Alberto Contador (Astana) all but sealed his third overall victory in the Tour de France on Saturday in a nail-biting final time trial. Yellow jersey rival Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) gave the Spaniard an unexpected scare by finishing seconds, rather than minutes, behind him.
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) won the penultimate day of the 2010 Tour – a decisive 52km test against the clock from Bordeaux to Pauillac – as the favourites failed to make an impression on the top ten stage results.
Britain’s Team Sky duo Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas placed ninth and 10th respectively.
Schleck’s TT shock
Andy Schleck came good on his pre-stage promise to ride the best time trial of his life and try his utmost to snatch the yellow jersey from Alberto Contador. The statement could have easily have been dismissed given how much Contador beat him in last year’s final time trial – one minute 44 seconds over 40.5km. But that, of course, didn’t account for Schleck’s desire for the race win – and Contador’s fatigued performance.
Contador’s race lead, which had looked rock solid after the Pyrenees, came into doubt in the first half of the Tour’s penultimate stage after Schleck virtually matched him second-for-second until he faded towards the end.
Schleck caused a major upset at the first intermediate time check when he came through two seconds faster than Contador. The Spaniard’s earpiece must have been red hot as the time checks on the road were neck-and-neck.
By the third time check, however, Contador had gained the advantage over Schleck to the tune of 17 seconds and he rode stronger over the second half. By the finish, the Spaniard had gained 31 seconds over Schleck, sealing his third Tour de France victory.
Contador, winner of the final time trial last year, could only place 35th on the stage, some five minutes and 43 seconds behind stage winner Cancellara. But the figure that matters is his advantage over Schleck in the GC – 39 seconds. The scene is set for the fourth closest win in the history of the Tour de France.
By some stroke of irony, Contador’s overall advantage of 39 seconds is exactly the amount of time he gained over Schleck on stage 15, when Schleck’s chain unshipped on the final climb and Contador controversially attacked to take the yellow jersey.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) played his part in shuffling the overall classification in the time trial, putting in a strong ride to finish 11th and leap-frogging Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) to take third spot overall. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) also moved up, from eighth overall to seventh.
Cancellara book-ends Tour with wins
Prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) won the final stage, underlining his dominance of events against the clock. Cancellara’s blisteringly fast early marker was never challenged by the overall favourites as the wind picked up during the afternoon, affecting the late starters.
Only two riders could get within two minutes of the Swiss prologue winner’s time – second-placed Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) at 17 seconds and Bert Grabsch (HTC-Columbia) at one minute 48 seconds.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins started as the wind picked up, but still went through the first time check third fastest behind Martin and Cancellara. By the second time check he had slipped to eighth fastest, over two minutes adrift of Cancellara and one second behind Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.
Wiggins held out in the second half of the course, coming home in ninth spot, with Thomas in 10th. Wiggins nows lies 24th overall, the highest-placed Briton. See also Wiggins and Thomas round off Tour with top ten in time trial>>
Seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) completed his last ever Tour time trial in 67th spot, and 23rd overall, looking every bit a man on the verge of retirement.
Just Sunday’s final stage/procession into the Champs Élysées in Paris remains in the 2010 Tour de France, bringing the curtain down on one of the most exhilarating and unpredictable Tours in recent years.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) will be hoping to take his fifth stage win of the race, when the fight for the green jersey will be decided.
Tour de France 2010, stage 19: Bordeaux to Pauillac, 52km individual time trial
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 1-00-56
2. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 17sec
3. Bert Grabsch (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 1-48
4. Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervelo at 2-34
5. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 3-00
6. Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Rabobank at 3-03
7. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d’Epargne at 3-10
8. Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank at 3-21
9. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 3-33
10. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 3-38
11. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 3-51
17. David Millar (GB) Team Sky at 4-20
35. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 5-43
40. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5-41
44. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 6-14
67. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 7-05
72. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 7-11
86. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 7-34
88. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 7-46
155. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 10-19
166. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 10-57
Overall classification after stage 19
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 89-16-27
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 39 seconds
3. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-01
4. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-40
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma at 6-54
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 9-31
7. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 10-15
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 11-37
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 11-54
10. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack at 12-02
15. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 16-59
23. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 39-20
24. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 39-24
26. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 50-27
151. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 3-45-47
154. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 3-51-23
158. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 3-56-46
163. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 4-02-21
164. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 4-02-59
Points classification: Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre
Mountains classification: Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Young rider classification: Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
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