidence, chipping away on an almost daily basis. This reached its most absurd point after the stage to Le Grand-Bornand, when Bruyneel claimed that Contador should not have attacked the Schlecks because it jeopardised Andreas Klöden’s chances of getting the third step on the podium. Since when did Armstrong and Bruyneel care about anything other than winning?
By the time they reached the Champs-Elysees, Astana had fallen to bits. After taking a bit of a drubbing in the Annecy time trial, Armstrong announced that Radio Shack, an American chain of consumer electronics retailers, would sponsor his team in 2010. With Contador all but certain to leave too, it left very little of Astana left. And who should turn up in Paris as a VIP guest of the Kazakh ambassador to France? Alexandre Vinokourov, who cast a hideous shadow over the 2007 race, all but forgiven and welcomed back into the fold.
Contador, for his part, barely covered himself in glory after clinching the yellow jersey on Mont Ventoux. At the post-stage press conference Cycle Sport asked him: “Can you assure us that you’ve never taken any banned performance-enhancing products, nor used any banned methods; and can you take this opportunity to make a strong statement for clean cycling?
Answer: “I’m available for testing 365 times a year, which is something I accept with good grace for the sport I love. I will continue to have this attitude.” How refreshing it would have been for the Tour champion to strike a clear, decisive blow for clean sport rather than wheel out that old one.
Yet you had to feel sorry for Contador when he stood on the podium, resplendent in yellow, only to hear the Danish national anthem played in his honour. If he’d been a paranoid type, he’d have thought it the final indignity and would have wondered if Bruyneel had anything to do with the presentation ceremonies. Presumably it really was an innocent mistake and the person in charge of the CD got confused, selecting ‘Danmark’ instead of ‘Espana’. It could only have been worse for Contador if they’d gone the other way down the track listing and played ‘Etats-Unis’. Perhaps it was a karmic payback for his tasteless pistol-firing victory salute. Seriously, someone needs to have a word with him about that.
Once safely back on home soil, Contador spoke up. Having won the battle on the road, and survived the sour atmosphere in the hotel and team bus, he said he had little respect for the way Armstrong had behaved. “My relationship with him has been non-existent. Although he is a very great champion, I have never had admiration for him as a person, and never will. There were days in the hotel that were more difficult than out on the road.”
“There’s no ‘I’ in team,” Armstrong Twittered in response. Is it below the belt and in bad taste to suggest you don’t have to look too hard to find ‘a satan’ in Astana? Probably.
A Contador victory was clearly not in Armstrong and Bruyneel’s plans. The Texan was good enough to follow, but when the attacks came in the mountains he took his time to respond. Nike’s LiveStrong t-shirts with a logo consisting of the figure eight made up of two yellow bracelets would have to sit on the shelves for another year.
The struggle for control of the Astana team, and the gradual but deliberate isolation of its best rider, came to epitomise a bad-tempered Tour. All three weeks were punctuated by bickering and sniping. Maybe the hot weather in the first week got to people a bit, but there were times when few people seemed to be actually enjoying themselves.
At the launch of the route for this year’s Tour, back in October, Christian Prudhomme and Jean-François Pescheux, the competitons director, were no doubt patting themselves on the back for devising such an epic and mouth-watering finale to the race. The penultimate stage to Mont Ventoux would be one to live long in the memory. One of the greatest and most iconic mountains in France, touched by brilliance, controversy and tragedy in equal measure, would provide the final battleground for the race.
But in order to guarantee excitement, they had to ensure the race reached Bedoin, the village at the bottom of the climb, with plenty of pull still in the game of tug-of-war over the yellow jersey. The 2008 Tour had been close, with six riders still in contention going into the Alps in the third week, but that had happened by accident, partly because there was no long time trial to space people out a bit, and partly because there was no outstanding climber to lay down the law. Astana, remember, had had their invite withheld.
So, to keep things tight, Prudhomme and Pescheux had to use a light touch when it came to picking their way through the Pyrenees and the Alps. Closer inspection of the route highlighted the fact there were only two summit finishes prior to Mont Ventoux, at Arcalis and Verbier. The other mountain stages featured long descents from the final Cols, discouraging the overall contenders from attacking one another. There were relatively opportunities to gain time.
