Tour de France reaction: the final say

Contador jubilant, Schleck magnanimous, Cavendish disappointed but happy with five stages

by Dave Atkinson   July 26, 2010  

2010 Tour de France podium (Photosport International)

Alberto Contador has admitted that he had been under severe pressure during the last three weeks as he rode his way to a third Tour de France victory in three years, revealing that he had not been able to perform at peak level during the race.

“It is a Tour in which I had a lot of pressure, especially physically as I was not at my best level. It took a lot of confidence to face difficult situations,” said the Astana rider after yesterday’s final stage, his words quoted on the Tour de France website.

“For example, everyone said I had already won the Tour after the stage to the Tourmalet,” Contador continued, adding that the race had still not been “fully played out” until Saturday’s individual time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac, won by Fabian Cancellara, in which the Spaniard finished 31 seconds ahead of Andy Schleck to extend his lead to 39 seconds and ensure overall victory.

He described finishing the race in Paris in the yellow jersey as “a great relief for me, it is a moment that I feel like I’ve been liberated from all the pressure.”

Contador, winner in 2007 and again last year – he did not take part in the race in 2008 when his new team, Astana, were not invited due to the previous year’s drugs scandal, added: “The three wins are all very different. The first, in 2007, had something special, precisely because that was the first. Last year, the context was difficult and this made it difficult. And this year I have had difficult moments, but I could count on a strong team. I realise that each year I gain in experience. I now better manage a team throughout the race.”

Asked what he planned to do following his win, Contador admitted:
“Now I am happy to enjoy this victory and I’ll take a good vacation.”

This year’s margin of victory was the fifth closest in the 107-year history of the Tour de France, and the slim margin between victory and defeat wasn’t lost on runner-up Schleck, who had lost by more than four minutes last year and who might have won the race this year had it not been for that problem with his chain in the Pyrenees.

We’ll never know how pivotal that moment last Monday afternoon, which saw Contador ride up the rode as Schleck sought to reseat his chain, losing 39 seconds and the yellow jersey in the process, would have been in the context of the overall race. Certainly, had Schleck still been in the overall lead on the Tourmalet last Thursday, Contador would have been forced to attack, The only thing we are sure of is that the incident will be talked about for years.

“It’s a completely different feeling to when I came second in 2009,” admitted Schleck yesterday. “I go up there and look at the yellow jersey now and I realize I was so close – but in the end it’s so far away. I almost had it. I wore yellow for six days and I’m more than sure that I want to do better. I have a meeting on the Champs-Elysées next year with the yellow jersey. I’ll be back to win it.” He asserted.

“Right now it’s a bit difficult to understand all that’s happened because I’m in the middle of it all,” continued Schleck. “It’s better to see from the outside. The people I’ve spoken to who have looked on say it’s been a really beautiful Tour and now I really need some time in the next week to sit back and maybe take it all in.”

Schleck added that he didn’t intend to dwell on the events of the last three weeks.
“I’m not going to watch the replays. I don’t want to watch myself on TV – I’m not in love with myself. But I have to enjoy it a little bit.”

As for that slipped chain on the Port de Balès, the Saxo Bank rider insisted,
”I’m not going to brew on the 39 seconds. I’m finished thinking about that. It’s behind me now.”

He did reveal, however, that losing the Tour by that very margin was the one thing he had dreaded. “It’s pretty funny though because yesterday when I finished the time trial, I said to my room-mate Nicki [Sorensen], ‘If I lose, I hope it’s like 45 or 50 seconds.’ I told him that I hoped it wasn’t going to be 39 seconds. I get to the hotel at the end of the stage and he reminds me that it’s 39 seconds. Ah well, it’s over and it’s lost,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish was celebrating taking the sprint on the Champs-Elysées for the second year running, his fifth stage of this year’s race and fifteenth Tour de France stage in total, though the manner of his victory yesterday was very different to that of 12 months ago.

Then, HTC-Columbia’s train had done such a good job of grinding the opposition down that when Mark Renshaw led Cavendish off the Place de la Concorde and towards the line, the Australian finished up talking second himself. Yesterday, of course, Renshaw was missing after being kicked off the race for headbutting Garmin-Transitions’ Julian Dean and cutting up Tyler Farrar, but as Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre-Farnese Vini charged for the line in Paris, Cavendish appeared from nowhere to clinch the win.
“I came around the last corner and I just jumped and started my sprint,” explained Cavendish. “It’s different on the Champs-Elysées to every other sprint in the Tour de France where you kind of have save as much energy as possible because every day is so hard. In Paris you’ve got nothing to save your energy for so you just go balls-out to the line and that’s kind of what I did today,” he added.

