Leipheimer claims penultimate stage as Contador closes in on Tour de France victory.
|Contador celebrates with second-placed Australian
Evans, left, and USA’s Leipheimer in third [AFP]
Spaniard Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team has won a controversy plagued Tour de France after finishing safe in the main pack in the last stage which was won by Italian Daniele Bennati.
The Lampre rider won the bunch sprint on the Champs-Elysees at the end of the 146-km 20th stage from Marcoussis to Paris.
Norway’s Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole was second with German Erik Zabel third for the Milram team.
Australian Cadel Evans of the Predictor Lotto team finished second overall, 23 seconds behind Contador, whose team mate Levi Leipheimer of the US was third 31 seconds off the pace.
It is the second smallest winning margin on the Tour since Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in 1989.
Quickstep’s Tom Boonen took his first green jersey for the best sprinter and Colombia’s Juan Mauricio Soler won the polka-dot jersey for the best climber.
Sadly, the 94th edition of the Tour will be remembered for its doping scandals which many believed cast a serious doubt of the future of the race.
Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov failed a blood doping test and was sent packing with his Astana team.
The Cofidis team also pulled out of the race following Italian Cristian Moreni’s positive test for testosterone.
And perhaps most sensationally, Dane Michael Rasmussen was sacked by his Rabobank team for lying about his training whereabouts and left the Tour when he was the race leader.
However, on the final day it was all about Contador who had all but won the race after Saturday’s time trial when he maintained a 23 second lead over Evans and a further eight second advantage over Leipheimer.
The battle for the green jersey was a much tighter affair with the final stage the last opportunity for South African Robert Hunter to leapfrog Boonen in the sprinters’ standings.
However, the Belgian prevailed after ending the stage in fifth place just behind Hunter.
Boonen said: “All the sprints I did during the Tour I did to win, but today was all about protecting the green jersey.
“It’s taken it out of me and I’m glad it’s over, but I’m super-happy.”