Skip to main content

Kid Contador conquers Tour de France

Image 1 of 93

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 2 of 93

Cadel Evans gave it a great effort

Cadel Evans gave it a great effort (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 3 of 93

Alberto Contador really struggled

Alberto Contador really struggled (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 4 of 93

Carlos Sastre (CSC)

Carlos Sastre (CSC) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 5 of 93

Contador had to really pour on the gas

Contador had to really pour on the gas (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 6 of 93

Stefan Schumacher catches his two minute man

Stefan Schumacher catches his two minute man (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 7 of 93

Vladimir Karpets

Vladimir Karpets (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 8 of 93

Levi Leipheimer pulled out a fantastic performance

Levi Leipheimer pulled out a fantastic performance (Image credit: Sirotti)
Image 9 of 93

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) came close, but stays in second

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) came close, but stays in second (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 10 of 93

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) has all but secured his Topur win.

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) has all but secured his Topur win. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 11 of 93

Going forward, looking back: Armstrong watches Contador heading toward possible Tour glory.

Going forward, looking back: Armstrong watches Contador heading toward possible Tour glory. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 12 of 93

Lance Armstrong returned to the Tour de France on Saturday to watch his young rider Alberto Contador defend the yellow jersey on the penultimate stage.

Lance Armstrong returned to the Tour de France on Saturday to watch his young rider Alberto Contador defend the yellow jersey on the penultimate stage. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 13 of 93

Pat McQuaid wasn't invited to the Tour by organiser ASO but accepted a French television invite to come to the world's largest cycling event.

Pat McQuaid wasn't invited to the Tour by organiser ASO but accepted a French television invite to come to the world's largest cycling event. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
Image 14 of 93

Alejandro Valverde took 17th not a great Tour for the pre-race favourite

Alejandro Valverde took 17th not a great Tour for the pre-race favourite (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 15 of 93

Leipheimer gasps for air on the very painful final metres

Leipheimer gasps for air on the very painful final metres (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 16 of 93

Levi Leipheimer pulled out a fantastic performance

Levi Leipheimer pulled out a fantastic performance (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 17 of 93

Levi Leipheimer lunges to his stage win

Levi Leipheimer lunges to his stage win (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 18 of 93

Cadel Evans digs deep and grits out a second place in the TT and overall

Cadel Evans digs deep and grits out a second place in the TT and overall (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 19 of 93

Cadel Evans gave it a great effort in the final 5km, holding on to second overall

Cadel Evans gave it a great effort in the final 5km, holding on to second overall (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 20 of 93

Alberto Contador gets constant encouragement from his team car

Alberto Contador gets constant encouragement from his team car (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 21 of 93

Alberto Contador struggles to the line just barely keeping his yellow jersey

Alberto Contador struggles to the line just barely keeping his yellow jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 22 of 93

Leipheimer does the robot walk with a more emphatic style than his Spanish team-mate Contador

Leipheimer does the robot walk with a more emphatic style than his Spanish team-mate Contador (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 23 of 93

Leipheimer failed to overtake Evans but got his stage win

Leipheimer failed to overtake Evans but got his stage win (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 24 of 93

The Americans get their stage win courtesy of Levi Leipheimer

The Americans get their stage win courtesy of Levi Leipheimer (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 25 of 93

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) blasted to a first Tour stage win in the TT

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) blasted to a first Tour stage win in the TT (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 26 of 93

Alberto Contador had to work hard for this yellow jersey

Alberto Contador had to work hard for this yellow jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 27 of 93

A kiss for Mr. Lion from yellow jersey Contador

A kiss for Mr. Lion from yellow jersey Contador (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 28 of 93

Contador and the lion on the yellow jersey podium

Contador and the lion on the yellow jersey podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 29 of 93

Alberto Contador does his best robot impression

Alberto Contador does his best robot impression (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 30 of 93

Fabian Cancellara wags his tongue

Fabian Cancellara wags his tongue (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 31 of 93

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) powers to the line but the world champ only managed 12th

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) powers to the line but the world champ only managed 12th (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 32 of 93

Stefan Schumacher catches his two minute man Aleksandr Kuchynski at the finish

Stefan Schumacher catches his two minute man Aleksandr Kuchynski at the finish (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 33 of 93

Thomas Dekker showing his tongue is bigger than Moreau's.

