July 25, 2009

Contador all but assures Tour victory

Alberto Contador all but sealed his second Tour de France title in three years Saturday, retaining the yellow jersey during the mountainous Stage 20.

The Spanish Contador retained a comfortable lead of 4 minutes, 11 seconds over Andy Schleck of Luxembourg after the grueling 104-mile stage that began in Montelimar and ended at the barren summit of Mont Ventoux, race officials said.

Juan Manuel Garate of Spain won the stage with a time of 4 hours 39 minutes 21 seconds, barely edging Tony Martin of Germany. But the main competition during the stage was the jockeying among the runners-up to Contador in the overall standings, as Schleck locked up with Contador's Astana teammate, American Lance Armstrong, in a battle for second place.

Schleck ended the day 1 minute, 13 seconds ahead of Armstrong. Britain's Bradley Wiggins retained fourth-place overall with a 10-place finish in the 20th stage.

Armstrong's showing was impressive because entered the stage barely hanging on to third place with Wiggins close behind, only 15 seconds back.