After a savage battle with Andy Schleck on Mont Ventoux today, Maillot Jaune Aberto Contador of equipped Astana, the Spanish rider said "he was attacking without mercy, but I only had to follow him, and I was able to do it. Andy is very strong and he revealed it again today," Contador said. The Maillot Jaune continued in an impromptu press conference atop Ventoux, where half a million fans had gathered for today's Tour stage. "I had a good day today and I was able to keep (Andy Schleck) close. Winning this Tour has been very difficult, much more difficult than it look like from the outside. I was really suffering today, but I knew that every minute that passed, I was that much closer to winning the Tour."
Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank had one goal in mind today: rid of Lance Armstrong so his big brother Frank could move up to third at the Tour. "We were attacking to try to move Frank up onto the podium", explained Andy, "but we saw that Lance was very strong today. We tried with everything we had, but the others were climbing strong as well," Schleck said. "We have to be happy with the Tour, with second and fifth place, stage wins and the white jersey. Alberto was strongest in this Tour and he deserves to win. But I am still young, I will have plenty of chances to win a Tour."
Astana's 7 time Tour winner Lance Armstong clearly had his best day at the 2009 Tour today on Stage 20. After a solid performance to finish fifth, the 37-year-old Texan twittered "Ventoux done. What a day!! I have never (ever) seen crowds like that at the Tour de France. Unreal!! I felt great too and kept my "podium" spot. Happy."
Saturday's Stage 20, the penultimate stage of the Tour De France, a
167km stage from Montélimar to finish atop Mont Ventoux. On a a hot,
windy day in Provence, there were 4 climbs on the program Saturday; the
Cat 3 Côte de Citelle after 14Km, Cat 3 Col d'Ey after 65.5km, the Cat
4 Col de Fontaube after 87.0Km and the Cat 3 Col des Abeilles with 45km
to go. Finally it's the fearsome ascent of the Giant of Provence, a
21.1km climb from Bedouin after 146km that ends atop Mont Ventoux.
Already Saturday morning, the mistral wind was blowing strongly, with
gusts up to 100km/hr atop the appropriately named windy mountain. After
just 3km, a 16 man break separated itself from the peloton on the way
to Ventoux. SRAM Red equipped Maxime Bouet, Agritubel's 22 year old
rookie climber was out front, as well as Roulston (Cervélo), Garate and
Postuma (Rabobank), Martin (High Road), Riblon (Ag2r la Mondiale),
Kuschynski (Liquigas), Geslin (Française des Jeux), Dumoulin (Cofidis),
Righi (Lampre), Bonnet (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Lemoine and Timmer
(Skil-Shimano), Delage (Silence Lotto), Moreno (Euskaltel Euskadi) and
Gutierrez (Caisse d Epargne).
Andy Schleck Incredible on Ventoux, Contador will win Tour tomorrow.
It was a good break and they quickly gained time on the disinterested
groupe Maillot Jaunea and by after 65.5km atop the Cat 3 Col d Ey, the
breaks lead was 9 04 . This gap rang the alarm bells back in the
peloton Saxo Bank hit the front with Stuey O'Grady and upped the chase
tempo. Atop the penultimate climb of the Cat 3 Col des Abeilles, the
break still had 8 30 lead on the chasing peloton. Huge chase efforts
by Saxo Bank & Astana pulled back major time on the break as the
base of the climb approached and the lead was under 4 with 20km to
race. Garate, Riblon and Martin attacked with 15km to go and dropped
the rest of the break, while in the group Maillot Jaune, it was Andy
& Frank Schelck on the attack, trying to dislodge Lance Armstrong
from his 3rd spot on gc and the Tour De France podium. But it was not
to be as the two teams slugged it out all the way up the steep, windy
ascent of Mont Ventoux.
Garate won the stage, while the group Maillot Jaune finished 38
behind. At the finish, Garate said "This is a very important win for
me. I came here to help (Menchov), but he's not at his best after
winning the Giro, so I had my chance today. It was very hard on the
final climb and there was a lot of headwind. I had to go to the maximum
on the final kilometers because we heard that the favorites were
closing in on us."
It'a all over but the shouting on Sunday, July 26th's Stage 21, the
final chapter of the 2009 Tour De France. It's a 164km journey from
Montereau-Fault-Yonne to the Champs Elysees in Paris. Mark Cavendish
and Thor Hushovd will battle for the green jersey and as usual, the
stage should come down to a mass sprint in Paris.