Thomas Dekker showing his tongue is bigger than Moreau's. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 34 of 93

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) hammers up the final 50m

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) hammers up the final 50m (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 35 of 93

George Hincapie gives it his all on the tough final 25m

George Hincapie gives it his all on the tough final 25m (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 36 of 93

George Hincapie powered to a 7th place

George Hincapie powered to a 7th place (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 37 of 93

Spanish TT champ Gutierrez grits his teeth to a solid 6th place

Spanish TT champ Gutierrez grits his teeth to a solid 6th place (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 38 of 93

Vladimir Karpets held the fastest time for much of the day

Vladimir Karpets held the fastest time for much of the day (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 39 of 93

Iban Mayo comes in 66th place - not a great day for the Spaniard

Iban Mayo comes in 66th place - not a great day for the Spaniard (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 40 of 93

Michael Boogerd moved up to 12th on GC

Michael Boogerd moved up to 12th on GC (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 41 of 93

Oscar Pereiro put in a good effort to take 8th on the day

Oscar Pereiro put in a good effort to take 8th on the day (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 42 of 93

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) held onto his top ten spot on GC

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) held onto his top ten spot on GC (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 43 of 93

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) set blistering splits for his GC men

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) set blistering splits for his GC men (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 44 of 93

Mauricio Soler in the climber's jersey

Mauricio Soler in the climber's jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 45 of 93

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) keeps 7th overall

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) keeps 7th overall (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 46 of 93

Haimar Zubeldia kept his top ten overall

Haimar Zubeldia kept his top ten overall (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 47 of 93

Carlos Sastre was caught and passed by his three minute man Leipheimer

Carlos Sastre was caught and passed by his three minute man Leipheimer (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 48 of 93

The inflatable podium moves from town to town with the Tour

The inflatable podium moves from town to town with the Tour (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 49 of 93

Robert Hunter (Barloworld) was awoken early in the morning for blood testing

Robert Hunter (Barloworld) was awoken early in the morning for blood testing (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 50 of 93

Fabian Cancellara the world TT champ had a less than satisfactory ride

Fabian Cancellara the world TT champ had a less than satisfactory ride (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 51 of 93

Patrick Lefevre "I've got a banana and am not afraid to use it"

Patrick Lefevre "I've got a banana and am not afraid to use it" (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 52 of 93

The photo crew await the arrival of the yellow jersey

The photo crew await the arrival of the yellow jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 53 of 93

Linus Gerdemann chugs some juice after the TT

Linus Gerdemann chugs some juice after the TT (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 54 of 93

George Hincapie sports some whacky Oakleys

George Hincapie sports some whacky Oakleys (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 55 of 93

The sweat pours from George Hincapie after a superb effort in the TT

The sweat pours from George Hincapie after a superb effort in the TT (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 56 of 93

Pereiro finished 8th

Pereiro finished 8th (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 57 of 93

Oscar Pereiro put in a strong TT

Oscar Pereiro put in a strong TT (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 58 of 93

One day, Pereiro may be awarded the '06 Tour win

One day, Pereiro may be awarded the '06 Tour win (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 59 of 93

Soler finished 42nd

Soler finished 42nd (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 60 of 93

Soler gets a drink

Soler gets a drink (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 61 of 93

Leipheimer towels off in the crush of the cameras

Leipheimer towels off in the crush of the cameras (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 62 of 93

Cadel Evans went straight from an all out effort into the scrum of the press

Cadel Evans went straight from an all out effort into the scrum of the press (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 63 of 93

Leipheimer steps up to receive his accolades

Leipheimer steps up to receive his accolades (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 64 of 93

Levi Leipheimer wins the day

Levi Leipheimer wins the day (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 65 of 93

For a while it looked like Leipheimer might win the Tour

For a while it looked like Leipheimer might win the Tour (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 66 of 93

Alberto Contador really struggled to keep his yellow in the TT

Alberto Contador really struggled to keep his yellow in the TT (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 67 of 93

Bernard Hinhault zips up the yellow for Alberto Contador

Bernard Hinhault zips up the yellow for Alberto Contador (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 68 of 93

Contador seemed much more comfortable with earning the yellow jersey than having it handed down

Contador seemed much more comfortable with earning the yellow jersey than having it handed down (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 69 of 93

Who needs podium girls I can kiss this Lion

Who needs podium girls I can kiss this Lion (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 70 of 93

Contador earned this yellow jersey

Contador earned this yellow jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 71 of 93

Alberto Contador "I am Cornholio!"

