The winner of 2009 Tour de France cycling race, Kazakh cycling team Astana (AST)'s leader Alberto Contador of Spain, second placed in the overall standings, Danish cycling team Team Saxo Bank (SAX)'s leader Andy Schleck of Luxemburg (L) and third placed, seven-time Tour de France winner and Kazakh cycling team Astana (AST)'s Lance Armstrong of the United States pose on the podium on July 26, 2009 on the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris, at the end of the 160 km and last stage run between Montereau and Paris Champs-Elysees. Contador cruised down the Champs-Elysees to win the Tour for a second time Sunday after 2,141 miles over three weeks of racing. He repelled many challenges in the mountains, excelled in the two time-trials -- winning a pivotal race against the clock in the 18th stage -- and won the first Alpine stage.
CARLOS Sastre became the seventh Spaniard to win the Tour de France yellow jersey when he wrapped up overall victory in Paris yesterday, taking his country’s total to 11 wins. Belgian Gert Steegmans made up for his Quick Step team’s mediocre Tour de France campaign by sprinting to victory on the 21st and final stage to Paris, a 143km trip from Etampes. Steegmans claimed his second career stage win on the race, but his first on the Champs Elysees, in timely fashion having failed to challenge the peloton’s sprinters during three weeks of intense racing. Race director Christian Prudhomme hopes the 2008 Tour de France will be remembered as a victory against doping cheats. This year’s event saw three cyclists kicked out for using the banned blood booster EPO – a drug of choice in cycling and used by Sastre’s boss at Team CSC, Bjarne Riis, to win the 1996 Tour.
Italian rider Riccardo Ricco was the biggest name to get caught this year, thrilling fans with his daring solo raids in the Pyrenees and then letting them down when it was announced that his performances were fuelled by EPO.
PARIS -- Alberto Contador crossed the Tour de France finish line in the overall leader's yellow jersey as expected yesterday. The historic Hotel Crillon on the Place de la Concorde flew the Spanish flag from the roof in his honor just as it used to raise the flag of Texas for Lance Armstrong. Outwardly, it was just like the old days, especially since the 24-year-old Contador and the now-retired Armstrong represented the same dynastic team -- Discovery Channel, formerly known as US Postal Service, which has captured cycling's crown jewel eight of the last nine years. Yet, in the last year, the Tour has been shaken to its foundations. The 2007 race came to an end with the 2006 winner's slot still vacant, held hostage to the drawn-out legal dispute over Floyd Landis's positive test for synthetic testosterone. Contador's win came courtesy of an unprecedented shake-up five days before the end of the three-week race when Danish rider Michael Rasmussen was fired by his Rabobank team for evasive behavior toward anti-doping authorities. Two men and their teams were thrown out of the race after positive tests. Yesterday, Rasmussen said he never has used performance-enhancing drugs and would not rule out competing in next year's Tour de France. "I have never used doping," the 33-year-old told Danish broadcaster TV2. "But it is as if the yellow jersey is easiest to shoot at." The fact that more dirty riders are being caught, while damaging in a public relations sense, is cited by many as proof that a system long riddled with loopholes is casting a more narrow-gauge net. But cycling is also hampered by a culture of infighting that is as entrenched as its culture of doping.
Floyd Landis paced himself perfectly in the final major rendezvous of the 2006 Tour de France. He didn’t waiver from his plan at the start of the day and wasn’t tempted to try and catch the dominant Serhiy Honchar who won his second successive Tour de France time trial. Floyd knew that the most important thing was to finish over half a minute ahead of Oscar Pereiro; he did just that and now he’ll be the fourth American winner.
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