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Spain’s Contador Wins Third Straight Tour De France

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador held off a hard charging Andy Sheck and took advantage of his rival’s unfortunate chain malfunction to win his third straight Tour De France. Contador’s margin of victory was 39 seconds and provided considerable drama to the 20th and final stage of the race. Denis Menchov of Russia was third overall. American cycling icon Lance Armstrong raced in his final Tour De France and finished in 23rd place over thirty minutes behind his longtime rival and teammate Contador.

The decisive moment of the final stage—and ultimately the entire Tour De France—came on a steep climb with Luxembourg’s Sheck wearing the yellow jersey denoting the race leader. Sheck’s chain came undone, and Contador took the opportunity to speed by and regain the overall race lead. That violated the ‘gentleman’s code’ of the sport which suggests that other riders shouldn’t take advantage of another’s ‘unlucky breaks’ including mechanical failure. Contador’s opportunism has generated a lot of animosity from cycling fans and—initially at least—Sheck himself. Sheck shook his fist at Contador as he rode away, but was in a more conciliatory mood after the race:

"This year, it didn't work. I have a rendezvous in one year with that color there (the yellow jersey). I am better than last year because then it [the deficit] was 4 minutes."

Sheck was the runner up to Contador for the second straight year. Contador was unapologetic about his victory in his postrace comments:

"I suffered to get this result. I don't have words to express what I feel."

In what has become the default 21st century mode for such a mea culpa, Contador later posted a video to YouTube apologizing for taking advantage of Sheck’s misfortune.

American Lance Armstrong saw his Tour De France career come to an unfortunate conclusion with a crash filled run that left him 39:20 behind the eventual winner. There had been hopes that he could contend for the victory after a solid third place finish in 2009. Armstrong summed up his feelings simply after the race:

"I need a cold beer.”

Armstrong won six consecutive Tour De France titles between 1999 and 2005, and at 27 years old and now just entering his prime there are suggestions that Contador could threaten that run. There are a number of contenders including Sheck, Menchov and mountain specialist Anthony Charteau of France that’ll make his fourth straight victory in 2011 anything but a foregone conclusion.

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