Could new Tour king Contador surpass Armstrong's record?
At 26, Alberto Contador has two more Tour de France wins than Armstrong did at that age, as well as victories in cycling's other “grand tours” – something the Texan never accomplished.
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But this year’s Tour winner is on a far more impressive trajectory than Armstrong was at his age.
Not only has Alberto Contador just bagged his second Tour win at 26 years old – that’s two more than Armstrong had at the same age – but the Spaniard is already just the fifth man in history to have placed first in all three “grand tours”: The Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta e Espana.
While Armstrong focused exclusively on the Tour in his years of dominance, Contador has now bagged four Grand Tour victories in a row – an astonishing accomplishment given the grueling effort each one requires. Cycling News lists this among the reasons why this year’s Tour de France win "his most important victory to date.”
Contador dominated the time trials and held off his main rivals in the mountains – as Armstrong once did. When he rolled into Paris on Sunday for the mostly ceremonial ride along the Champs-Élysées, he had a combined lead of more than four minutes over second-place Andy Schleck, and nearly five-and-a-half minutes over Armstrong. His Astana team placed Armstrong on the podium with him, in third place, in one of the most dominating team performances for years.
Hardest part of the race? In Astana's hotel.
But it was not the punishing climb to Verbier or the ascent up Mont Ventoux that pushed Contador the most. Shortly after his victory, the Spanish cyclist made it clear that the divisions within Astana were the toughest part of the Tour. Asked where the biggest challenge of the race was, he told a news crew, “It was in the [team] hotel.”
His was a house divided – with Armstrong pushing at the beginning of the race to be the team leader, the man for whom the rest of Astana would act as domestiques, shielding him from the wind and protecting him from the attacks of rivals on the grueling alpine stages.