Contador wins in Verbier as Tour explodes into life

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2009, stage 15

At last the Tour de France has come to life. After another 199km of a peloton riding together, the riders treated the world to eight kilometres of the most exciting bike racing seen in years. 

Alberto Contador stamped his authority on the race with a devastating attack with 5.6km to go but behind him a hundred other stories were unfolding. Briton Bradley Wiggins was doing the ride of his life to put himself within reach of the podium, while Lance Armstrong and Andreas Klöden struggled on, riding at first together, chasing Contador, and then for themselves. 

It had to happen. There has been so much speculation and there are so many riders who needed to make a move and gain time that the climb to Verbier, never used before in the race, was always set to kick this Tour into life.

Contador's devastating win puts him in the race lead and confirms once and for all that he is Astana's out and out leader - even if Armstrong still didn't want to accept it on the climb.

Contador had taken his ear piece out - obviously today he was riding to his own plan. Had he left it in he might have learned that behind him Andreas Klöden was setting the pace on the front of a small group containing Armstrong and his other rivals. Astana might be chock full of race favourites, but they are not a unified team.

The Spaniard needed just one attack to escape the group of favourites. Only Andy Schleck could respond, but he wasn't quick enough to get on Contador's wheel and spent the rest of the stage chasing his shadow. Behind him the chase instantly saw the leading group reduced to no more than six or seven riders as the likes of Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans were initially dropped. 

Klöden's pace then stalled and Wiggins attacked. The Briton is amazing the cycling world with his performance at this year's Tour, and today he confirmed that the podium in Paris is a real possibility.

His move didn't succeed but he was later able to follow Vincenzo Nibali and Frank Schleck as they went up the road. By this time both Sastre and Evans had fought thier way back up, only for both of them to be put in trouble in the final kilometres as Wiggins set the pace. It was amazing to witness. 

Just behind, Armstrong was visibly beginning to suffer. Left with just Klöden for company, the American had that familiar look on his face, only this time it wasn't because he was riding away from the rest of the field.

But don't write the seven-time winner off just yet. His ride was enough to move him up to second overall and there's only one more summit finish to come, and there's still Thursday's time trial. He may not have looked great today, but he still moved up the general classification.

Wiggins eventually finished fifth, as Nibali and Schleck jumped away in the steep final metres, moving himself up to third overall, 1-46 minutes behind Contador. The question is, can he stay there?

There are three mountain stages to come, although only Saturday's to Mont Ventoux is a summit finish. Having said that, if Wiggins continues to climb like this, the two stages to Bourg Saint-Maurice and Le Grand Bornand will hold no fear for him.

Tomorrow is rest day, and all the riders will be readying themselves for a hard final week.


Stage 15: Pontarlier - Verbier 207.5km

1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 5-03-58

2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 43 seconds

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at at 1-03 minutes

4. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-06 minutes

5. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-06 minutes

6. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team at 1-06 minutes

7. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence Lotto at 1-26 minutes

8. Andréas Klöden (Ger) Astana at 1-29 minutes

9. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-35 minutes

10. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia HTC at 1-55 minutes

Overall classification after stage 15

1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 63-17-56hrs

2. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-37

3. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-46

4. Andréas Klöden (Ger) Astana at 2-17

5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 2-26

6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 2-30

7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-51

8. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia HTC at 3-07

9. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux at 3-09

10. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 3-25


59. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 40-34

64. Charly Wegelius (GB) Silence-Lotto at 41-46

139. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-HTC at 1-49-01


Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2009, stage 15

Lance Armstrong, ninth on the stage and up to second overall


Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France 2009, stage 15

Bradley Wiggins didn't follow wheels on Verbier, he set the pace for the chasers and came fifth

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2009, stage 15

Kerpow - an explosive attack by Contador left the other contenders reeling

Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2009, stage 15

Contador enjoys his first moment in the yellow jersey at the 2009 Tour de France


Tour de France 2009 - the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.


Stage 15: Contador wins in Verbier as Tour explodes into life

Stage 14: Ivanov wins as Nocentini clings onto yellow

Stage 13: Haussler braves rain for victory in Colmar

Stage 12: Sorensen wins in Vittel as Cavendish goes for green

Stage 11: Cavendish takes fourth win to equal Hoban's record

Stage 10: Cavendish spoils Bastille Day party to take third stage win

Stage nine: Third French win as contenders content with ceasefire

stage eight: Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other out

Stage seven: Feillu wins at Arcalis, Nocentini takes yellow, Contador leap-frogs Lance

Stage six: Millar's brave bid denied on Barcelona hill as Hushovd triumphs

Stage five: Voeckler survives chase to win his first Tour stage

Stage four: Astana on top but Armstrong misses yellow by hundredths of a second

Live Tour de France stage four TTT coverage

Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador

Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint

Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial


Tour de France 2009 News Index>>

Stage 14 analysis: Is the Tour now over?

Columbia criticise Garmin for chasing Hincapie

Cavendish reveals he is going for green

Tour comment: The suspense is killing us

Analysis: Why Cavendish is one of the modern greats

Radio ban over-turned for Friday's Tour stage

Arvesen out of Tour with fractured collarbone

Tour analysis: Why the go slow did cycling no favours on Bastille Day

Cavendish's odd stage 10 finish celebration explained

No radios today, but experiment could be a one-off

Tour audio: Mark Cavendish after stage 10

Contador brushes aside talk of Armstrong conflict

Cavendish odds-on favourite for Bastille Day victory

The Tour de France Comment: Monday, July 13

How the favourites are doing (first rest day)

Wiggins stays with leaders at Tour

Armstrong: 'If Contador wins, I'll be second'

Wiggins 'on cloud nine' at Tour de France

Armstrong says Contador attack wasn't in the plan

Cavendish survives the first Tour mountain stage with ease

Wiggins, the Tour de France overall contender, has arrived


Garmin-Slipstream's HQ before the Tour

David Zabriskie's time trial bike

Mark Cavendish on the Tour's team time trial

David Brailsford interview

Mark Cavendish on the Tour

Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins' chances


Stage 14 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 13 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four TTT photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Team presentation by Andy Jones

Team presentation by Graham Watson


Tour de France 2009 - the hub

Tour de France 2009: Who's riding

Tour de France 2009: Team guide

About the Tour de France


Tour de France 2009: Who will win?

Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules

Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France

Tour de France anti-doping measures explained

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

Cycling Weekly's rider profiles


Follow the Tour on Cycling Weekly's Twitter feed

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