Cycling: Contador poised to win third tour

A sensational Tour de France is set to conclude in Alberto Contador's favour in Paris tomorrow, but the Spaniard's third victory in four years is likely to be a tainted one in many people's eyes.

Andy Schleck said on Wednesday's rest day in Pau that the Tour would not be decided by a chain slipping.

He was right - had Contador waited for his rival on the ascent of the Port de Bales on Monday's stage to Bagneres-de-Luchon, the duo would be level on time entering tomorrow's final day.

The 39-second swing Contador garnered - contrary to racing etiquette - by surging forward when his rival suffered a mechanical problem was cancelled out on today's 52-kilometre penultimate day time-trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac.

Contador (Astana) entered today's 19th stage with an eight second lead over Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), but finished 31 seconds ahead of the Luxembourg rider on the route through the vineyards north of Bordeaux.

The Spaniard finished in one hour six minutes 39 seconds, with Schleck clocking 1hr 7mins 10secs.

Barring a freak accident or illness, Contador will step on to the top step of the podium and add to his 2007 and 2009 titles on tomorrow's 102.5km 20th stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysees, which traditionally is a procession for the peloton and ends in a sprint finish.

World and Olympic time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank), who won the Rotterdam prologue on July 3, clocked 1.00:56 to win today's stage, but Contador was the real victor.

Schleck was angered by the circumstances in which Contador took the maillot jaune, but accepted his rival's apology before attempting to overhaul him on Thursday's final Pyrenean stage.

The duo were inseparable in an epic duel up the Col du Tourmalet, handing Contador - the more accomplished practitioner against the clock - the advantage.

Schleck, the 2009 Tour runner-up to Contador, finished 116 places and 42 seconds behind Contador in the 8.9km prologue which began the Tour.

Contador rolled down the starting ramp three minutes behind Schleck, who put in a sterling effort today.

Unofficial time checks showed Schleck's maximum time gain at five seconds - putting him three behind Contador overall.

But the 25-year-old Luxembourg rider faded and Contador pressed forward to enhance his hold on the maillot jaune.

The 27-year-old Spaniard was relieved with his success, which is set to be confirmed tomorrow.

"I am very excited because it was a victory that was difficult to attain," said Contador, who also won the title in 2007 and 2009.

"It had not been easy in 2007 and last year, but it's unbelievable - it's a huge relief."

Contador admitted to finding today's time-trial, played out in strong winds, tough.

He said: "Today we can say that I suffered.

"I think Andy has also suffered a lot for the race was very difficult.

"This was not my best day and I had doubts, but I won."

The smallest winning margin in Tour history was eight seconds when Greg LeMond finished ahead of Laurent Fignon in 1989.

Contador was involved in the next closest finish in Tour history, when he defeated Cadel Evans by 23 seconds in 2007.

But had Contador not taken the lead when Schleck's suffered his mechanical problem, the duo would be on the same time entering tomorrow's final day.

As it stands, the margin between the duo is the fifth smallest in Tour history.

Schleck was diplomatic today.

"I don't care what the time difference is," he said. "What counts is what place you have at the end, and Alberto was just better than me this year, but I'll be back.

"After over 3,500 kilometres, 39 seconds is not a lot.

"I've won another white jersey, two stages and I believe it's been pretty successful Tour."

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finished 11th today to overtake Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the race for the third and final podium place.

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) was 67th today but held on to 23rd place overall by four seconds ahead of Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), who was ninth today.

Armstrong finished third behind Contador and Schleck in 2009, with Wiggins fourth, but both have endured difficult Tours.

Armstrong will tomorrow bow out of his distinguished career by completing his 13th and final Tour in Paris.

With the yellow jersey seemingly secured, tomorrow the focus will turn to the points classification's green jersey.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese) is currently in possession of the maillot vert on 213 points, with Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 10 points behind and Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) six points further adrift.

Cavendish - a winner of four stages so far in 2010 - has an outside chance of taking the green jersey for a first time, if he can win on the Champs Elysees for a second successive year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Contract Manager - London

£38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Engineer is required to...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Hull - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum + £4200 car allowance: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Suppo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence