Contador Claims Second Tour de France, Armstrong Third


Jul 26, 2009

American cycling fans are used to seeing Lance Armstrong on the top step of the podium at the end of the Tour de France. But on Sunday it was Armstrong's teammate, Alberto Contador of Spain, who rode into Paris as the sport's top dog, taking home his second Tour title. Armstrong finished third while Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, Contador's main rival in the Alpine stages, took second.

Contador took the lead in the mountains and wore the yellow jersey during much of the Tour's final two weeks. He even shared some sips of champagne with Armstrong and some other Astana teammates as they rode together toward the finish.

But Contador's road to victory was far from easy. He spent much of the three-week, 2,141-mile race competing hard against Armstrong, who joined the team after 3 1/2 years of so-called retirement.

"It has been an especially difficult Tour for me," Contador said after the awards ceremony, "but I savor it and it is more special because of it."

Armstrong's return created an odd situation within the Astana team because teammates typically work hard on the course to support their team's lead rider. But who the No. 1 rider was — Contador or Armstrong — remained up in the air for much of the race.

Armstrong said all the right things, but it was clear that he saw Contador more as a rival than a teammate. Contador seemed to feel the same way.

"We are totally incompatible," Contador said. "In the end, Armstrong will go his way, and I'll go mine."

But on Sunday, they were both able to relax a bit as they rolled into Paris and toward the winner's podium.

"I'm realistic, I did everything I could," Armstrong said before the start of the final stage. "For me, and even more for my kids, it's probably a healthy thing for them to see, because they saw their dad that never lost, and the kids in their class (say) 'your dad never loses,' so it's good for them to see dad get third and still be cool with that and still be happy."

Mark Cavendish of England won Sunday's largely ceremonial, final stage.

"For sure, winning on the Champs-Elysees is a dream for every single sprinter — to see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance," Cavendish said.

"I can't go home from this Tour being disappointed."

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