Saturday, 24 July 2010

Schleck loses out on Tour victory by 39 seconds as Menchov volts into third place in the GC

The best young rider over the three weeks of racing that is the Tour de France knew it would come down to the Time Trial. With Contador on paper the better time trialler, Schleck knew he had a disadvantage. 8 seconds down on his rival, the Luxembourg rider knew he had to perform the best Time Trial of his life. Sitting, waiting, trying to find solace and solitude as he waited two painful minutes for the Spainiard to cross the line, he tried to avoid the media scrum that was lurking for the prized sound bite from the young man who had already achieved the accolade of the Tour's best young rider.

Riding his heart out for all his worth and with everything his body had to offer against the strong headwinds coming in from the coast, the younger brother of Frank Schleck, who himself had crashed out of the Tour as it made its way over the pave of the Paris-Roubaix, he knew he had a hard task ahead. But he had no idea just how painful a card fate would deal. As Contador crossed the line, the calculators came out. The maths worked out, Schleck had failed by 39 seconds; the same amount of time he had lost while sorting out his mechanical on stage 15 later dubbed "Chaingate".

Meanwhile the Silent Assassin, Dennis Menchov, rode supremely well to finish ahead of rival Samuel Sanchez for the third podium position when the race finishes in Paris tomorrow. Finishing in 11th place behind Cancellara, who took the top spot ahead of German Time Trial champion Tony Martin, the Rabo Bank rider took two full minutes out of his Spanish rival. Martin finished 2nd, bested only by Cancellara, with team mate Grabsch finishing 3rd in the Time Trial; a cool recovery for yesterday's Lantern Rouge.

Sky who had failed to dominate the Tour in the way they had hoped with Edvald Bosen Hagen denied by rival sprinter Cavendish at every opportunity and Bradley Wiggins failing to perform in the same way as in the 2009 edition, were able to gain some solace in Wiggins and Thomas both placing in the top 10 for the Time Trial stage.

As Contador stood on the podium to received his yellow jersey, knowing the battle for the Tour victory was over, emotion almost got the better of him. Battling down to the wire, the Spaniard had suffered in his bid for a third Tour victory. Not always on form and suffering a PR set back with the "Chaingate" controversy, this Tour had been no walk in the park for the 27 year old rider. Schleck may now be disheartened by the loss, but despite having no regrets for the 2010 edition, the young Luxembourg rider is sure to be hungry for victory in the 2011 Tour.

Tomorrow, while the battle for the Maillot Jaune may now be over allowing Contador to have his "lap of honour" stage, the race for the Maillot Vert will hot up for one final time as the sprinters head into Paris and the Champs-Elysées. With just 16 points separating Cavendish from the Jersey, he is sure to be after more than a record second victory on the famous Tour finishing stage. If Sky can work with HTC-Columbia to place as many men between Cavendish and his rival Petacchi's Lampre train, the young Manxman may find he can claw himself into the Jersey he so desires.

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