Tue, Jul 28, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Contador wins Tour, Cavendish makes it six

AP AND AFP , PARIS AND MADRID

Some old habits died hard for the Texan. On the ride into Paris, Armstrong — reviving a habit from his heyday — sipped champagne in the saddle, only this time it was to celebrate Contador’s win and their collective win as a team.

Armstrong and Contador both took a few sips and posed with glass in one hand, handlebar in the other, but then tipped away the rest of the bubbly half-drunk and threw away the glasses.

The Spaniard did enjoy this victory more than in 2007. Four days from the finish that year, then race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was sent home for lying about his whereabouts during pre-Tour doping controls.

“In the key stages of this Tour, I found myself feeling more at ease than I did in 2007, but in situations outside of racing, I didn’t feel so comfortable,” Contador told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

After Oscar Pereiro’s victory in 2006 and Carlos Sastre’s last year, the Tour has been won by a Spaniard for four straight years.

Contador began the Tour on July 4 as the pre-race favorite. At only 26 years old, he is already one of cycling’s greats, having won all three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain.

He had to sit out last year because of a doping scandal at Astana before he joined.

Contador finished in 85 hours, 48 minutes, 35 seconds. The race looped from Monaco, across the Mediterranean rim into Spain, up the Pyrenees, diagonally across central and northeastern France to the Alps and then down to Saturday’s race climax on the dreaded Mont Ventoux in southeast France, before the Paris finish.

Schleck was 4 minutes, 11 seconds behind. Armstrong was 5 minutes, 24 seconds back.

After three straight Tours decided by less than a minute between first and second place, Contador’s margin of victory was the largest since Armstrong collected his last title in 2005.

The 24-year-old Schleck won the white jersey awarded to the Tour’s best young rider. Franco Pellizotti of Italy picked up the polka-dot jersey given to the race’s “King of the Mountains.”

Armstrong, the 37-year-old seven-time Tour champion, is the second-oldest rider to reach the Tour podium. Raymond Poulidor of France was 40 when he placed third in 1976.

Cavendish set his own record — no rider has ever won six Tour stages in a sprint — but Thor Hushovd of Norway beat the 24-year-old Briton for the green jersey given to the Tour’s best sprinter.

Cavendish made it look easy, winning by several bike lengths in the last mad dash, was followed in second by his own lead-out man on the Columbia team, Mark Renshaw. Tyler Farrar of the US was third.

“For sure, winning on the Champs-Elysees is a dream for every single sprinter — to see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance,” said Cavendish, acknowledging it would have been a “bonus” to take home the green jersey. “I can’t go home from this Tour being disappointed — I won six stages.”

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