A watched pot never boils, the old phrase goes, and so it was with the general classification for the first fortnight. Having said that, the opening week was exciting, it was only after the stage to Arcalis that everyone popped off for a siesta.
The time trial in Monaco established the pecking order in the Astana team. Armstrong was beaten by his team-mates Contador, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer, confirming that Bruyneel’s approach had not changed. He planned to place as many riders in the top ten as possible, effectively suffocating the opposition.
As for the internal power struggle, the time gaps between Contador and Armstrong were less important than the pecking order. Each wanted the upper hand, so they would have the licence to follow their own race plan. The nightmare scenario for Contador would be to have Armstrong in yellow. That would make it impossible for him attack. Even with the conflict of interests so obvious, Contador would be criticised for attacking a team-mate in yellow, and Armstrong knew it. He simply had to get in front of the Spaniard somehow, so that if the yellow jersey moved to the Astana team in the time trial, he’d be best placed to take it.
Columbia turn the screw
Stage 3: Marseille to La Grande Motte
Columbia were angry after being forced to do the bulk of the chasing the previous day. But with the fastest sprinter in the world in their ranks, what did they expect? Why would the other teams put their backs into it simply to set up another win for Mark Cavendish?
It had been windy all day and everyone should have been on their guard. Saxo Bank had done most of the work on the front, defending Fabian Cancellara’s yellow jersey, but with around 40 kilometres to go, they handed over to Columbia, as the two teams had arranged. “We got to the front and we knew there was going to be a change of direction, only small, but it would mean the wind would be more of a crosswind,” said Columbia’s Brian Holm. “Saxo Bank all sat up and drifted back, and that’s always dangerous. They thought ‘Oh well, the day is done now, let’s go back, get a drink’.”
Columbia wanted to set up the sprint for Cavendish, but they also wanted to sting a few legs. “We were going to have to do the work anyway, so why not try to split it. We wound up the pace, and then as we changed direction the wind started to take everyone across the road. It was Michael Rogers who gave the shout to go full gas.”
With 31 kilometres left gaps appeared and 27 riders got clear. All nine Columbia riders were in there, Cancellara was there, so was Lance Armstrong and two of his team-mates. Alberto Contador and all the rest of the overall favourites missed it.
With 15 kilometres to go it was clear the escape was going to succeed. That was when Armstrong signalled to his team-mates, Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia, to assist Columbia. What was this? Armstrong trying to gain time on his own team-mate? Armstrong insisted it was not a move specifically to distance Contador. He was just racing. “That wasn’t the objective. We didn’t ride for a long time. We waited a long time. They [Columbia] were frustrated we weren’t riding. The whole Columbia team was up there, we had three up there. I’ve won the Tour de France seven times, it makes no sense why we wouldn’t ride.”
The escape stayed away, Cavendish won the stage and Armstrong gained 41 seconds on Contador, leapfrogging him overall. Crucial.
It has been reported that it was Contador himself who let the gap open, but he says it was not the case and that he was a little further back when the split happened. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Armstrong instructing his team to work at the front of the escape, the question remains: Where were Contador’s team-mates when the pressure was on? Why wasn’t anyone looking out for him? Surely as joint-leader he deserved to have a team-mate by his side, ready to bury himself to claw their way across?
To see how disingenuous Armstrong’s justification was, think back to his heyday at US Postal or Discovery Channel. Would he have tolerated such a thing? No, he wouldn’t have allowed any confusion over the issue of team leadership.
THE TEAM TIME TRIAL
Armstrong misses yellow by 0.22 of a second
Stage 4: Montpellier team time trial
Armstrong led Contador by 19 seconds going into team time trial, a very difficult, technically-demanding and hilly ride around Montpellier. All Astana needed to do was beat Saxo Bank by 41 seconds and Armstrong would be back in yellow for the first time since he stood on the Champs-Elysees in 2005 and gave that speech imploring the sceptics and critics to believe in the probity of Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich.
