Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) was crowned winner of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees on Sunday afternoon after safely finishing the final stage in 36th place.
At just 24 Contador is the youngest winner of the Tour de France since Jan Ullrich won the race in 1997. Contador sealed overall victory in Saturday?s time trial and won the Tour by 23 seconds, the second smallest winning margin. Australia?s Cadel Evans (Predictor) was second and Contador?s team mate Levi Leipheimer was third at 31 seconds.
Evans was disappointed to finish so close but has the consolation of being the best ever Australian Tour de France finisher. Leipheimer went close to giving Discovery Channel a one-two result thanks to a great final time trial but just Contador?s yellow jersey should be enough for the team to seal a contract with a new sponsor for 2007 and beyond.
BENNATI WINS SPRINT
Italy?s Daniele Bennati (Lampre) won the final 146km stage to the Champs Elysees. Bennati beat Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Erik Zabel (Milram) in a close sprint. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was only fifth but sealed victory in the points competition and pulled on the green jersey. Britain?s David Millar (Saunier Duval) had promised to do ?something? on the Champs Elysees and finished a surprising eighth in the sprint.
?Winning the sprint on the Champs Elysees is a dream come true for a rider like me,” Bennati said.
?Winning two stages at the Tour de France makes me a better rider. I don?t consider myself a pure sprinter. I?m still young and these stage wins are the start of the rest of my career.?
TOUR ENDS IN CIVIL WAR
Dressed all in yellow and riding a yellow bike, Contador tried to saviour his success, but almost everybody else in the race just seemed glad the three weeks were finally over. The Tour usually ends in the sun on the Champs Eylsees but even the weather seemed against the Tour this year, with rain soaking the final podium in front of the Arc du Triomphe.
The doping scandals involving Patrick Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), and the lies and deception shown by Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) has left the Tour and cycling on its knees.
The Tour organisers and the French media seem convinced that breaking away from the UCI and the return of national teams will help clean up the sport. In truth a civil war in the so-called ?cycling family? will only leave the sport even weaker, when unity and decisive solutions to fight doping are what are really needed.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2007: STAGE 20 RESULTS
1 Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital)
2 Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
3 Erik Zabel (Milram)
4 Robert Hunter (Barloworld)
5 Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
6 Sebastien Chavanel (FDJeux)
7 Fabian Cancellara (CSC)
8 David Millar (Saunier Duval)
9 Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner)
10 Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas)
114 Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) at 15secs
133 Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) at 51secs
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 20 (FINAL)
1 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) in 91-00-26
2 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) at 23secs
3 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) at 31 secs
4 Carlos Sastre (CSC) at 7-08
5 Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) at 8-17
6 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) at 11-37
7 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) at 12-18
8 Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) at 12-30
9 Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) at 14-14
10 Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) at 14-25
45 Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) at 1-46-25
69 David Millar (Saunier Duval) at 2-32-07
140 Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) at 3-46-51.