Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Contador contracts yellow fever

Spaniard holds off Schleck, all but assured of victory

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PAUILLAC, France -- Wiping away tears, Alberto Contador is ready for the champagne to flow.

After three daunting weeks of crashes, biting cold, fog and searing heat, he is set to become the Tour de France champion again.

The Spaniard all but captured his third title in four years Saturday by holding off a full-bore challenge from his main rival, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, in a 52-kilometre individual time trial in the next-to-last stage. Today's ride into Paris is a mostly ceremonial affair.

Very happy

"I am very moved... It was a difficult Tour and I'm very happy," a tearful Contador said.

He took a deep breath and his hand trembled as he fired an index finger -- the trademark gesture by the rider nicknamed "El Pistolero" -- to fans after donning the yellow jersey one more time.

"I think it's the first Tour that has given me so much emotion, you can't imagine," he said.

Contador wasn't in top form, but did what he had to. The defending champion extended his lead over Schleck from eight seconds to 39 in a stage won by Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland.

Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria moved up one spot to seventh after finishing 52nd in the stage, while Michael Barry of Toronto remained 99th after an 80th-place ride.

Spaniard Carlos Sastre of the Canadian-owned Cervelo Test Team is 20th.

Now Contador surely gets to wear yellow on the Champs-Elysees. And as the unquestioned leader of his sport at 27 years old, he remains on track for a possible challenge to Lance Armstrong's record of seven Tour wins.

Barring a wild turn of events, Contador awaits a coronation in the 20th and final stage today -- a 102.5-kilometre ride from Longjumeau to the famed Paris thoroughfare. Any attempted attacks by riders would likely be quashed by Contador and his Astana teammates.

-- The Associated Press

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2010 A36

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