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
Lance Armstrong's children were dressed in yellow. He was
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
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
Contador and Armstrong reportedly had differences early in
the race, as tensions grew over who was the No. 1 Astana
"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
After Oscar Pereiro's victory in 2006 and Carlos Sastre's in
2008, the Tour has been won by a Spaniard for four straight
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.