July 19, 2009

Contador surges into Tour de France lead

The Tour de France yellow jersey passed to Spain's Alberto Contador Sunday as he won its 15th stage and became the favorite to take the race, results indicate.

Race officials said Contador took the race's mountainous 129-mile 15th stage, ending in Verbier, Switzerland, in 5 hours, 3 minutes and 58 seconds. That was 42 seconds faster than Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

The Alpine stage win also allowed Contador of the Astana team to bypass his teammate, American Lance Armstrong, who finished the day second overall, 1 minute and 37 seconds behind Contador.

The win puts Contador in a great position to win his second Tour De France as the race moves into its final week ending in Paris and puts Armstrong at a psychological disadvantage, The Guardian reported.

Briton Bradley Wiggins also had a successful day Sunday, moving up to third overall with a nice showing in the 15th stage to pull within 1 minute, 46 seconds of Contador. The previous yellow jersey holder, Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy, fell to sixth overall.

During the stage's final miles, Armstrong was outmaneuvered, leaving little doubt that Contador has emerged as the leader of the Astana team, the Guardian said.