VERBIERS, Switzerland — Alberto Contador (Astana) of Spain took control of the Tour de France in stage 15, powering away to a 43-second solo mountaintop victory Sunday before a huge crowd packed into the tiny ski village in the Swiss Alps.
Contador left a group that included his Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Andreas Kloden with about three miles left in the 207-kilometer stage from Pontarlier that end with a six-mile ascent in 5 hours, 3 minutes and 58 seconds.
Andy Schleck (Saxo-Bank) was second, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) of Italy third, 1:03 behind.
Contador, the 2007 Tour de France winner, now leads Armstrong by 1 minute and 37 seconds with six stages of the race remaining. Bradley Wiggins (Columbia-HTC) of Great Britain is third overall, trailing by 1:46.
Armstrong, who began the day in third position, two seconds behind his second place teammate, finished ninth in the stage, 1:35 behind.
Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) of Italy, the former race leader since stage 6, finished 19th in the stage and is now sixth overall, 2:30 behind. “It was a liberation after all of the pressure,” said Contador, who became the race's third leader following Fabian Cancellara (Saxo-Bank) of Switzerland and Nocentini. “I need a day like today after four difficult days. I always have some small doubts, but I knew I was good.”
Stage 15 results
1. Alberto Contador, Spain, Astana, 5:03:58; 2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg, Saxo-Bank, :43; 3. Vincenzo Nibali, Italy, Liquiqas, 1:03; 4. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg, 1:06; 5. Bradley Wiggins, Great Britain, Garmin-Slipstream, same time; 6. Carlos Sastre, Spain, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.; 7. Cadel Evans, Australia, Silence-Lotto, 1:26; 8. Andreas Kloden, Germany, Astana, 1:29; 9. Lance Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Astana, 1:35; 10. Kim Kirchen, Luxembourg, Columbia-HTC, 1:56.
22. Christian Vande Velde, Lemont, Ill., Garmin-Slipstream, 2:41; 36. Columbia-HTC, 4:06; 104. David Zabriskie, Salt Lake City, Utah Garmin-Slipstream, 12:11; 115. Danny Pate, Colorado Springs, Colo., Garmin-Slipstream, 13:15; 136. Tyler Farrar, Wenatchee, Wa., Garmin-Slipstream, 18:12.
12. Vande Velde, 3:59;
13. Hincapie, 4:05;
81. Zabriskie, 59:32;
149. Pate, 1:57:42;
James Raia is reporting live from the Tour de France for everymantri.com. James, a journalist since 1976, is co-author of Tour de France For Dummies. He owns several websites, contributes to many print and online publications. A long-distance runner for nearly 30 years, Raia also rides his bike -- to nearby coffeehouses.
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