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The Condor swoops

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Sirotti)

Earlier this year Alberto Contador confirmed his talent when he won two stages plus the overall classification in Paris-Nice. The Spaniard then went on to take the fourth stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana and a stage plus the overall win in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon. Having defended his lead in Saturday’s penultimate day time trial, he now looks set to take his biggest career result and triumph in the 2007 Tour de France reports Cyclingnews’ Shane Stokes and Gregor Brown.

He started the day nervous, unsure, excited, but ended it as the likely winner of the 2007 Tour de France. Sunday on the Champs Elysées Alberto Contador is set to become the youngest winner of the race since Jan Ullrich 10 years ago; if he steers his career in the right way and avoids the mistakes of the German, he could win several more.

Contador was up against two Time Trial specialists on yesterday’s 55.5 kilometre race against the clock and while he lost time to both of them, he didn’t panic. The maillot jaune began the day 1.50 minutes ahead of Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto) and 2.49 minutes up on his own Discovery Channel teammate Levi Leipheimer. He conceded 36 seconds to the latter and 22 seconds to Evans in the first 17.5 kilometres but, urged on by directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel and team co-owner Lance Armstrong, he kept his composure and rode fast enough to hold on.

The 24 year-old hit the line fifth, finishing 2.18 minutes behind his teammate and 1.27 minutes off Evans’ pace. It means he will start today’s final stage 23 seconds ahead of the Australian and 31 up on Leipheimer. Although there are time bonuses up for grabs, the fact that most of the other riders in the race will also be racing hard means that it will be a difficult task for Evans to get back the required time.

"Now I feel a little more relaxed," Contador said after the stage. "It was a very difficult day but it is the result of a lot of years of work. Things are now sinking in and it is a good feeling for me."

To read to full feature on Alberto Contador, click here.

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