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Contador, Schleck Armstrong 1-2-3 in Tour de France

Garate Wins Stage, Contador will win second Tour de France

By James Fish
Epoch Times Staff
Created: July 25, 2009 Last Updated: July 26, 2009
Related articles: Sports » Other
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Rabobank's Juan Manuel Garate crosses the finish line first after the long climb up Mont Ventoux in the 2009 Tour de France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Rabobank's Juan Manuel Garate crosses the finish line first after the long climb up Mont Ventoux in the 2009 Tour de France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

(From L) Andy Schleck sprints ahead of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong at the end of Stage twenty of the 2009 Tour de France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

(From L) Andy Schleck sprints ahead of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong at the end of Stage twenty of the 2009 Tour de France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

The final racing stage of the 2009 Tour de France ended with a stage win for Rabobank rider Juan Manuel Garate, and a Tour victory for Alberto Contador and Team Astana. Astana will have two riders on the podium—Contador and Lance Armstrong—with Andréas Klöden in sixth.

Alberto Contador will get his second Tour win tomorrow in Paris. Lance Armstrong showed that he can still ride with the best.

Juan Manuel Garate’s win gave Rabobank a much needed success in the Tour; as Garate explained, “The team has tried every day to win a stage at this year’s Tour. Today was the last chance and I have found what we were looking for. Yesterday evening I was doing an interview with a radio station and explaining that it would be dream to win on the mythical Mont Ventoux … and now it’s happened. This is paradise!”

Lance Armstrong was pleased with his performance on Mont Ventoux and in the Tour in general.

“I felt good. For an old guy coming here and getting on the podium with all these young guys, it’s not so bad,” he said.

“It was simple; follow Wiggins and follow Frank Schleck, and I had the legs to do that.

“It was not as windy as advertised, on the way up. I have never seen so many people on the Mont Ventoux. It was like half of America showed up, and all of France. When you have so many people it blocks a lot of the wind.”

Armstrong will be back in the Tour next year with the new RadioShack team.

Tomorrow the Tour enters Paris, but there will be no real racing for overall position. The sprinters will contest the stage win; Thor Hushovd will defend the green jersey successfully, unless he has mechanical failure; Mark Cavendish will secure second in that contest, and could possibly earn his sixth stage win in 2009.

But at the end of the day, Alberto Contador will be awarded his final yellow jersey. He has shown himself to be the best in the Tour; he has earned victory.

Mont Ventoux

The final racing stage of the 2009 Tour de France ended with a 21-kilometer climb up the dreaded Hors Categorie Mont Ventoux, a long, incredibly steep climb following four smaller climbs in the stage. Mont Ventoux gets steeper as it rises, demanding more from the riders for every foot gained.

Mont Ventoux is considered to be the hardest climb in France; it is legendary among professional cyclists. The bottom is steep; the top is steeper. The final few kilometers are above the tree line, the road winds through a barren moonscape, whipped by winds and beaten by the sun. Ventoux is hard on the best of days; on the final day of the Tour de France, it would be almost a death sentence for all but the very strongest.

Lance Armstrong discussed what racing up Ventoux might be like this year: “There are a few guys [to watch out for] … one of them will be doing a lot of attacking—Frank Schleck—and one of will be, like me, trying to follow the attacks and limit the damage, and that’s Bradley Wiggins.”

“The interesting thing today and the perhaps confusing thing, will be the wind. Apparently it’s just howling up on the top of the Ventoux.

“The first part is steep, in the trees, big selection … but the wind at the top will probably neutralize things a lot, once we get to that point.

“But before that will be mayhem.”

When asked if he was worried to have Lance Armstrong behind him, second-place rider Andy Schleck replied: “I think he’s more concerned about me than me about him. He didn’t drop me last week; I hope he won’t drop me today.”

Andy Schleck had stated that he wanted to have his brother Frank on the podium with him. Would he risk his position to help his brother? “My GC position is most important. If I feel good on the climb I will help him. If I am I am good and also in front, I won’t lose a minute, to lose a place … then we take it from there and we try to move him up.

Asked how much of a factor the wind might be, he answered, “It’s not going to be easy when we are out alone; it’s also not easy when they fall behind. Astana is not going to have eight guys there any more, maybe three together. If it’s two in front and three behind, that’s going to be pretty equal chances then.”

