Chris Horner came into the Tour de France happy just to be a team player and key domestique for the RadioShack team but heads to the finish in Paris with tenth overall after outshining teammates of the calibre of Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden.
Armstrong finished a modest 67th in the time trial, 7:05 behind Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and will ride into Paris for the very last time, 23rd overall, 39:20 behind Alberto Contador. The seven-time Tour winner left the finish area in Pauillac without speaking to media, clearly disappointed with his ride.
Horner was a little more forthcoming. He needed to sit down for a minute to catch his breath immediately the time trial but was rightly proud of his tenth place overall, 12:02 down on Contador.
"I'm happy, especially with all the work and stuff I did for the team," he said.
"When the race started I knew I was on form and could get into the top ten but when you've got guys like Levi, Kloden and Lance on the team, you've got to take a bit of step back and be realistic that you're going to be to working for Lance. I think he was definitely one of the best but after so many crashes and bad luck, I found myself going for the top ten."
The fatique on Horner's face showed how much he had fought in the wind.
"It was windy and really hard because the course was undulating all the time," he explained.
"It's hard to find a rhythm and there was nowhere when you could get out of the saddle and stretch your legs, no turns where you could ease a little bit and rest up. That means you're always on the pedals the whole time. It was a brutal time trial. But this is the Tour de France and it's almost over, so why hold back today?"
Fortunately three of his teammates also did not hold back and RadioShack secured the team classification, 9:15 ahead of the Caisse d'Epargne team.
Early starters Dimitri Muravyev (19th at 4:38) and Yaroslav Popovych,(31st at 5:238), and Levi Leipheimer (41st at 5:49) sealed overall victory in the competition and so allow Lance Armstrong to climb on the Paris podium for the very last time.
It is perhaps not the podium or the adieu he was hoping for but he will get one final view of the Champs Elysees and the Arc du Triomphe before the sport continues without him.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.