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Lance Armstrong take 3rd in TDF, Contador wins it all

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Paris, July 26 (DPA) Alberto Contador won the 2009 Tour de France Sunday, the second Tour title of his career, outsprinting Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck and seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong.
The 26-year-old Contador’s margin over the 24-year-old Schleck was 4 minutes 11 seconds, the largest winning margin in several years. Armstrong was 5 minutes 25 seconds adrift to finish third in his comeback after four years away from the race.

Contador proved himself the strongest climber by far, and the Astana rider won one time trial and came in second in the other.

Teammate Armstrong appeared to suffer on several of the Alpine climbs, but he showed determination and some of his old power on the climb to the top of Mont Ventoux Saturday to retain his place on the podium.

The winner of Sunday’s stage, 164 km from Monterau-Fault-Yonne to the Champs Elysees in Paris, was the “British Rocket”, Mark Cavendish, who took his sixth stage win of this year’s Tour and the 10th in two years.

However, despite his domination in the sprints, he could not win the sprinters’ points title, which was taken by Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who won only one stage but ran a clever race.

Italian Franco Pellizotti won the Tour’s King of the Mountains title.

Cavendish’s Team Columbia mate Mark Renshaw finished second, with American Tyler Farrar coming in third.

The winner’s time was 4 hours 2 minutes 18 seconds, an average speed of 40.61 kph.

To finish on the Tour podium at nearly 38 years-old is a formidable achievement, especially after such a long time off the bike, yet Armstrong had looked so untouchable during his seven-year reign on the race the result was relatively disappointing.

Armstrong even won over French sports daily L'Equipe, who proclaimed "Chapeau Le Texan", after the Texan finished third overall. 

"I am happy and overall damned pleased how it turned out. Alberto was far superior than any riders and Andy (Schleck) rode a very consistent and smart race," Armstrong told reporters after the penultimate stage on the Mont Ventoux.

"For an old fart coming in here and getting on the podium with these young guys, was not so bad," he joked.

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, 24, was second overall thanks to his consistency in the climbs.

But Armstrong was far from ready to bow to the up and coming generation of riders.

"I'll be better prepared in 2010," he warned in a news conference in the last week of the race.

While the Texan probably hoped for a better final result on a sporting level, Armstrong also returned to cycling to promote his foundation against cancer, Livestrong, and his Tour was a total success in that respect.

Livestrong bracelets and t-shirts were all over the place on the race and the most successful Tour rider even succeeded in gaining a long overdue popularity with the French public, who have considered him arrogant in the past.

"People say I'm not the same rider I was four years ago," said Armstrong. "They probably like that and it pleases me too. It's the best way to sum up the situation," he said.

Armstrong's return to the sport, announced last September, was probably a little rushed and a crash in the Tour of Castille and Leon in March hampered his build-up to the Tour.

As a result, he lost ground on Contador and Schleck in the mountains, but was also humbled by the Spaniard in the individual time trials, which were for a long time Armstrong's specialty.

"I have work to do and that starts in August. I will review my season from calendar to training to equipment and see what I will change," he said.

The American will have a new tool to achieve his goal of winning an eighth Tour. He announced after Thursday's time trial in Annecy he was leaving Astana to launch his own team sponsored by electronics firm RadioShack.

The move could help him have a whole team at his service, although the list of riders has yet to be confirmed.

The question is whether he can win the 2010 Tour without turning back into the Armstrong of old in the eyes of his new French fans.

Lance Armstrongis teaming up withRadioShackto form a newTour de Francecycling team next year, and it appears that the electronics retail chain may even sponsor the seven-time tour winner in other events outside of cycling.

"Beginning in 2010, Lance Armstrong will compete for Team RadioShack as a cyclist, runner and triathlete in events around the world, including the 2010 Tour de France," said a statement posted at the Web site of Armstrong's foundation.

Armstrong, 37, came out of retirement last fall to mount his current return to competitive cycling after retiring at the top of his sport in 2005. In the last four years, he has run marathons, raised money for anti-cancer campaigns, and fought against a flurry of accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.

In a video statement disseminated through his Web site, Armstrong pointed out that cyclists rely on the kind of products that RadioShack sells at its outlets around the country.

"Technology is so important in what we do as a cycling team and now as a society, and I can't think of a better partner to help us progress the team," Armstrong said.

Armstrong is currently in third place overall at the Tour de France, 5 minutes and 25 seconds behind his teammate, race leaderAlberto Contador, and 1 minute, 14 seconds behindAndy Schleckof theSaxo Bankteam.

Armstrong and Contador race for the Astanta team, directed by Armstrong's old friend and strategistJohan Bruyneel, who indicated this week that he doesn't plan to stay withAstananext year. Bruyneel is expected to work with Armstrong on the new team.

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