Alberto Contador "I am Cornholio!" (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 72 of 93

Contador happy in yellow

Contador happy in yellow (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
Image 73 of 93

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) and his tight aero tuck

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) and his tight aero tuck (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 74 of 93

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) looking low and focused

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) looking low and focused (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 75 of 93

Fabian Cancellara (Team Csc) showing battle scars from the Tour

Fabian Cancellara (Team Csc) showing battle scars from the Tour (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 76 of 93

Sebastien Rosseler (Quickstep suffering through the final TT

Sebastien Rosseler (Quickstep suffering through the final TT (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 77 of 93

Tom Boonen (Quickstep) in the Green skinsuit

Tom Boonen (Quickstep) in the Green skinsuit (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 78 of 93

Leif Hoste (Predictor Lotto) the Belgian TT champ, sets time splits for Evans

Leif Hoste (Predictor Lotto) the Belgian TT champ, sets time splits for Evans (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 79 of 93

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas)

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 80 of 93

Thomas Voeckler concentrates

Thomas Voeckler concentrates (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 81 of 93

David Millar had terrible problems with disintegrating wheels, scuttling his chances for a TT win

David Millar had terrible problems with disintegrating wheels, scuttling his chances for a TT win (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 82 of 93

Benoit Vaugrenard crashed in the time trial

Benoit Vaugrenard crashed in the time trial (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 83 of 93

Contador had to really pour on the gas to keep his overall lead

Contador had to really pour on the gas to keep his overall lead (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 84 of 93

Contador sucks wind to try and hold the yellow

Contador sucks wind to try and hold the yellow (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 85 of 93

Evans shows that he wants yellow

Evans shows that he wants yellow (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 86 of 93

Carlos Sastre (CSC) faded and was caught by Leipheimer.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) faded and was caught by Leipheimer. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 87 of 93

Popovych put in a strong TT

Popovych put in a strong TT (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 88 of 93

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 89 of 93

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) rockets past the vines

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) rockets past the vines (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 90 of 93

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) looms large

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) looms large (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 91 of 93

José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) the Spanish TT champ

José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) the Spanish TT champ (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 92 of 93

Hincapie powers past vineyards

Hincapie powers past vineyards (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
Image 93 of 93

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) went nearly the same time as the World TT champ, Cancellara

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) went nearly the same time as the World TT champ, Cancellara (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)

Leipheimer wins first Tour stage and nearly nabs overall - Evans holds second

Alberto Contador has conquered the 94th Tour de France with a race-saving time trial ride from Cognac to Angoulême. The 24 year-old Spaniard finished 2'18" behind stage winner, Levi Leipheimer, and fought hard to hold off a superb effort by Aussie Cadel Evans to maintain his maillot jaune. The American of Discovery Channel nearly stole the show by covering the 55.5-kilometre parcours in Western France with a time of one hour, two minutes and 44 seconds. Predictor-Lotto's Evans finished 51 seconds behind Leipheimer and will remain in second overall 23 seconds behind 'Kid Contador.'

A tight finish concluded the Tour's second time trial through the French department of Charente and most likely the 2007 Tour de France as Contador now leads the overall classification by 23 seconds on Evans. The 30 year-old Australian acknowledged that taking bonus seconds in the final stage to Paris is unlikely but wasn't discounting the possibility. His Predictor-Lotto team may try to pull off an upset since it is within reach of grabbing the world's biggest Grand Tour.

"Sprinting on the Champs-Élysées? I will think about it tomorrow," noted Evans in French after the race. The attentive Australian stayed far up in the stage 18 sprint and gained three seconds when a gap opened up ahead of Contador's group, and had to body-check a spectator in the process. He noted that sprinting could be perilous and admitted, "It is not worth the risk after what happened yesterday."

Evans had his sights on the yellow jersey, but had to hold off a strong threat to his overall position from the American stage winner. "Always watch out for Leipheimer, I knew he was a good time trial rider," he continued regarding Leipheimer's threat to the overall picture. "I know he was still very fresh. The podium was always the goal but if you are so close to then you really want to win."

The day belonged to Leipheimer who used the early fast-paced ride of team-mate George Hincapie as a reference-point to post a blistering ride and nearly nabbed the overall race win. He went the fastest at all time checks; in Sigogne at the kilometre 17.5 he post 19'36", in Saint-Genis-d'Hiersac, kilometre 35, 39'44" and at kilometre 50.1 he posted 57'14". It was a ride that knocked on the door of second place and nearly knocked down the door of the overall competition. The 33 year-old took his first stage win in the Tour de France while moving from 2'49" back at the end of yesterday to 31" back 24 hours later.

