SPAIN’S Alberto Contador admitted his relief after winning his personal duel with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and clinching a second Tour de France title in three years.
And there was also joy for Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who won the Tour’s final stage in Paris – his sixth of this year’s race – with another searing sprint finish.
Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck took second place overall, with Armstrong third in his comeback Tour following four years away and Bradley Wiggins a British-best-equalling fourth.
Contador came under fire from Astana team-mate Armstrong during this year’s Tour, and said matters away from the saddle had made his second yellow jersey even sweeter.
“On a personal level, I had a difficult Tour and now I’ll be sure to enjoy this win. I feel a great sense of relief, a release of tension,” said Contador.
Despite Armstrong’s decision to front the new RadioShack team next year, Contador’s future at Astana remains in doubt, and he added: “There are several possibilities but what is clear is that we are totally incompatible and Armstrong will go one way and I will go the other.”
Armstrong, 37, who won seven successive titles before retiring in 2005, admitted he had not deserved an eighth but was still satisfied. “I came here to do my best and I came across some guys who were clearly better than me,” the American said. “I don’t have any regrets. I got put out a couple of times but, considering my age and recent racing, it’s not a bad performance overall.”
Cavendish capped his best Tour yet with a 10th stage win, following another superb sprint on the Champs Elysees, but missed out on the green jersey to Norway’s Thor Hushovd.
“I said all along, I wanted to win on the Champs Elysees,” said the Isle of Man rider. “To win is the feeling I like best so we will try to target the green jersey next year.”