Garmin, beaten by Columbia in the Giro d’Italia team time trial, were beaten again, this time by Astana. However, their ride was one of the most impressive of the day, as they lost riders early on and finished with the bare minimum, five men, one of whom Ryder Hesjedal, was unable to contribute for long stretches. Astana, though, rode like a machine to win the stage and finish 40 seconds ahead of Saxo Bank.
Armstrong had missed the yellow jersey by just 0.22 of a second. It was agonisingly close to being the fairytale comeback and that evening, Armstrong must have thought it was only a matter of time before he’d pull on the jersey for the 84th time.
The debate over whether the team time trial deserves a place in the Tour continued, for although it was an absorbing afternoon’s viewing, it did a lot of damage overall, particularly to Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov and Cadel Evans who lost 1-37, 2-20 and 2-35 respectively not solely because of their own fallibility but because of flaws in their teams.
The course was probably too taxing for some teams. The amount of climbing put several at a serious disadvantage, and the narrow, twisty roads caused problems too. Bbox Bouygues Telecom pitched five riders into a ditch on one particularly nasty bend, although the way Menchov fell on what should have been a straightforward corner made you wonder how he’d managed to get round the mammoth time trial course in the Giro d’Italia, which was even more technical, in one piece.
And the strength of Astana meant they had Armstrong, Contador, Klöden and Leipheimer stacked up behind Cancellara, with Zubeldia, Paulinho and Popovych also in the top 20 overall. That meant seven of their riders were ahead of Andy Schleck, the man most likely to cause them problems later in the race. It was the equivalent of having the rest of the peloton in a bear hug.
The wind howled again as the peloton made its way south to Perpignan. The fifth stage’s route hit the coast for the final third of the day’s stage, then headed south of Perpignan before turning sharply, like a fish hook for the finish. As if to forewarn Mark Cavendish and his Columbia team that perhaps not everything in this Tour would go their way, they miscalculated the chase.
Five years to the day since he first took the maillot jaune, and on his team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau’s birthday, Thomas Voeckler held on to win the stage after attacking from his breakaway group four kilometres from the line. As they turned for home, the wind became a cross-tailwind, making it harder for the bunch to close the gap.
Cavendish had another minor setback in Barcelona when Thor Hushovd won the uphill sprint after the bunch caught David Millar, who had been on the attack all day, with a kilometre to go. While Cavendish had been winning in Brignoles and La Grande Motte, his anticipated rivals for the green jersey he said he wasn’t interested in had done a good job of ruling themselves out of the running. It took Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire until Perpignan to score any points at all, Daniele Bennati was faring even worse, and only Hushovd and Tyler Farrar were even in the hunt. The Norwegian was 26 points adrift in Perpignan, but closed the gap to a single point by winning in Barcelona. The way Cavendish sprinted for 16th place, ducking and diving for the best wheel to follow, proved he had his eyes on the green jersey.
Contador gets his retaliation in first
Stage 7: Barcelona – Arcalis
Contador’s attack was not part of the team plan, Armstrong and Bruyneel made sure the world knew that. But if the climb to Arcalis told us anything, it was that Armstrong could not call on the explosive acceleration and sustained high-cadence attack of yesteryear. The only answer to the question why didn’t Armstrong attack at Arcalis is: Because he couldn’t.
The two stars of the day were Brice Feillu, who won the stage and took the polka-dot jersey in his first Tour. There’s some talent in the Feillu family. His older brother, Romain, is the short, stocky sprinter. Brice, the rangy climber, outwitted some experienced heads in the day’s escape, although Rinaldo Nocentini, perhaps the biggest danger man, had his eyes on the yellow jersey.
Behind them, there was precious little action. The week-long wait for the Pyrenees had whetted the appetite, but where were the attacks? Cadel Evans tried something, but it was as ponderous as it was obvious. He may as well have waved a flag signalling his intentions. The rest sat and waited. For a generation of fans brought up on the Armstrong tactic of hitting them hard and riding away to gain a minute on the first summit finish it was like waiting for a bus that would never come.
