Contador climbs into yellow
Alberto Contador seized control of the yellow jersey in spectacular style by winning the 15th stage of the Tour de France.
Last Updated: 20/07/09 2:59pm
Alberto Contador seized the yellow jersey in spectacular style by winning the 15th stage of the Tour de France.
The Spaniard left his rivals for dead with a superb solo attack on the climb towards the finish at the Swiss resort of Verbier.
In the end he came home 43 seconds clear of nearest rival Andy Schleck, who was the only rider to attempt to go with the 2007 champion.
Perhaps crucially Lance Armstrong was left behind by the stunning break by his Astana team-mate. The American ended up coming home in ninth, one minute and 35 seconds back.
Contador's statement of intent means he takes over in yellow from Rinaldo Nocentini. Armstrong is now in second, 97 seconds back at the end of what could turn out to be the crucial day of the Tour.
"I'm very pleased with this result. It was not a very long climb but we tackled it very rapidly and I was able to move as I wanted," the 26-year-old said.
"I saw there was a chance with five kilometres to go and I did what was required to make a difference."
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali finished third just ahead of the other Schleck brother, Frank, while Bradley Wiggins was not far behind in fifth place.
The Brit's brave ride means he now sits in third position in the overall standings.
Defending champion Carlos Sastre battled back on the final climb to end up in sixth, one place ahead of Cadel Evans of the Silence-Lotto team.
Having helped Armstrong in the closing stages, Andreas Kloeden moved away from the seven-time winner to take eighth. Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen rounded out the top 10.
Armstrong acknowledged afterwards that he would now act as 'domestique' for the new leader, seemingly ruling out his own chances of an eighth win.
"Sure Alberto is the best rider. Sure he is the best climber," he admitted.
"You know when everybody is to the limit and you can accelerate again, that's how you win the Tour. I have been there. As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy to be his domestique. I'm proud of him."
The big guns had been forced to reel in a 10-man breakaway during Sunday's 207.5km ride from Pontarlier.
Meanwhile, Tom Boonen pulled out of this year's event before the start. The Belgian, who was only allowed to compete after a French arbitration court ruled in his favour on the eve of the race, had been ill overnight.
AG2R team leader Vladimir Efimkin was another to withdraw, the Russian dropping out during the stage, the first day of three in the Alps.
Monday is a rest day, with the competitors returning to action on Tuesday with stage 16 a 159km route from Martigny to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Stage 15 result:
1. Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana) 5hrs 03mins 58secs"
2. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg / Saxo Bank ) +43"
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Liquigas ) +1:03"
4. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg / Saxo Bank ) +1:06"
5. Bradley Wiggins (Britain / Garmin )
6. Carlos Sastre (Spain / Cervelo )
7. Cadel Evans (Australia / Silence - Lotto ) +1:26"
8. Andreas Kloeden (Germany / Astana ) +1:29"
9. Lance Armstrong (U.S. / Astana ) +1:35"
10. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg / Columbia ) +1:55"
1. Alberto Contador (Spain / Astana ) 63hrs 17mins 56secs"
2. Lance Armstrong (U.S. / Astana ) +1:37"
3. Bradley Wiggins (Britain / Garmin ) +1:46"
4. Andreas Kloeden (Germany / Astana ) +2:17"
5. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg / Saxo Bank ) +2:26"