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Contador basks in Tour glory

ALBERTO Contador emerged as the new cycling boss yesterday when the Spaniard wrapped up his second Tour de France title on the Champs-Elysees on Lance Armstrong's return to the race.

The Astana rider stayed safe in the main bunch as the last stage, over 164 kilometers from Montereau Fault-Yonne to Paris, went to Briton Mark Cavendish.

"I am really happy. It was an especially difficult Tour for me but that's why I am enjoying the victory all the more," Contador said on the podium.

Cavendish outsprinted Columbia teammate Mark Renshaw of Australia and American Tyler Farrar to clinch his sixth stage win in this year's race.

Contador proved the strongest rider in the mountains and in the time trials, beating Luxembourg's Andy Schleck by four minutes 11 seconds for the overall victory.

Seven-time champion Armstrong, back from 3-1/2 years in retirement, finished third overall 5:24 off the pace. Norway's Thor Hushovd clinched the green jersey for the points classification and Italy's Franco Pellizotti won the polka dot jersey for the best climber.

Contador's win kept the Spanish flag flying high on the Champs-Elysees as it followed triumphs for Oscar Pereiro in 2006, himself in 2007 and Carlos Sastre last year.

Contador, who missed last year's Tour after Astana was not invited because of its past doping record, took the overall leader's yellow jersey with a strong attack in the first Alpine stage in Verbier, Switzerland.

It was the ninth Tour title for Astana's Belgian team manager Johan Bruyneel, who masterminded Armstrong's seven victories on the three-week race.

Britain had an exciting year on the Tour, with Cavendish snatching six stages, a record, and Bradley Wiggins finishing fourth overall.

"It's amazing. I'm so happy to be here," the 24-year-old Cavendish said. "Six stage victories on the Tour - all my dreams have come true."

Over nearly 3,500 kilometers and 21 stages of races over three weeks, Contador repelled many challenges in the mountains and excelled in the two time-trials - winning a pivotal race against the clock in the 18th stage - apart from winning the first Alpine stage.

Contador began the Tour on July 4 as the pre-race favorite. At only 26 years old, he is already one of the greats, having won all three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain.

Armstrong, at 37, is the second-oldest rider to reach the Tour podium. Raymond Poulidor of France was 40 when he placed third in 1976.


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