Contador savors third Tour de France title

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Associated Press
Monday, July 26, 2010
— Alberto Contador stood atop the podium at the Tour de France on Sunday for the third time in four years, struggling to rein in his emotions as Spain’s national anthem echoed across the wide boulevard of the Champs-Elysees.

Off to one side, Lance Armstrong applauded and then, without much fanfare, headed toward the exit.

“I need a cold beer,” he said when asked his thoughts at the finish line.

Rarely has the emergence of a sport’s newest superstar dovetailed so neatly with the departure of the last one.

Contador held off a next-to-last day challenge from Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, his runner-up for a second consecutive year, draining much of the drama from the 20th and final stage. Denis Menchov of Russia was third overall.

Armstrong completed his last Tour in 23rd place, 39:20 behind Contador, his former teammate and rival. His crash-filled journey was a far cry from the third-place finish he posted in 2009 on his return from a four-year retirement.

Yet the sport the 38-year-old American leaves behind hardly wants for budding stars eager to lead the way.

Schleck, for one, vows he’ll win the yellow jersey one day. That promise could produce the next great Tour rivalry, but this year, it wasn’t always sporting.

The high-drama point in the race—and the low-point in their avowed friendship—came in Stage 15.

Wearing the yellow jersey, Schleck mounted an attack against Contador on a Pyrenean climb. Suddenly, Schleck’s chain came undone, and he pedaled in vain. Contador sped ahead, and by the stage finish, had taken yellow and 39 seconds on Schleck—his margin of overall victory.

Many cycling aficionados cried foul, saying Contador had broken the sport’s unwritten etiquette about not taking advantage of unlucky breaks a rider can’t control—especially when he was wearing yellow.

Some fans jeered Contador, and he later apologized. Schleck eventually patched things up with his rival and urged the crowd to as well.

By the time they wheeled into Paris for the finale, the coronation trumped any lingering controversy.

“I suffered to get this result,” said Contador, before hoisting the victor’s cup, the Arc de Triomphe looming spectacularly in the background.

Mark Cavendish of Britain claimed his fifth stage victory this Tour.

The 27-year-old Contador joins Greg LeMond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys as a three-time Tour champion.

Armstrong is the most successful Tour rider ever, with his wins from 1999 to 2005.

On Sunday, his RadioShack team was temporarily barred from starting for wearing an improper jersey—and the race started about 15 minutes late.

They tried to wear a black jersey with “28” on the back to honor 28 million people fighting cancer.

, one of the themes Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation focuses on.

But International Cycling Union officials said Armstrong and his teammates had to change their jerseys and wear the official race numbers, according to UCI rules.

With his victory, Contador became only the second rider in the past 20 years of Tour history to win the race without a single stage win.

Armstrong’s hopes of victory collapsed in Stage 8, when he was caught up in three crashes, including one at about 40 mph on a roundabout when his body skidded on the ground and turned over.

Alessandro Petacchi of Italy captured the green jersey given to the race’s top sprinter. He was second in the 20th stage, just ahead of Julian Dean of New Zealand.

Anthony Charteau of France won the polka-dot jersey as the best climber; Schleck takes home the white jersey for being the best young rider for a third straight year, and the RadioShack squad won the team competition.

Last updated: 2:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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