Instead Contador seized the initiative, jumping out of the group as if shot from the imaginary gun at the tip of his finger. It may only have been a two-kilometre effort that gained only 21 seconds, but symbolically it was a lot more significant. It meant that Contador would inherit the yellow jersey when Nocentini inevitably faltered, putting the onus back on Armstrong to attack.
The backlash that followed showed you don’t go against Bruyneel and Armstrong’s vision. All of a sudden, the question of what constitutes good team play was raised, all mention of La Grande Motte conveniently forgotten. But what should Contador have done? He attacked because he wanted to win the Tour de France.
The remaining two stages in the Pyrenees were a let down for anyone expecting action in the race for the yellow jersey. Little happened, and we learned nothing about who was weak and who was strong. Thor Hushovd did his best to enliven the stage to Saint-Girons, attacking over the Port d’Envalira to clinch two intermediate sprints and prise the green jersey from the shoulders of Cavendish. This was developing into a fantastic battle, as two very different riders tried to solve the problem of winning the green jersey in very different ways. Hushovd had not got close to beating Cavendish in a head-to-head sprint, so he knew he’d have to use all his experience to get the better of him by stealing points where he could.
THE RADIO BAN
Stage 10: Limoges – Issoudun
Peloton go slow mars Bastille Day holiday
The decision to ban the riders from using earpiece radios for two stages was never going to be popular with the teams. The Tour de France was no place for such an experiment, but the unofficial protest was a real slap in the face for the French on Bastille Day.
With an entire nation off work, the opportunity to put on a show was lost as the riders dawdled towards the Loire in a huff. ASO had the UCI’s permission for the two-day experiment and wanted to see if restricting contact between the riders and their managers in the team cars would make for more open, less predictable racing. The argument against radios has always been that the riders have too much information and can reel in breakaways and control the race too easily.
But the teams objected to having the rule imposed on them at short notice. The decision was only taken in early June, the teams had no say, and they didn’t like it. You could argue that it’s nothing to do with the teams, but there were arguments in their favour. For a start, there were a large number of riders in the bunch who had never raced without radios.
Too many team managers resorted to sensationalist arguments regarding the safety of riders and spectators, although there were some valid points. For one, radio communication prevents a free-for-all when there’s a puncture or crash. A team manager can radio out to his riders, check if anyone needs help, and if they don’t he can stay in the line. Without that information you risk 20 team cars all racing up to the bunch at once, some of them for no reason.
However, the most valid objection was that it was utterly incongruous to exercise a radio ban for two randomly-chosen stages. What if the outcome of the race was radically affected? Could the Tour cope with a fluke result and half the bunch complaining that the race had been altered because there was no radio communication?
As the riders rolled out of Limoges it was already obvious that the experiment would be quietly dropped and they would have their radios back for Friday’s stage to Colmar.
It was regrettable, though, that the riders chose not to race. Even with a tailwind, they were slower than the slowest scheduled time. Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin’s manager and the man with the task of uniting and representing the teams, said adamantly in the morning: “There’ll be no protest.”
That wasn’t strictly true. There was no repeat of the embarrassment of Milan during the Giro d’Italia, when the riders stopped, protested and complained about the safety of the circuit. But they made their point, neutralising the race until the final kilometres. Christian Prudhomme was understandably livid. Bruyneel attempted to argue that the radio ban made racing less interesting, not more, overlooking the agreed go-slow.
That set the tone for the rest of the second week. Ag2r spent most of their time on the front of the bunch, defending Rinaldo Nocentini’s slender overall lead. Astana, always positioned just behind them, were happy to be spared the work. Cavendish regained the green jersey with victory in Saint-Fargeau, his fourth of the race, Nicki Sorensen won at Vittel and Heinrich Haussler earned deserved plaudits for a bold and aggressive ride in the Vosges. Whether the stage to Colmar, over the Col du Platzerwasel, would have been more lively had it not been cold and rainy is open to debate, but the favourites were happy to roll over the climbs together. L’Equipe summed it up with their headline: Training in the rain.
