2009 Tour de France: Stage 18 – Contador Smokes ‘em

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Rain threatened the later riders in the 18th stage of the 2009 Tour de France, a 40.5km Individual Time Trial in Annecy, France, but kept away long enough to see Contador beat the Olympic TT champion Cancellara with a crushingly fast ride.

Cancellara kicked things off with the time to beat of 48’33″, taking advantage of a slight tailwind that later riders wouldn’t see. Ignatiev set the benchmarks for the first few time checks, moving into second for the 4th check and at the finish.

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Cadel Evans went through the first time check in 16th, the second at 13th and in 5th at the third time check, steadily improving all the way. In a Tour that’s not gone well for him, he seemed determined to prove a point. He crossed the line in 8th at 1’11″ down from Cancellara.

Meanwhile, the dark clouds continued to roll in as Kim Kirchen crossed the line to get 10th (temporarily), and sprinkles started to dampen the roads near the finish.

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Hincapie, who may be suffering from a broken collarbone from a crash in yesterday’s Stage 17, rode solidly despite favoring his right side to keep weight off the injured shoulder. We say “may” have a broken bone because Hincapie has refused to see the doctor for fear they’ll say there’s a fracture and tell him not to race! Say it with me…”He’s the man!”

As Hincapie finished, Bradley Wiggins was picking up steam, Kloden rolled down the start ramp and Armstrong, Contador and the Schlecks were in the queue. Cancellara’s time still held as the fastest as the top four riders in the GC started their race.

Wiggins hit the first time check with the fastest time so far, 20’20″. Armstrong came in at 20’29″, ten seconds faster than Kloden. Then, Contador blazed through the first check at 20’02, a full 18 seconds faster than Wiggins at 18km into the race.

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Wiggins kept up the pace, crossing the 3rd time check four seconds faster than Cancellara and beating Armstrong’s times, which he hoped would move him up in the overall standings, but he had to put 58″ on Lance. At the final time check, Armstrong was down 42″ to Wiggins, however he was 20+ seconds behind Cancellara’s 4th check time.

The Schlecks showed their differences, with Andy getting the 9th best time at the first time check and making up much of the 3’00″ start difference between his brother Frank, who had lost more than a minute to Wiggins at the 4th check, putting his overall standing in jeopardy.

Wiggins, who apparently used a bit too much gas early on, crossed the line in 49’13″, about 39 seconds behind Cancellara’s time…obviously slowing a bit during the last climb, but maintaining enough speed to put himself a few seconds ahead of Kloden in the GC standings.

Contador on the other hand, after slowing a bit around the 2nd time check, turned it on and cruised through the 3rd time check with the best time, then set the best time at the 4th check of 45’07″, a full 14″ faster than Cancellara’s time.

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Frank Schleck crossed the line in 33rd, just behind Hincapie. But his brother Andy rode a solid time trial, keeping himself in the top of the standings. It was nothing, however, compared to the Yellow Jersey’s blazing performance to win the final time trial of the 2009 Tour de France by 3 seconds, beating the Olympic TT champion for the stage win.

2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 18 TOP 16:

POS RIDER TEAM TIME
1 A. Contador AST 48’30″
2 F. Cancellara SAX +03″
3 M. Ignatiev KAT +15″
4 G. Larsson SAX +33″
5 D. Millar GRM +41″
6 B. Wiggins GRM +43″
7 L.L. Sanchez GCE +44″
8 C. Moreau AGR +45″
9 A. Kloden AST +54″
10 D. Zabriskie GRM +1’02″
11 T. Martin THR +1’04″
12 C. Evans SIL +1’14″
13 M. Monfort THR +1’19″
14 S. Chavanel QST +1’20″
15 V. Karpets KAT +1’28″
16 L. Armstrong AST +1’30″

2009 TOUR de FRANCE TOP 10 OVERALL AFTER STAGE 18:

POS RIDER TEAM TIME
1 A. Contador AST 73h15’39″
2 A. Schleck SAX +4’11″
3 L. Armstrong AST +5’25″
4 B. Wiggins GRM +5’36″
5 A. Kloden AST +5’38″
6 F. Schleck SAX +5’59″
7 V. Nibali LIQ +7’15″
8 C. Vande Velde GRM +10’08″
9 M. Astarloza EUS +12’36″
10 C. Le Mevel FDJ +12’41″

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