The 2009 Tour de France may be remembered more for its entire podium than just the top spot. Essentially, cycling's past, present and future converged on the three steps in sight of the Arc de Triomphe.
Alberto Contador brought his yellow jersey total to two, his second Tour de France victory in a row due to a political decision by organizers in 2008 that left his Astana squad off the invitation list. The 2008 Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana winner is only the fifth cyclist in history to win all three Grand Tours, making for an easy arguement that Contador is the best stage racer in the sport right now. His prowess in the mountains didn't diminish his ability to win the Stage 18 time trial, and allowed him to secure his hold on the yellow jersey.
In second was Team Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck. The rider from Luxembourg also won the white jersey for the Best Young Rider classification, a distinction he earned at last year's Tour and at the 2007 Giro d'Italia. Schleck was never content to sit in a slipstream, ushering attack after attack in the mountains and on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in an effort to challenge Contador's yellow jersey. The 24-year-old rider will be a Tour contender for years to come.
Lance Armstrong's third place on the podium accentuates a remarkable comeback from a three-year retirement. The seven-time Tour de France champion made his eighth podium, though his first where he is standing in the shadow of another rider.
Armstrong's announcement that he was returning to the peloton to ride for his longtime directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel on Astana ignited a flurry of questions and rumor about the compatibility of Contador and Armstrong, both as dual team leaders and how their individual goals could be realized. The drama continued right up through this Tour—but it was all put to rest, for one day at least, on the Champs-?lys?es.
A great roar met the Astana-led peloton the first time it emerged from the tunnel on its way to begin actual racing on the finishing circuits around the famed Parisian avenue. A breakaway composed mainly of Frenchmen started thing off. Team Columbia-HTC came to the front to move Mark Cavendish in position for the stage win, and led the peloton until the break was eventually caught on the final lap.
Garmin-Slipstream then set about trying to disrupt the Columbia-HTC train, sending its riders to the front to set up Tyler Farrar. Christian Vande Velde pulled at the front for more than a kilometer, and for a time it looked as though Cavendish and crew were at a disadvantage. But right as the peloton flew under the one-kilometer-to-go flag, George Hincapie took the lead and swung control of the peloton away from the boys in Argyle. Around the final corner, Mark Renshaw finished the leadout for Cavendish, who didn't even bother looking back as he collected his sixth stage victory of the Tour.
Thor Hushovd won the green jersey competition, 10 points ahead of Cavendish. Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas claimed the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey.
Bradley Wiggins, left, Andreas Kloden, center, and Alberto Contador, wearing yellow, pass Arc de Triomphe. - AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski <!--<p><img style="vertical-align:middle;width:14px;height:14px;" src="http://community.active.com/images/jive-icon-blog-16x16.gif" /> <a href="http://community.active.com/blogs/BruceHildenbrand/2009/07/18/stage-14-ivanov-wins-hincapie-misses-yellow">Bruce Hildenbrand: Invanov Wins; Hincapie Misses Yellow; Interviews With Cervelo TestTeam's Jean Paul Van Poppel and Brett Lancaster</a></p>-->
Stage 20 Results
- Mark Cavendish – Team Columbia-HTC – 4:02:18
- Mark Renshaw – Team Columbia-HTC +00:00
- Tyler Farrar – Garmin-Slipstream +00:00
- Gerald Ciolek – Team Milram +00:00
- Yauheni Hutarovich – Francaise des Jeux +00:00
- Thor Hushovd – Cervelo TestTeam +00:00
- Jose Joaquin Rojas – Caisse d'Epargne +00:00
- Marco Bandiera – Lampre-NGC +00:00
- Daniele Bennati – Liquigas +00:00
- William Bonnet – Bbox Bouygues Telecom +00:00
Other U.S. Riders
44. Christian Vande Velde – Garmin-Slipstream +00:00
62. Lance Armstrong – Astana +00:00
75. George Hincapie – Team Columbia-HTC +00:00
141. David Zabriskie – Garmin-Slipstream +00:30
149. Danny Pate – Garmin-Slipstream +00:44
- Alberto Contador – Astana – 85:48:35
- Andy Schleck – Team Saxo Bank +04:11
- Lance Armstrong – Astana +05:24
- Bradley Wiggins – Garmin-Slipstream +06:01
- Frank Schleck – Team Saxo Bank +06:04
164K (101.9 miles) - July 26, 2009
• Montereau-Fault-Yonne has hosted a stage start twice
• Since 1903, every Tour de France has concluded in Paris
• Finishing on the Champs-?lys?es began in 1975
• Sprint points: Haut des Champs-?lys?es at 120 kilometers and 133 kilometers
Image courtesy of www.letour.com
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