Contador Makes It Victory Twice Over

Running from July 4 - 26, 2009, the annual cycling race, throughout France and neighboring countries, consists of 21 stages and covers a total distance of 2,200 miles.
By Jonathan Brand
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, July 27, 2009

PARIS, July 26 -- A Spanish flag tied around his neck, Alberto Contador looked like a cycling superhero as he pedaled through the southern Parisian suburbs on Sunday.

If the red and yellow bandera slowed his pace, Contador didn't mind.

After finishing Saturday's tough stage atop Mont Ventoux with a lead of 4 minutes 11 seconds over Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, the 26-year-old used the concluding stage of the Tour de France as a victory lap, celebrating his second career Tour win with photo ops, champagne and pats on the back from fellow riders in the peloton.

And atop the podium on Paris's Champs-Élysées, where Columbia-HTC sprinter Mark Cavendish had just captured his sixth stage of this race, Contador continued to beam with delight.

"The last day was great," said Contador, the fourth Spanish rider in a row to win the Tour.

"At times I felt like a child again. I feel a great sense of relief."

For the 2007 winner, the previous 20 stages of this three-week race had been filled with tension on and off the bike.

He and Astana teammate Lance Armstrong, who finished third overall, 5:24 behind, were embroiled in a battle for control of the team and the media spotlight.

"It's been a hard Tour," Contador said at a news conference Saturday night. "I knew I had to be ready both physically and mentally. At the end of each stage, I said 'one day less.' "

Contador settled the team debate last Sunday, with a solo breakaway up a mountain climb to Verbier, Switzerland at the end of Stage 15.

The move put him into the yellow jersey, which he retained for the rest of race.

After the stage, Armstrong said that Contador was the Tour's "strongest rider" and that he would support his Spanish teammate.

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