Lance and Alberto?

Besides all the media attention—and invention—given to the possibly rivalry between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, there is an undeniable reality: Alberto Contador is all out for his own victory. He has attacked his own teammates on more than one occasion, and has shown no regard for team tactics. Partly thi s might stem from youth and eagerness; partly from a sense of injustice.

Alberto Contador won the 2007 Tour de France, but was not allowed to participate in 2008 because team Astana as a whole was banned because of the performance-enhancing drug use of some members.

Robbed of his chance to be a repeat Tour winner, Contador instead won the Vuelta and the Giro, the second and third most prestigious bike races in the world, and won the Time Trial championship of Spain. But none of that equaled the Tour.

This year, he was somewhat eclipsed by all the media attention paid to Lance Armstrong, and perhaps felt slighted, that he was not recognized as the natural leader of the team.

Still, he has come under some criticism for sacrificing his teammates unnecessarily.

When asked if he expected Alberto to assist him to keep his podium position, Lance Armstrong replied, “I think I’ll avoid that one.

It looks like he’s going to win. I need to do my job. He can ride his race and I’ll ride mine.

Everyone can see what’s going on. We’re just trying to keep a good attitude in the team, keep the core of the group together. We’ll be good.”

With Lance Armstrong and Johann Bruyneel forming team RadioShack for next season, there has been much speculation about who would ride for the new team. Many of the best Team Astana riders, including Andréas Klöden and Yaroslav Poppovych, have been mentioned; Alberto Contador has not.

Garate in Early Attack

A group of thirteen riders including Rabobank’s Juan Manuel Garate, attacked early, opening up a three minute gap over the peloton. They were joined by three more, and by the 28-kilometer mark, the group of sixteen had a four-and-a-half minute lead over the peloton.

This group stretched their lead to over ten minutes by the halfway point. No one in the peloton was concerned; the race for a stage win was not an issue, and none of the escapees were GC threats.

Stuart O’Grady of Saxo Bank led the peloton for many kilometers, pushing the pace to soften up the other riders. The pace over the first three hours was just under 40 kph.

Near the end of the final descent, Astana came to the head of the peloton and kicked the pace up even faster. The wind changed to a crosswind, and Astana attacked as a team, splitting the peloton. The wind, which had been blowing at 100 kph in the morning, had dropped to 50 kph by the time the Tour hit Mont Ventoux.

Next Garmin moved to the head of the peloton to help keep the pace high, hoping that the big climbers would be too spent to attack. Then the Sørenson brothers took over setting the pace for Saxo Bank. The Saxo Bank riders wanted to crack everyone they could, to give the Schleck brothers an advantage.

At the base of the climb, the breakaway was only four minutes ahead.

Juan Manuel Garate, Tony Martin, Christophe Riblon attacked lead group at the base of the final climb, opening a half-minute gap. Eventually Riblon fell off.

Intense Battle on the Mountain

As the road sloped up ever steeper, more and more riders dropped back. The chase group fragmented, until only Tony Martin and Juan Manuel Garate stayed ahead.

The group containing the yellow jersey also contained Astana riders Lance Armstrong and Andréas Klöden, the Schleck brothers with their teammate Chris Sørenson, and Bradley Wiggins, and Vincenzo Nibali; these were the top seven riders in the Tour. This was where any moves up the GC would originate.

The first Saxo Bank attack came thirteen kilometers from the top, with Frank Schleck being marked immediately by Lance Armstrong. Frank Schkleck went again, but Armstrong didn’t budge off his wheel.

Andy Schleck attacked next; when Contador stayed with him, Schleck attacked again. Contador stayed with him, and Armstrong bridged across, followed by the rest of the leaders.

Andy Schleck launched another attack; again Contador matched him easily. Frank Schleck crossed, followed by Armstrong, Wiggins, and Nibali. Behind them, Klöden, Kreuziger, and Jurgen Van Den Broek attempted to catch up.

At ten km to go, Andy Schleck raised the pace, trying to grind Contador down; failing, he launched a huge acceleration, dropping everyone except Contador.

At the nine kilometer mark Andy Schleck tried once again to drop Alberto Contador, but nothing could phase the Tour leader; he never looked to be straining as he shadowed Schleck’s every move.