RANCOUR AND RECRIMINATIONS
The squabbling gets pettier
Stage 14: Colmar – Besançon
By now, the Tour was desperate for a story, and in Besançon they got two. A big break got away and Columbia were happy to let it go, even though Hushovd had again stolen a march on Cavendish by getting over the Vosges and winning the bunch sprint in Colmar the previous day. After all, Columbia had George Hincapie in the break. The American was best placed overall and if the gap was greater than 5-26 at the finish, he would take the yellow jersey.
Serguei Ivanov of Russia won the stage with a well-timed attack. Hincapie was in the group 16 seconds behind and he knew he’d have a nervous wait. When the bunch came in, Hincapie had missed the yellow jersey by just five seconds, and that’s when the bickering started.
Armstrong and Bruyneel blamed Garmin for chasing hard in the final kilometres. Wiggins told ITV that they chased to stop Hincapie getting the jersey, but Matt White said the aim was to protect Wiggins and Vande Velde overall. Meanwhile, Hincapie directed his ire at Astana, who set the tempo on the front of the bunch for much of the afternoon, although in their defence, if they hadn’t chased, Ag2r would have. In any case, Astana barely made any in-roads.
Columbia had a dilemma, because they also needed to set up the sprint for Cavendish. Their man did get across the line first, but Hushovd and Cervélo immediately raised a complaint, the jury agreed, and Cavendish was relegated to 154th place on the stage, handing the Norwegian a 14-point swing in the green jersey competition. Columbia lost out on both fronts, and didn’t take it too well. Bob Stapleton criticised Garmin, but perhaps he should realise that Columbia are not universally popular in the bunch either. Their fixation with Garmin, and frequent sniping, had not gone unnoticed. Were they surprised when Garmin took the opportunity to hinder them?
The squabbling continued for a few days yet. Cavendish told Hushovd his green jersey had a stain on it, prompting Hushovd to attack over two climbs on the stage to Le Grand-Bornand to stretch his advantage in the points competition. It was the perfect riposte. To his credit, Cavendish apologised for his graceless comments and the pair made up. And the Isle of Man sprinter pulled off one of the rides of the Tour on stage 19 to Aubenas, climbing over the second-category Col de l’Escrinet, to win an unlikely stage. The pair even sprinted ahead of the grupetto at the top of Mont Ventoux. Cavendish won that too. On the Champs-Elysees, there was no doubt about his superior speed. Take his team-mate and lead-out man Mark Renshaw, who finished second, out of the picture and Cavendish won by ten bike lengths.
THE ALPS AND BEYOND
Contador seizes every opportunity
Contador made sure there were no doubts in the Alps. He didn’t pass up a single opportunity to put his rivals, and particularly Armstrong, on the back foot. At Verbier he attacked with 5.5 kilometres to go to win the stage and finally take the yellow jersey. He used the Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière to turn the screw two days later. Again there was controversy as Bruyneel and Armstrong criticised him for dropping Klöden on the Colombière. Even Levi Leipheimer weighed in on Twitter to accuse the Spaniard of tactical naivety.
But what was naïve about trying to win the Tour by dropping everyone who could pose a threat in the Annecy time trial, such as Wiggins, Armstrong and, yes, Klöden? It was text book tactics, the like of which Armstrong should have admired. Contador continued to gain whenever he could, just as Armstrong would have done in his pomp.
For his part, Armstrong excited the fans with a couple of attacks, on Verbier and the Colombière. But both came after he’d been dropped, unable to go with the initial burst of pace. This was not the Armstrong of old. Instead he had to bide his time, make a careful calculation and judge how long he could hold his effort. Nevertheless it was impressive to see how hard he was prepared to fight, even if he knew he couldn’t win.
Having said that, the time trial in Annecy must have been a slap in the face. A reminder of his age, the length of time he’d spent on the sidelines and perhaps the first time he doubted that he could win the 2010 Tour. Armstrong finished only 16th, losing 1-30 to Contador. As in Monaco at the start of the race, Cancellara flew down the descent and was stunned, and angry, to see Contador beat him by three seconds, despite battling a headwind in the final five kilometres.
