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Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 16:26 UK

Contador keeps hold of Tour lead

Alberto Contador
Contador held off an attack by Andy Schleck to keep the yellow jersey

Spain's Alberto Contador remained in possession of the Tour de France's yellow jersey after the 16th stage, from Martigny to Bourg St Maurice.

With five stages of the race remaining, the 26-year-old leads Lance Armstrong by one minute and 37 seconds after finishing 10th in the Alpine stage.

The top five remain the same, with Britain's Bradley Wiggins in third.

Mikel Astarloza escaped a four-man breakaway group at the end of the 159km stage for his first win of the season.

"I was lucky to leave alone and finish alone," Astarloza said afterwards.

606: DEBATE

"I'm a complete rider, but I'm not good at the sprint - so I have to attack from far away. I am super happy."

Contador and his Astana team-mate Armstrong finished in the same group as Wiggins and Andy Schleck, 59 seconds back.

The stage was made up of two big climbs, including the highest point of this year's Tour at the top of the Col du Grand St Bernard, and ended with a long descent from the smaller Col du Petit St Bernard.

Schleck, who lies fifth overall, chose the second ascent to attack Contador but, despite the help of his brother Frank, the Luxembourger could not shake the 2007 champion or Wiggins, who doggedly stayed on his wheel throughout.

It was a difficult stage. When the Schlecks attacked, I was able to follow but it was not easy, especially to follow Andy, who is very strong

Alberto Contador

Armstrong did lose touch when Schleck went off the front of the peloton, however, and was 35 seconds adrift of the yellow jersey group at one stage but the seven-time champion kept his nerve and impressively clawed back the lost ground.

Carlos Sastre, last year's Tour winner, was also dropped but, although he took longer than the Texan to recover, fought his way back to the bunch containing the other contenders for this year's crown before the summit.

The race downhill to the finish was less eventful but still proved perilous as Schleck's Saxo Bank team-mate, German ride Jens Voigt, came off his bike when he hit a bump at high speed and was immediately taken to hospital.

"It was a difficult stage," Contador said. "When the Schlecks attacked, I was able to follow but it was not easy, especially to follow Andy, who is very strong.

"I'm not going to say I'm tired otherwise I'll be attacked on Wednesday but I am."

Contador also paid tribute to Armstrong, who vowed to help him win the Tour after being dropped on the climb up Verbier at the end of Sunday's stage.

"What Lance did proves once again what a great champion he is," added Contador.

"I'm sure he will be great help in the days to come."

Contador remains in control of the race but must negotiate another daunting day in the Alps on Wednesday that is sure to see more attacks from his rivals.

The 169.5km trek from Bourg St Maurice to Le Grand Bornand features five tough climbs and another downhill finish.

There are 161 riders left in this year's race after Voigt became the latest rider to withdraw.

The German temporarily lost consciousness after his fall and his Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis said: "I only saw him after the crash and he looked very, very bad.

"It's not nice to lose a rider like this, but these are things which happen in a race and you have to accept them.

"It is too early to say how bad his injuries are, I didn't see the crash, I only saw the aftermath and it wasn't good.

"I am just concerned with Jens' health right now."


Stage 16 result:

1. Mikel Astarloza (Spa/Euskaltel) 4 hours 14 minutes 20 seconds
2. Sandy Casar (Fra/Francaise des Jeux) + 6 secs
3. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra/Bbox-Bouygues) "
4. Nicolas Roche (Ire/AG2R) "
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel/Silence Lotto) "
6. Amael Moinard (Fra/Cofidis) "
7. Franco Pellizotti (Ita/Liquigas) +11
8. Stephane Goubert (Fra/AG2R) "
9. Christophe Moreau (Fra/Agritubel) + 59
10. Alberto Contador (Spa/Astana) "

Selected others:

12. Lance Armstrong (US/Astana) "
13. Bradley Wiggins (GB/Garmin) "
53. Charlie Wegelius (GB/Silence-Lotto) + 3 mins 55 secs
88. David Millar (GB/Garmin) + 20 mins 39 secs
150. Mark Cavendish (GB/Columbia) + 27 mins 36 secs

Overall standings:

1. Alberto Contador (Spa/Astana) 67 hours 33 minutes 15 seconds
2. Lance Armstrong (US/Astana) + 1 min 37 secs
3. Bradley Wiggins (GB/Garmin) + 1 mins 46 secs
4. Andreas Kloden (Ger/Astana) + 2 mins 17 secs
5. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) +2 mins 26 secs

Selected others:

9. Carlos Sastre (Spa/Cervelo) + 3 mins 52 secs
17. Cadel Evans (Aus/Silence Lotto) + 7 mins 23 secs
59. Charlie Wegelius (GB/Silence-Lotto) + 44 mins 42 secs
72. David Millar (GB/Garmin) + 1 hr 00 mins 14 secs
142. Mark Cavendish (GB/Team Columbia) + 2 hrs 15 mins 38 secs.



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see also
Tour de France week three photos
24 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Contador wary of Wiggins threat
21 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Contador storms to win and yellow
19 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Wiggins may quit track for Tour
20 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Cavendish writes off green jersey
19 Jul 09 |  Cycling
Understanding the Tour de France
03 Jul 09 |  Cycling


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