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
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Tour de France stage 19: Photo special
Feed Zone: Tour de France news and views (July 24)
Cavendish climbs list of all-time Tour stage winners
Could a fifth stage win in Paris be enough to give Cavendish green?
Contador makes small steps towards third Tour de France win
Sastre: "Cycling is turning into a sport for spoilt brats
Schleck behind after Tourmalet duel but refuses to give up
Hesjedal leaps up classification with Tour's Tourmalet ride
Sky pushes ahead regardless of Wiggins placing
Armstrong has his last go in the Tour
Tour's points leader Petacchi investigated for doping
Contador issues video apology to Schleck
Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower
Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem
Wiggins at 2010 Tour: "I haven't got it"
Basso wins Tour's acceptance; podium spot next goal
Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds
Can Cav win without Renshaw?
Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour's top
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish's win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a 'must win' situation for Tour's green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour's top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 18: Cavendish wins fourth stage of Tour in Bordeaux
Stage 17: Schleck wins on the Tourmalet but cannot shake off Contador
Rest day review (July 21)
Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage
Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey
Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win
Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour's white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 17 photo gallery
Stage 16 photo gallery
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 17 video highlights
Stage 16 video highlights
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special
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