Tour de France Champion Contador Faces Challenges in Pyrenees Mountains
The three-time champion hurt his right knee in two falls during the first week and trails leader Thomas Voeckler by 4 minutes, 7 seconds after 11 of 21 stages. Mark Cavendish won yesterday’s leg to lead the points competition that sprinters compete for.
Contador looks “a little fatigued” after winning the Giro d’Italia in May and faces a challenge from two-time runner-up Andy Schleck, according to Team Sky manager David Brailsford. Schleck is 2 minutes, 37 seconds behind Voeckler.
“Andy Schleck will never get a better chance to win” the Tour de France than this year, Brailsford said in an interview two days ago.
Today’s 131-mile stage has an ascent of the Col du Tourmalet and a mountain top finish at Luz-Ardiden, a ski resort. Both climbs are rated out-of-category, the most difficult.
Cavendish beat Andre Greipel by a bike length in a sprint finish after a 104-mile ride from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur yesterday to avenge his loss against the German a day earlier.
Mickael Delage of Francaise des Jeux was part of a six-man breakaway and passed Johnny Hoogerland’s mark of 280 miles --the most distance covered attacking by a rider in this edition, according to the Tour de France website. Hoogerland was catapulted into a barbed wire fence on July 10 when a car veered into a breakaway group.
After a thwarted solo breakaway by Lars Boom with three miles left, Cavendish sprinted to his third stage win of this edition and 18th overall, taking the green jersey from Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert. The leader’s yellow jersey will today be worn by Frenchman Voeckler on the Bastille Day national holiday.
Contador was acquitted by the Spanish cycling federation after testing positive for the banned stimulant clenbuterol in winning last year’s Tour. The federation accepted his argument that the reading was caused by contaminated meat.
Cycling’s ruling body, Union Cycliste Internationale, appealed the decision and the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport will make a final decision after the race, which ends July 24 in Paris.
The Spaniard is the most talented climber in decades with more ability than record seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and five-time winner Miguel Indurain, said Phil Liggett, a commentator for Versus television channel covering his 39th Tour de France.
“They couldn’t sit up and dance” like Contador, Liggett said in an interview. “This guy is a mountain goat.”
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