July 22, 2009

Contador leads grows in Tour de France

Alberto Contador tied for the best time in Wednesday's 17th stage of the Tour de France and increased his overall lead to nearly 2 1/2 minutes.

Frank Schleck was awarded the stage victory but Contador and Andy Schleck, Frank's brother, were also clocked at 4 hours, 53 minutes, 54 seconds in what was perhaps the toughest stage of this year's race.

The route covered 101.7 miles from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand in the French Alps and included four Category 1 climbs, two of which were near the end of the stage.

It was on the final climb that the Schlecks and Contador separated themselves from the rest of the riders. Frank Schleck was first across with Contador given second and Andy Schleck third. Vincenzo Nibali and Lance Armstrong were the next to reach the finish and were 2:18 behind the leaders.

The Schlecks passed Armstrong in the overall standings as a result of the finish.

Contador's lead in the overall standings is 2:26 over Andy Schleck and 3:25 over Frank Schleck. Armstrong, 3:55 off the pace, is in fourth.

Stage 18 on Thursday is a 24.3-mile run around Lake Annecy in the French Alps. It is the final time trial of the 2009 Tour de France, which concludes Sunday in Paris.