After every attack, Andy Schleck looked back over his shoulder, trying to locate his brother, waiting for hin to bridge across, but Frank Schleck simply didn’t have the legs.

Vincenzo Nibali bridged across to the two Tour leaders; in the group behind, Bradley Wiggins took off, and the whole second group followed him, except Kreuziger, who slipped back a little.

With just under eight km to go, Andy Schleck attacked once more, then immediately again. He simply could not shake Contador. He tried yet again nonetheless, with the same lack of success.

The energy needed to make these repeated accelerations, while climbing a ten percent grade into a head wind, was phenomenal; even more phenomenal was the neither Andy Schleck nor Alberto Contador looked tired. These two were clearly the best in the race.

When this latest attack failed, Andy Schleck slowed his pace. He had two objectives: to win the Tour, and to bring his brother Frank Schleck up to a podium finish. The first being impossible, he settled for trying to complete the second.

The Final Five K

With five kilometers left to the top of the climb, the Tour leaders were all together again. Tony Martin and Juan Manuel Garate were still out in front, racing for the stage win, but the real race was still being fought out in the leaders’ group.

With 4.5 km to go, both Schlecks took off. Contador and Armstrong responded immediately; Wiggins, Nibali and Kreutziger followed. Andréas Klöden dropped off the back.

Andy Schleck attacked again. His goal was to crack Bradley Wiggins, to advance Frank Schleck, who was 1:21 behind Wiggins in the fight for fifth place. This time, the attack Succeeded, as Wiggins cracked and fell off the back. But Wiggins showed tremendous determination; he put his head down and drove himself back up to the leaders’ group.

At this point the riders were facing a 40 kph headwind, as well as a ten percent slope. The effort of keeping the pace, let alone matching the attacks, was too much for Wiggins; he slipped back again. But in another show of stamina and will, he once again fought his way back, preserving his GC position.

Andy Schleck made one more attack. Contador answered him; so did Lance Armstrong. Frank Schleck could not respond, so his brother slowed down.

In the final two kilometers, Vincenzo Nibali and Bradley Wiggins both fell back; the pace was just too much.

As the finish line approached aAndy Schleck made a fial attack, with Contador again right with him. Armstrong fell back a few meters, and that is how they crossed the line: 3–4–5 in the stage and 1–2–3 in the General Classification. Alberto Contador had won his second Tour, Andy Schleck had showed huge talent; and Lance Armstrong’s comeback brought him to a podium finish.

Meanwhile, at the front of the stage, Juan Manuel Garate dropped Tony martin at the 1.5 km mark, but Martin clawed his way back by the one-kilometer banner. Garate attacked with 500 meters to go, and Martin couldn’t respond.

Garate took the stage win, earning a much-needed Tour success for Rabobank.

 

 

Stage 20 Results

 

General Classification After Stage 20

 

Rider

 Team

Time

 Gap

 

 Rider

 Team

 Time

 Gap

1

Juan Manuel Garate

Rabobank

4:39:21

 

1

Alberto Contador

Astana

81:46:17

 

2

Tony Martin

Columbia

4:39:24

+00:03

2

Andy Schleck

Saxo Bank

81:50:28

+04:11

3

Andy Schleck

Saxo Bank

4:39:59

+00:38

3

Lance Armstrong

Astana

81:51:41

+05:24

4

Alberto Contador

Astana

4:39:59

+00:38

4

Bradley Wiggins

Garmin

81:52:18

+06:01

5

Lance Armstrong

Astana

4:40:02

+00:41

5

Frank Schleck

Saxo Bank

81:52:21

+06:04

6

Frank Schleck

Saxo Bank

4:40:04

+00:43

6

Andréas Klöden

Astana

81:52:59

+06:42

7

Roman Kreuziger

Liquigas

4:40:07

+00:46

7

Vincenzo Nibali

Liquigas

81:53:52

+07:35

8

Franco Pellizotti

Liquigas

4:40:17

+00:56

8

Christian Vande Velde

Garmin

81:58:21

+12:04

9

Vincenzo Nibali

Liquigas

4:40:19

+00:58

9

Roman Kreuziger

Liquigas

82:00:33

+14:16

10

Bradkley Wiggins

Garmin

4:40:24

+01:03

10

Christophe Le Mevel

FdJ

82:00:42

+14:25

 

 




   

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