Who won the 2009 Tour de France?
As predicted here at AskDeb.com, the winner of the 2009 Tour de France is Astana team member Alberto Contador. This is not Contador’s first time on the podium — he won last year’s seminal cycling event as well.
The battle for top prize in this year’s Tour de France (the 96th running of the race, by the way) ended in a mostly ceremonial conclusion event. Lance Armstrong was there — he took third place — and he was exhibiting stiff body language and looking rather uneasy. You get the feeling that Armstrong thought he had what it takes to win this year’s event. Third place isn’t too shabby for a cancer survivor who, let’s be honest, is getting a bit old for this sport. Armstrong stood to the left and slightly below his Astana teammate Alberto Contador — Contador, of course, was the man of the moment, wearing the yellow jersey and celebrating wildly.
Armstrong was on the podium for the eighth time in the past 11 years, but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it. In fact, reporters in France were shocked when Armstrong adsent-mindedly forgot to take off his cap for most of the Spanish national anthem. Later, Armstrong said that there was no disrespect intended by the move — he was distracted. Lost in though about what might have been, and probably considering another retirement from the sport he loves and made famous in America.
The “beef” between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador is not news — and watching the procession towards the winner’s podium, it was no surprise that Armstrong was so cold toward Contador. In stark contract, he made a big show of warmly greeting runner-up Andy Schleck, even placing his hand on Schleck’s shoulder, offering enthusiastic congratulations. To be sure, Armstrong should exhibit better sportsmanship, but can you blame the guy? Armstrong is used to winning the Tour, not taking home a consolation prize.
So Lance Armstrong was denied his record eighth victory in France — and he readily acknowledges that Contador was the better rider during the 21 day competition. Brushing aside rumors of retirement, Armstrong (the 37-year-old record holding cycling champion from Texas) let everyone in the media know that he plans to come after the Spanish rider known as “El Pistolero” in next summer’s race — and he’s formed something of a dream team.
For the first time in a few years, Armstrong will be the team leader for a well funded American team. Next year’s team will be sponsored by Radio Shack and the team operator is none other than Johan Bruyneel, the Belgian cycling mastermind responsible for Contador’s second victory — it was Bruyneel’s ninth Tour victory as operator.
Contador on the other hand is still an Astana team member, having pedged his allegianc for another year to the team that got him his second win. One thing’s for sure, Contador and Armstrong won’t be attempting a revival of their at time uneasy relationship. Contador, for his part, has spoken directly to the face that he and the Texan phenom are “totally incompatible.”
Lance Armstrong has also made it abundantly clear that he didn’t like the way Contador won the Tour. Armstrong claims that Contador ignored the team’s plan of attack — a method of riding that could have left the championship open to Armstrong and would have probably “served the greater good”, according to Lance. One example — Contador’s chase after runner-up Schleck and his brother and teammate Frank Schleck during the last two climbs in the Alps probably cost one of Contador’s team mates Andréas Kloden a shot at the podium, and a shot for Armstrong to climb up one place to runner-up.
Much has been made in the media of Armstrong’s snub of the Contador/Astana victory party. What did Armstrong do instead? On Saturday night, Armstrong was seen partying and socializing with his new found Radio Shack friends. Armstrong told the French media on Saturday that he was “satisfied” with his third place finish, though he looked like a spoiled and angry child on the podium on Sunday. Let’s be honest — any podium position is a miracle for an older rider like Armstrong. In fact, only one rider (Raymond Poulidor), got a spot on the podium at an older age. Poulidor was 40 in 1976 when he won second place. In the Tour’s 106 year history, there is only one guy older than Armstrong who rode as well, and he should be happy with his finish.