Contador extends Tour lead with stunning time trial win

LeMond questions credibility of Contador's climbing

Spain's Alberto Contador further secured his win in the 2009 Tour de France with a win in the 40.5-kilometre time trial in Annecy today, besting two-time world and Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara.

"I am really surprised by the time differences," said Contador in the post-stage press conference. "I took it easy in the final two kilometres yesterday with my mind already on today's time trial. That was an important factor in today's win."

Contador won the stage by three seconds over Cancellara and 1:45 over Andy Schleck, his nearest rival in the overall classification. He now leads the overall classification by more than four minutes over Schleck. His Astana teammate Lance Armstrong slipped into third place overall, now 5:25 down on Contador.

The performance was one of several remarkable rides by the slim Spaniard, and not the first to raise eyebrows, most notably by three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.

"It is like a Mercedes sedan winning a on a Formula 1 circuit." -Greg LeMond on Contador's climb to Verbier

LeMond, who writes an opinion piece in France's Le Monde newspaper during the Tour, questioned Contador's performance on the final climb to Verbier on stage 15, which the Spaniard won ahead of Andy Schleck by 43 seconds and took over the race lead. The climb came at the end of a 207.5-kilometre stage that also held five other categorised climbs.

"Alberto Contador established a speed record: he went up the 8.5 km climb in 20:55. How to explain such a performance?" wrote LeMond. "He would have required a VO2 max [maximal oxygen consumption] of 99.5 ml / min / kg to produce the effort. To my knowledge, this is a figure that has never been achieved by any athlete in any sport.

"It is like a Mercedes sedan winning a on a Formula 1 circuit. There is something wrong. It would be interesting to know what's under the hood."

Two journalists, one from Le Monde newspaper, asked Contador his VO2 max. Contador refused to answer the questions.

LeMond based his article on data from former Festina trainer and specialist in performance, Antoine Vayer. He said the burden is on Contador to prove he is capable of his performance without the use of drugs.

"Given the recent history of our sport, doubt is required. It should lead us to ask ourselves about performances."

LeMond believes that cycling can use performance tests such as VO2 max to create rider profiles and detected if a rider has doped. He said it would be similar to how the International Cycling Union's tracks blood values in its biological passport it introduced at the beginning of 2008.

Contador is set to win his second Tour de France in Paris on Sunday. He faces one last critical stage, the mountaintop finish to Mont Ventoux on Saturday.

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