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July 21, 2009

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Contador closing in on Tour victory

ALBERTO Contador said he took a big step towards winning the Tour de France when he crushed his rivals in Sunday's first Alpine stage.

The Spaniard not only took the 15th stage win but now has the overall leader's yellow jersey just one week before the race concludes at the Champs Elysees and the full backing of his Astana team.

Contador, 26, now leads teammate and former Tour winner Lance Armstrong by 1:37 as the peloton enjoys a rest day. "(Sunday's stage was) a big step towards final victory," he told a news conference yesterday.

"I fully trust my team. The riders are very professional. I will finish this race with them without any problems."

Last week, Armstrong admitted there were tensions within the Astana team because of his rivalry with Contador but the seven-time Tour champion said on Sunday he would now be happy to be the Spaniard's domestique.

"We are ready to sacrifice everything to have Alberto in the yellow jersey in Paris: the teams standings and Lance's second place," Astana sports director Alain Gallopin said.

"After yesterday's result, everything is much clearer within the team now," said Contador, adding: "(Lance) said yesterday he would back me. I believe him."

Although he looks set for his second Tour victory after prevailing in 2007, Contador is fully aware his rivals have not capitulated.

"The strongest is Andy Schleck but I don't fear someone in particular. The dangerous situation is if they all attack together," he said.

"I must make sure I do everything correctly so that my rivals cannot have a chance."

Contador, who will race in the Clasica San Sebastian and the Grand Prix de Plouay in August before ending his season, said nothing but the color of his jersey would change for the 16th stage today.

"I will have the same attitude. It is just for the journalists and the fans that it will change," he said.


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