The consensus was that Alberto Contador would be able to hold on to his yellow jersey after the 19th stage time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac. This was the appraisal based on the history of Andy Schleck’s performances in races against the clock. But the Saxo Bank rider refused to let the story run entirely to script. He battled the wind that got stronger and stronger as the day wore on, and pushed himself up to a lead – at 30km to go – of five seconds on his rival. And that’s when Alberto shifted into overdrive. The pair were never in contention for the stage win – that would be the domain of the TT dominator, Fabian Cancellara – but they ensured that tension remained high right until the end.Schleck eventually finished 31” behind Contador in the stage. And the Spaniard has effectively earned his third victory in the Tour de France at the age of 27 with a lead of 39 seconds – the fifth closest Tour in history.
The Progress Report
The 52km 19th stage, a time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac, began at 10.15am with Bert Grabsch (THR) the first to leave. The 2008 world champion set the early standard while there was virtually no wind on the course. His team-mate, Martin eclipsed his times at each of the three checks and became the first to finish the stage at an average of over 50km/h. Martin’s time was beaten by the 39th rider to start, Fabian Cancellara who was 17” faster at the finish – although he did pass the first check 9” behind the German. Cancellara’s average was 51.203km/h.
Cancellara: Unbeatable In Time Trials!
The wind did pick up later in the day and several riders who have previously won a TT stage of the Tour failed to feature even close to Cancellara’s time – Evans was at 10’45”, Armstrong (the winner of nine individual time trials at the Tour, including prologues) was 7’05” behind, Leipheimer was 5’59” behind, Millar was 4’20” behind, Zabriskie was 3’00” behind…
It became clear that the weather was having an effect as the early starters had better conditions and while Cancellara dominated the stage, this is not what the penultimate stage of the 2010 Tour will be remembered for, as the main headlines of the race will be about the battle for overall honors.
Contador’s Confirmation: A Third Title
Andy Schleck was able to pull two seconds out of Contador’s overall advantage after 18.2km – Schleck was 23rd and Contador 27th at the first time check. He then picked up the pace and with 30km to go, Schleck was ahead of Contador by five seconds. That was the maximum gain he made before the Spaniard clawed his way back to equal terms – and then into the lead. It wasn’t until the 7km to go mark that it seemed certain that Schleck would not take over the lead of the general classification. He got to within three seconds of the yellow jersey but then ‘El Pistolero’ confirmed that he is the finest cyclist of his generation. He may not have won a stage in the 2010 Tour but he has finished 39” ahead of Schleck, making it the fifth closest Tour in history.
Andy Schleck will become the second rider to win the youth classification three times as he is poised to finish second overall for the second successive season.
The man who is going to win a third title at the Tour de France cried after he sprinted across the line at the end of the last true test of the 97th edition. For Alberto Contador, the penultimate stage of the race provided both a huge test and a sense of relief.
“This morning I woke up in shape, I had a good night. But today we can say that I suffered. I think Andy has also suffered a lot for the race was very difficult. I had a hard time to settle down into a rhythm. But I wanted to stay completely focused on my position… on the aerodynamics. This was not my best day and I had doubts, but I won. A time trial at the Tour de France, it is never a race like any other.
“I am very excited because it was a victory that was difficult to attain. It had not been easy in 2007 and last year, but it’s unbelievable. It’s a huge relief.”
There was no need to search for excuses as to why he wasn’t able to turn his white jersey into a yellow one although Andy Schleck found a few as he considered the events of the last three weeks. He ended up second overall, again. This time he is just 39 seconds shy of the victory.
“Everybody was saying that I was beaten before today’s stage but I said I wouldn’t give up and I tried everything today and I got pretty close. Until 10 kilometers from the finish, I close but in the end [Alberto] was in a position when he could have gained quite a lot of time on me. At the finish, it wasn’t so much, huh?
“After over 3,500 kilometers 39 seconds is not a lot. Different circumstances, like having my brother there, would have been good for me.
“I believe in everything that we do – in the race and in life. We do it because we want to do it. I made no mistakes… ah, well, I do regret that I dropped the chain the other day but still he would have won by two seconds and I can’t go back on that.
“I never had doubts about how I’d go in the time trial. My team had faith in me and I went out there today… and did what I could. It was not a battle between me and Contador; in a time trial you fight with yourself – you’ve got to push yourself to the limits and I tried to do that. When I finished I could barely get off my bike. I gave it everything and I think I did a pretty good time trial. I’m satisfied with today and the whole Tour.
“I don’t care what the time difference is. What counts is what place you have at the end, and Alberto was just better than me this year… but I’ll be back.
“I’ve won another white jersey, two stages and I believe it’s been pretty successful Tour for the whole team.”
Before the start of the time trial, Fabian Cancellara sent Andy Schleck a text but didn’t bother him with a phone call because he wanted to allow the rider in second overall to focus. ‘Fabu’ won the time trial but immediately after the race, there was one thing he wanted to talk about – the performance of his team-mate.
“I’m proud, happy and also really, really tired. The Tour is long and there are always a lot of things going on. To start and finish with a win, that’s great.
“I’m also very impressed with what Andy did today. He surprised a lot of people. I told him, ‘You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in what you’ve done of these last three weeks, and in everything you do.’
“I also told him afterwards, ‘Hey, you won something today. Even if you’re second, you’ve won something more than winning here today.’ He won respect and also the knowledge that there’s more for him to achieve in the future. He’s closer to the front. He’s closer to Alberto in the time trial. In the mountains he’s there.
“I think with more work on everything and he will be there to win the Tour soon.
“He was so close today that I started to believe that our hopes may have come true… but he has nothing to lose. He had six days in the yellow jersey, he won two stages and the team had a great success. I won the prologue, led the race, and won today… so we have to be satisfied.”
With just one stage to go in the 2010 Tour, the top five of the general classification is: 1. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST 2. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX at 39” 3. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB at 2’01” 4. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 3’40” 5. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) OLO at 6’54”
Alberto Contador is elated with his 35th placel. But the top 10 on in Pauillac is: 1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) SAX – 52km in 1h00’56” 2. Tony Martin (GER) THR at 17” 3. Bert Grabsch (GER) THR at 1’48” 4. Ignatas Konovalovas (LTH) CTT at 2’34” 5. Dave Zabriskie (USA) GRM at 3’00” 6. Koos Moerenhout (NED) RAB at 3’03” 7. Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) GCE at 3’10” 8. Maartijn Tjallinghii (NED) RAB at 3’21” 9. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY at 3’33” 10. Geraint Thomas (GBR) SKY at 3’38”
The last true battle of the 2010 Tour has been won by the defending Tour champion. Alberto didn’t claim victory in Pauillac but he has successfully kept the yellow jersey by beating Andy Contador who did, at one stage, get ahead of the Spaniard by five seconds. At the end of the day, Contador is in the lead of the overall rankings by 39”.
The wind has help select the winner today but the force of Fabian Cancellara assured him a good stage result anyway. The world champion has won another time trial. He is one of two men to finish the course at an averaage speed of over 50km/h.
Schleck is less than 1km from the finish but he’s not going to be able to make up the time he needed to in order for him to win the Tour title. He’s going to be the runner-up in 2010, just as he was in 2009. He has finished his time trial in 1h07’11”.