Bennati Wins Stage 20 of Tour; Contador Wins Overall
Daniele Bennati (Lampre) has won his second stage of this year's Tour de France. The Italian took a bunch sprint to win Stage 20, a flat, 146-km run from Marcoussis to Paris, in 3:51:03. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finished second, and Erik Zabel (Milram) took third. Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) is the 2007 Tour champion.
As is always the case, the first part of the Tour's final stage was a procession for the winner. The various competition winners--overall winner Contador, points competition winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step), King of the Mountains competition winner Juan Soler (Barloworld), and combativity classification winner Amets Txurreta (Euskaltel) went to the front of the peloton to have their photos taken. Each team took a turn at the front, and the pace was pedestrian.
That changed when the riders hit the Champs Elysees. With 48 km left, Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) attacked. He was reeled in quickly, but with 40 km left, 10 riders rolled off of the front. They were Christian Knees (Milram), Mickael Delages (Francaise des Jeux), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), Anthony Charteau (Credit Agricole), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Simon Gerrans (Ag2r), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), and Nicolas Portal and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (both from Caisse d'Epargne). With 35 km left, the escapees led by 0:30.
Barloworld led the chase. For a time, the fugitives extended their lead, but Credit Agricole joined Barloworld at the front. With 13 km left, the break led the bunch by 0:20, and with 6.5 km the field was together.
Lampre, Barloworld, and Credit Agricole set a torrid pace. The three squads battled for control at the front, with Credit Agricole leading the field into the last km. Boonen, Robert Hunter (Barloworld), and Erik Zabel (Milram) fought for position, but Bennati made the first move and held them off.
In the overall, Contador beat Cadel Evans (Predictor) by 0:23 and Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) by 0:31. The 24-year-old Spaniard has been tabbed as a promising rider for several years, but 2007 has been a breakout year for him. In March, Contador won Paris-Nice, and he has become the Tour's youngest champion in 11 years. Moreover, Contador has become the leader of the new, post-Armstrong Discovery Channel team. Will he ride the Vuelta? How will he fare? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com!