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Tour de France 2010 delivers drama – without the doping

After a lackluster 2009 edition, this year's Tour de France was filled with action, from the cementing of Contador and Schleck's rivalry to Armstrong's bumpy exit from the sport he dominated in unprecedented fashion.

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“As long as I live, I will deny it,” Armstrong said. “There was absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated.”
He didn’t find much relief from swirling questions in strong racing – at one point he trailed Contador, his teammate and nemesis in the 2009 Tour, by almost 40 minutes.

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But Armstrong attempted a final shot at glory: on Stage 16, he led a breakaway over four grueling climbs before succumbing to France’s Pierrick Fédrigo in a sprint finish.

Armstrong's team wins, Contador and Schleck take up his mantle

In Paris, Armstrong received a consolation prize.

His team, RadioShack, won the Tour team title and teammate Christopher Horner of Oregon finished the race in the top 10.

On the train from Bordeaux to Paris on Sunday, the 38-year-old Armstrong said he’d had enough.

“I’ve got my competitive fix for the next 40 years,” he told Reuters.
The last time Armstrong retired from cycling was after winning the 2005 Tour, his seventh race victory.

During his three-year absence, there was a power vacuum in the peloton as many struggled to stake their claim.

This time around, he’s leaving the sport with Contador and Schleck firmly planted at the top.

At 27 and 25, respectively, the two should have many battles for years to come.

Schleck is already looking forward to the 2011 race, whose route – determined years in advance after incognito visits by a bespectacled former geography professor – will be announced in October. “I will come back next year to win,” he predicted. “[Contador] is not unbeatable.”