Cycling: Alberto Contador wins Tour

Alberto Contador of Spain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, rides past the Arc de Triomphe monument during the 21st stage of the Tour de France. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)
Alberto Contador of Spain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, rides past the Arc de Triomphe monument during the 21st stage of the Tour de France. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)
Lance Armstrong's children were dressed in yellow. He was not.

When the seven-time Tour de France champion returned to the Tour podium, his family was there. His fans were there. And so was rival and teammate Alberto Contador - wearing the coveted yellow jersey.

Four years after his seventh Tour win, Armstrong capped his return with an impressive third-place finish.

Contador won the Tour for a second time Sunday, and Mark Cavendish of Britain collected his sixth stage win of this year's Tour in a sprint after the 101.9-mile course ride from Montereau-Fault-Yonne to the Champs-Elysees.

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

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, Contador's biggest rival among title contenders in the mountains, was second overall.

"I'm realistic, I did everything I could," Armstrong said before the final stage. "For me, and even more for my kids, it's probably a healthy thing for them to see, because they saw their dad that never lost, and the kids in their class (say) 'your dad never loses,' so it's good for them to see dad get third and still be cool with that and still be happy."

Contador, the 2007 champion, also had to battle a rearguard action within his Astana team, where the comeback of Armstrong to the Tour after 3½ years of retirement raised questions about who would be the team leader.

"It has been an especially difficult Tour for me, but I savor it and it is more special because of it," Contador said after the Spanish national anthem was played.

Asked on French TV what the hardest moment in this race, Contador replied: "It was in the (team) hotel," without elaborating.

Contador and Armstrong reportedly had differences early in the race, as tensions grew over who was the No. 1 Astana rider.

"We are totally incompatible. In the end, Armstrong will go his way and I'll go mine," Contador said.

The Spaniard did enjoy this victory more than in 2007. Four days from the finish that year, then race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was sent home for lying about his whereabouts during pre-Tour doping controls.

"In the key stages of this Tour, I found myself feeling more at ease than I did in 2007. But in situations outside of racing, I didn't feel so comfortable," Contador told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

After Oscar Pereiro's victory in 2006 and Carlos Sastre's in 2008, the Tour has been won by a Spaniard for four straight years.

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

He had to sit out last year because of a doping scandal at Astana before he joined.