Armstrong revealed that Radio Shack would be his sponsor for 2010, but the press release said he’d compete in cycling, running and triathlon events, hardly the programme of a man hell-bent on winning the Tour.
Meanwhile Armstrong’s nemesis, Greg LeMond, raised doubts about the veracity of Contador’s time trial performance. Together with a journalist for Le Monde, the French newspaper, they speculated that Contador must have a VO2 max of 99.5, the highest ever recorded in an athlete, to pull off such a performance.
But calculations based on guesstimates scribbled on the back of a napkin are no basis to cast aspersions on a rider’s performance. Surely Contador would put everyone’s mind at ease by stating explicity he’d not taken drugs or blood before or during the Tour?
Prudhomme and Pescheux’s great gamble didn’t really pay off. The grandstand finish at Mont Ventoux failed to materialise, partly because Contador was already four minutes ahead, and partly because of a stiff headwind facing the riders for the final six kilometres of the climb.
The bottom half of the top ten shifted around a bit, Wiggins performed heroically to hold on to fourth place, while Andy Schleck looked more concerned with trying to slingshot his brother Frank back onto the podium. If Schleck’s accelerations from the front were his, or Bjarne Riis’s, idea of how to unsettle Contador, it’s he who has a lot to learn.
Despite all the internal politics and bickering, reaching Paris without a single drug-related scandal (other than the news that Danilo Di Luca had twice tested positive for CERA at the Giro) gave the organisers more reason to pat themselves on the back.
Pierre Bordry of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) poured cold water on those hopes when he suggested that blood transfusions were still being used, and that two new substances were being used. He said he suspected Hematide, a third generation EPO, and a fat-burning drug called Aicar, were being used by some riders. Neither were on the market yet, he said. With that he announced plans to re-test samples from 15 of the top 20 riders who finished in the top ten in 2008. Bordry’s words must have caused blood to run cold. Recent history has told us we cannot take the Tour de France results for granted until early October.
THE TOUR IN BRIEF
THE FOUR MOST ENTERTAINING STAGES
Stage 17 The Col de Romme followed by the Colombière made for great racing
Stage 3 Columbia cause havoc in the wind on the road to La Grande Motte
Stage 18 Fascinating time trial around the lake in Annecy. The picture kept changing every couple of minutes
Stage 15 The climb of Verbier showed more than Mont Ventoux
AND THE FOUR LEAST ENTERTAINING
Stage 10 The radio ban-inspired go-slow. Wake us when it’s over
Stage 9 The Aspin and Tourmalet were wasted. Fair play to Fedrigo but this wasn’t a ‘mountain’ stage
Stage 13 Haussler’s attack was great, but the favourites just cruised through the Vosges
Stage 12 Break goes away, Sorensen wins, bunch doesn’t chase. Formulaic
Alberto Contador The best man won
Lance Armstrong No one can say he wasn’t competitive on his comeback
Mark Cavendish Six stage wins. Phenomenal. Will ASO be concerned it’s becoming boring and try restrict the number of sprint finishes?
Bradley Wiggins Fourth overall for the pursuit star. Without doubt the revelation of the Tour
Vincenzo Nibali Strong throughout the race, and spoke his mind when he heard the news about Danilo Di Luca
Nicolas Roche Worked his socks off for Nocentini while he had the yellow jersey, as did all the Ag2r riders, but still had the strength to get in a couple of breaks. Back him to win a stage next year
Brice Feillu Just let’s not call him the new Richard Virenque
Christophe Le Mevel Gained five minutes at Besancon but fought like a terrier to cling on to his top ten position
Rabobank Saved only by Garate’s win on Mont Ventoux. Gesink crashed out in week one, Menchov had a shocker, and Freire managed one second place
Last year’s Mark Renshaw. This year, just another rider who couldn’t beat Cavendish.
Cadel Evans Lurched from one disaster to the next, but at least he tried a couple of attacks in the Pyrenees.
