Luxembourg's Andy Schleck pushed Alberto Contador to his limits today and nearly forcing the Tour de France to its closest finish ever.
Schleck of team Saxo Bank started the day only eight seconds behind Contador and had him down to two seconds midway in the 52-kilometre time trial test through Bordeaux's surrounding vineyards.
Despite the push, he faded and ended 39 seconds back on Contador (Astana) in the overall standings.
"I never had doubts about it, my team believed in me and I believed in myself," said Schleck.
"You have to push yourself to your limits. I tired to do that and I finished to the point where I could not even step off my bike. I gave it my all. I think I did a pretty good time trial, I am satisfied with today and the whole Tour."
Contador recogised Schleck's effort today. He said, "I remained doubtful to the finish line, really."
Schleck rode away with two-time Tour winner, Contador on the stage to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and created a two-man race. The finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne also saw Schleck pull on the yellow jersey for a career first.
However, his fortune changed five days later. A chain slip allowed Contador to ride away on the top of the Port de Balès and by the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon, gain 39" - the same time advantage holds today.
"Cycling is not like mathematics," said Contador. "This year, though, maybe I was not in my best shape really."
"I have made no mistakes..." added Schleck. "Of course, I regret that I dropped the chain the other day, but still he would have won with two seconds, so you can't go back on that."
Despite a close loss he can be proud that he pushed Contador to his limit. He also walks away from this Tour de France with the white jersey of best young rider and two stage wins.
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 18 photo gallery
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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