"I am extremely happy to win the stage, it has been a life long dream," Leipheimer explained post-stage. "It has been a life long dream just to ride the Tour! To stand on the podium tomorrow, I imagine that it will be fantastic. I will be very happy for Alberto tomorrow, too.

"I did not think I had a chance to win the Tour today, to be honest," he continued. "When I finished I was watching in the camper, yelling at the TV until Alberto crossed the line safely. I was just as happy for his GC win as I was for my stage win today."

Kitted in the yellow colours of race leader 'Kid Contador' saved the day and likely the 94th Tour de France. His ride was not beautiful, at times, his bike was wobbling under the power he was putting into his machine, but it was sufficient. He lost time to his main rival Evans but he handled the most important task of keeping the maillot jaune on his back. His gap was 1'50" at the start of the day and that slipped down by 1'27".

"For a moment, at 30 kilometres to go, I was a little concerned when they gave me a reference of 38 seconds," Contador remarked on his ride. "There was moment when my legs were hurting... but then this gap stayed steady. In the last kilometres, I knew I had to ride to death to save the jersey."

Contador received help from seven-time winner Lance Armstrong who rode in the team car behind him. "Today, he did not tell me anything from the car but when I was hearing Johan [Bruyneel] I was also hearing behind him the voice of Lance Armstrong." Like Armstrong, Contador has had a near-death experience after suffering a blood clot in his brain, and reflected on that dark time in his young life. "I could not image it when I was there [in the hospital] that today I would be here with all these people watching me."

"It was unexpected but fantastic," confirmed Discovery Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol. "We have confidence that he will not be a one-off winner."

Demol commented on Armstrong's appearance. "Lance is someone that keeps leaving his stamp on the team. Since the stage to Plateau de Beille, Lance talked almost every evening to Alberto and that gave him a lot of confidence."

In the battle for fourth, Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) proved his experience and expanded on the gap to Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) even if he was caught by a storming Leipheimer. Sastre increased his gap to his compatriot from the Basque country by 42 seconds.

The battle for the Lanterne Rouge of the last rider in the general classification was likely locked down today when Wim Vansevenant (Predictor-Lotto) went 1'22" slower than Geraint Thomas (Barloworld). 'Sevi' now sits in dead last with a comfortable margin of 6'39" behind the Brit.

How it unfolded

141 riders started the penultimate stage of the Tour de France knowing that at that point of the race, they were almost certain to make it to Paris. The aim for many was simply to get through the mainly flat 55 kilometre time trial without mishap but for those at the head of the general classification, the stakes were far higher. Maillot jaune Alberto Contador began the day 1'50" ahead of Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto) and 2'49" up on his own Discovery Channel team-mate Levi Leipheimer. Both challengers are better time trialists than the young Spaniard, so everything was to race for.

There was also plenty of incentive for the other GC riders to perform well. Carlos Sastre (CSC) and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel Euskadi) started the day fourth and fifth overall and had just 27" between them. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was 1'18" ahead of Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile Team), who in turn was 1'11" ahead of Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team). KOM leader Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel – Euskadi) were ninth and tenth overall and had just eleven seconds dividing them, while last year's possible victor Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) was hope to overtake one or the other and finish tenth overall for the third time in his career. He's a strong time trialist and started the day 36 seconds behind Soler and 25 seconds away from Astarloza.

Wim Vansevenant (Predictor – Lotto) was first rider off but both he and the youngest rider in the race, Geraint Thomas (Barloworld), were caught during the TT by Sven Krauss, who became the early leader. The Gerolsteiner rider's time was however bettered very soon afterwards by Bram de Groot (Rabobank), then Leif Hoste (Predictor Lotto) went a very impressive 2'36" quicker. His time of 1 hour 5'32" would stand for nearly three and a half hours, although he had nervous moments much earlier when world champion Fabian Cancellara went quicker at the first checkpoint. The CSC rider was five seconds clear of Belgian TT champ Hoste at the 17.5 kilometre mark but would finish seven seconds behind at the finish in Angoulême

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) was next to threaten. He was eleven seconds quicker than Cancellara at the first checkpoint and nine quicker than Hoste at the next, but faded between there and the finish, running third.

