Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) crossed the finish line in Pauillac but had to wait two painful minutes before Alberto Contador (Astana) crossed the line and it was confirmed he would finish second overall after three weeks of racing.
Schleck looked for a moment of solace but was mobbed by photographers and cameramen. He stopped and then rode on again before trying to hide behind a truck. He sat on a kerb, trying to avoid the media as the seconds counted down to Contador’s arrival but he knew what was about to happen. He knew he had lost time and lost the Tour de France.
Contador finished 31 seconds ahead of Schleck and so will now ride into Paris to win his third Tour de France with a 39-second margin.
Schleck has the consolation of winning the best young rider's white jersey yet again but he was hugely disappointed. He started the
52km time incredibly fast. He was two seconds faster than Contador at the first intermediate time split after 18.2km but then Contador began to pull back time, one second at a time.
At the second intermediate time check after 36.5km, Schleck was seven seconds down on Contador and any chance of victory was slipping away. He finished with a time of 1:07:10 but Contador was 31 seconds faster.
Schleck stood up with a hint of pride after wiping his face with a towel and rode to the podium area. He will ride into Paris second
overall again this year but he was proud of his performance.
"Everybody was saying that I was beaten before today’s stage but I said I wouldn’t give up and I tried everything and I got pretty close.
Until ten kilometres from the finish, I was close but in the end Alberto could have gained quite a lot of time on me. At the finish, it wasn’t so much."
“I don’t care what the time difference is between us. What counts is what placing you have at the end of the race. And Alberto was just better than me this year… but I’ll be back."
Improved in time trials
Schleck has worked closely with Bobby Julich and Brad McGee on his time trialing. His position on the time trial bike still has room for further improvement but he is much more confident about his ability against the clock and against Contador, who was not at his best in this time trial.
“I never had doubts about how I’d go in the time trial," Schleck said.
"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 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 my chain the other day but he would still have won by two seconds and anyway, I can’t change that. I’ve won another white jersey, two stages and I believe it’s been pretty successful Tour for the whole team."