Tom Boonen Abject display in the sprints made you wonder why Quick Step had pressed so hard for his inclusion in the race after ASO wanted to exclude him for another brush with cocaine. Struck down with an upset tummy and did not start stage 15
Levi Leipheimer All set for the podium until an innocuous crash at the end of stage 12.
Alessandro Ballan The world champion got in one break, on the stage to Aubenas. That was it.
Daniele Bennati Invisible in the sprints. Got in a break, had a go at Roche for sitting on (when his team-mate was in the yellow jersey).
Carlos Sastre’s defence of his Tour title was the worst since reigning champion Bernard Hinault quit the race with a knee injury in 1980. Hinault was leading overall at the time.
2009 – Sastre 17th at 26-21
2008 – Contador did not start as Astana were not selected for the Tour
2007 – Pereiro 10th
2006 – Armstrong had retired
2000-2005 – Armstrong 1st
1999 – Pantani did not start the race
1998 – Ullrich 2nd
1997 – Riis 7th
1996 – Indurain 11th
1992-1995 – Indurain 1st
1991 – LeMond 7th
1990 – LeMond 1st
1989 – Delgado 3rd
1988 – Roche did not start
1987 – LeMond did not start
1986 – Hinault 2nd
1985 – Fignon did not start
1984 – Fignon 1st
1983 – Hinault did not start
1982 – Hinault 1st
1981 – Zoetemelk 4th
1980 – Hinault quit the race before stage 13 with a knee injury. He was leading overall
1979 – Hinault 1st
1978 – Thevenet abandoned stage 11
1977 – Van Impe 3rd
1976 – Thevenet abandoned stage 19
1975 – Merckx 2nd
Time was when the Dutch, the crazy Dutch, dominated the Tour with their orange t-shirts, raucous singing and two-dozen bottles of Amstel beer. But this year they were outnumbered by fans from Luxembourg and Norway. The Americans were back in force too. And the British are making their presence felt too, and that will increase next year.
THE TOUR: A STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
Number of finishers: 156 (highest number of finishers since 1991 – 158)
Percentage: 86.6% reached Paris
Lanterne rouge (last man): Yauheni Hutrarovich (Belarus) FDJ Time gap between first and last: 4hr 16min 27sec
Who made the most visits to the podium?
1 Mark Cavendish 14
(Stage wins 6, green jersey 8)
2 Thor Hushovd 13
(Stage win 1, green jersey 12)
3 Tony Martin 12
(White jersey 12)
4 Alberto Contador 10
(Stage wins 2, yellow jersey 7, polka-dot jersey 1)
5 Franco Pellizotti 9
(Polka-dot jersey 9)
1 Columbia 26
(Cavendish 14, Martin 12)
2 Saxo Bank 17
(Cancallara 8, Andy Schleck 7, Frank Schleck 1, Sorensen 1)
3 Cervelo 14
(Hushovd 13, Haussler 1)
4= Astana 11
(Team time trial 1, Contador 10)
4= Liquigas 11
(Pellizotti 9, Kreuziger 2)
THEY ALL CAME HOME
The teams that reached Paris with all nine riders
Bbox Bouygues Telecom
1 Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana 85hr 48min 35sec
2 Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank at 4-11
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 5-24
1 Thor Hushovd (Norway) Cervélo 280pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia 270pts
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram 172pts
King of the mountains
1 Franco Pellizotti (Italy) Liquigas 210pts
2 Egoi Martinez (Spain) Euskaltel 135pts
3 Alberto Contador (Spain) Astana 126pts
1 Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) Saxo Bank 85-52-46
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas at 3-24
3 Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic) at 10-05
1 Astana 256hr 02min 58sec
2 Garmin at 22-35
3 Saxo Bank at 31-47
THE TOUR BY NATIONALITIES
Based on each country’s best three riders overall
1 Spain (Contador, Astarloza, Sastre)
2 USA (Armstrong, Vande Velde, Hincapie) at 9-50
3 France (Le Mevel, Casar, Goubert) at 13-08
Which riders spent the greatest number of kilometres on the attack?
1 Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) 581km
2 Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) 538km
3 Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) 498km