David Millar (Saunier Duval – Prodir) said in the days leading up to the time trial that he would try to win. However the Scott had wretched luck, his rear disk wheel disintegrating about 200 metres after he left the start house. He changed bikes but never recovered from that, finishing 5'04" behind. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker fared much better, showing his speed when he was second at the 17.5 kilometre time check and then going on to finish just seven seconds behind Hoste.

Discovery Channel's George Hincapie gave an indication of what would be a good day for his team when he went provisionally quickest at each of the intermediate checks and finished 15 seconds ahead. However his celebrations were short as behind him, Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) was chomping up the course and beat his time by six seconds to take over at the top of the leaderboard.

Disappointment was in store for him too, though, as his team-mate Vladimir Karpets scorched along the course, going 31 seconds quicker en route to a time that looked potentially good enough to win. Further back on the course, though, Levi Leipheimer showed he meant business when he went a staggering 39 seconds faster than the Russian. He was chasing Cadel Evans but the Australian showed that he too was on for a good time when he took second at that check, 14 seconds back.

Evans was trying everything to overcome his overnight 1'50" deficit to race leader Contador. However the Spaniard showed that he wasn't going to hand over the yellow jersey without a fight when he placed third at that check, 36 seconds behind Leipheimer, but just 22 seconds away from his closest rival. The intermediate timing at km 35 saw Leipheimer maintain his lead, the American going through there 35 seconds ahead of Evans. While Contador was still losing time, he was resisting at a rate which suggested he should hold on. He was 1'29" behind this team-mate here and 54 seconds adrift of Evans, maintaining an overall lead of 56 seconds.

From there to the finish just 20.5 kilometres remained. It was utterly suspenseful; Leipheimer had started the day 59 seconds behind Evans and when he set a pace 51 seconds quicker by the 50.1 kilometre check, the Australian's GC place looked threatened. Not only that – Evans was 1'18" better than Contador here, closing the gap between them to 32 seconds. It meant that each rider went eyeballs out from there to the finish.

Leipheimer came home with a time of 1 hour 2'44", dominating the day's race and taking his first Tour de France stage victory. Evans showed excellent bike handling over the final kilometres, taking some risks and fighting his way to the line in a time 51 seconds behind that of the stage winner. That meant he had eight seconds in hand for the general classification, but the bigger questions concerned Contador's maillot jaune. The Spaniard sprinted all the way to the line and lunged across for fifth on the stage, 2'18" behind his team-mate, and 23 seconds ahead of Evans in the overall. The jersey was safe.

Of the other top riders, Sastre finished 16th in the time trial and thus holds on to his fourth place overall. Zubeldia lost 42 seconds to the CSC rider and must be content with equalling his 2003 finish placing of fifth. Valverde and Kirchen fought hard for sixth place and while the Spaniard was 25 seconds back at the first time check, he only conceded another twelve between here and the finish. This is enough for him to stay put.

Popovych finished fourth on the stage and remains eighth, while Soler was slower than Astarloza and Pereiro and drops behind the two of them to eleventh on GC. Karpets' strong ride saw him moving past Chris Horner (Predictor Lotto) in the overall standings. However the American overtook Iban Mayo (Euskaltel Euskadi) in the general classification, so he continues in 15th place overall.

Stage 20 - Sunday, July 29: Marcoussis - Paris Champs-Élysées, 146km

The final stage is normally a celebratory, somewhat processional affair until the racing starts on the Champs Elysées. Victory there is highly prestigious but the stakes will be even higher tomorrow due to the fact that the general classification is so tight. Evans is 23 seconds behind Contador and only eight ahead of Leipheimer; sprint bonuses and the prospect of slipping away in a group before the finish could lead to some aggressive racing by the three.

Stage 20 begins in Marcoussis and then takes a wandering course towards Paris and eight finishing circuits on the Champs-Elysées. Two fourth category climbs come inside the first hour and a half of racing, then bonus sprints are situated at Chatenay-Malabry and Haut des Champs-Elysées.

Climbs:
Km 51: Côte de Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse - 2.5km climb @ 6% grade / 4th Cat.
Km 54.5: Côte de Châteaufort - 1.5km climb @ 6% grade / 4th Cat.

Sprints:
Km 74: Chatenay-Malabry
Km 108.5: Haut des Champs-Elysees

Latest on Cyclingnews