Cavendish missed by out by 11 points to Petacchi on what, given his disastrous start to this year’s race, would have been an incredible top spot in the points classification.

“I’m disappointed this year not to win the green jersey,” he confessed. “I set out to do so – it was a target for this year – but I had some bad luck in the first days and was out of the running but the team fought back, did our best and I lost it by 11 points. But we won five stages and we’ve got to be happy with this year’s Tour,” he continued.

“In the first week there was nothing that could be done about the bad luck but the team rode incredibly strongly throughout the early days and I was the weak link at the end of it,” the Manxman confessed. “

But they never gave up faith and they continued to lead me out and it takes a special group of guys to do that. It’s not just the riders but the soigneurs, the management, the mechanics… everyone in the team. I’m so lucky to part of a group of people who give 100 per cent whatever the outcome.”

“It’s frustrating not to have the best out come when they’ve also done such a good job,” he went on. “It was just a case of trying to make amends. Finally I did and we just got on a roll after that. Obviously if you win, you get confidence. If you get confidence, you win… it rolls like that and it came out to be a pretty successful Tour so I’m pretty happy,” Cavendish concluded.

7 user comments

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I feel this was a Tour not worthy of dwelling on too much. For sure it was entertaining, but won't be looked back on as one of the classics. Neither, I believe, will Contador go down as one of cycling's 'greats'. He's come along at one of our sport's 'transitional' periods. The old guard are on their way out, and the new recruits have yet to establish themselves firmly at the front. What I take away from this year's Tour more than anything else is anticipation over what is to come. Andy Schleck, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar and the like will mature, arguably Schleck has already done so, and become 'greats' in the true sense of the word. Courage from Christian Prudhomme and the A.S.O. with a continuation of setting similar 'great' challenges throughout the three weeks will only add to the spectacle and should see a return to an era of exciting racing and less of a reliance on the battle for the Green Jersey to provide the thrills. Roll on 2011.

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
26th July 2010 - 11:25

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Quote:
Asked what he planned to do following his win, Contador admitted:
“Now I am happy to enjoy this victory and I’ll take a good vacation.”

After last year's easy victory he basically did nothing for 7 months (other than moonlighting as a -shirt model.) So, after this year's hard battle with Schleck, we may not see Bert in competition until the 2011 Dauphine.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
26th July 2010 - 11:52

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Was Cav 2nd to Petacchi for the green jersey or Hushovd?
And hypothetically, if Petacchi is found positive of blood doping or using illegal substances then would he be stripped of the jersey in favour of the 2nd place points holder?

posted by Old Cranky [275 posts]
26th July 2010 - 12:34

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Cav was 2nd, 11 points behind AleJet.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7039 posts]
26th July 2010 - 12:41

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Not a very exciting tour in my opinion. Watching Schleck and Contador follow each other up every mountain is a bit boring.

Very few attacks and fairly clear from early on that Contador had the Tour wrapped up.

The most exciting GC stage was Stage 3 on the cobbles, good to see the contenders outside of their comfort zones.

Second to that was Lance Armstrong in the breakaway, I really wanted to see him take a stage for old times sake, but it wasn't to be.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
26th July 2010 - 16:16

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Lance , Moreau And Voigt were champions that will be sadly missed in 2011 neither took a stage but put in worthwhile efforts !

Prudhomme continues to shortchange the public by not allowing the likes of Zavier Ochoa to showcase their skills at the TDF Contre montre courses before the TDF Coreurs race ! Ochoa raced with his brother at the 2001 TDF sadly he lost his brother in the training accident that left him with "Cerebal Palsy"!

Other racers are like him and serve their nations in the Paralympic Cycling events so deserve the recognition of the courage and skills they continue to exhibit and thus be invited to race before the public on the day that the "oldies putter around having a chat" and being shown on TV and other media outlets !

PRUDHOMME you dishonour France by not inviting the "Paralympic Champions of Europe and elsewhere" to come and race at their own expense ! Of course there is no money in this for A.S.O. but then money is not the only thing in life, the bottom line might even be increased by the public perceiving this charitable act as a reason to support the Tour De France .

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
27th July 2010 - 16:54

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Many exciting moments, not least Cav's stage wins, but a disappointing outcome, a disappointing exit for Lance. It had so much in it this year yet seemed to have something missing. Roll on 2011!

Andy

posted by jazzdude [48 posts]
28th July 2010 - 17:56

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