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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) had enough left in the tank to secure a spot on the podium when the Tour de France concludes Sunday in Paris.
Menchov started Saturday’s stage 18 seconds behind Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), but delivered on pre-race expectations that he would have the legs to pass the Olympic champion and move onto the podium.
“It’s confirmation for what I can do. Every year I am getting stronger in the Tour,” Menchov said. “Today’s time trial was the best of my life. I previewed the course this morning and I knew it was a good one for me. I felt strong on the course and when I heard the first time splits, I knew that I could finish ahead of Sánchez. I have to be very satisfied with this Tour.”
Menchov has won one Giro d’Italia and two Vueltas a España and Saturday nudged closer to becoming the first Russian to win the Tour. It also marks Menchov’s second Tour podium. In 2008, he was bumped to third overall in 2008 following the disqualification of Bernard Kohl, who tested positive for CERA.
Menchov was the best of the GC contenders on Saturday, finishing 11th , 3:51 slower than winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). Sánchez could only muster 40th at 5:51 slower. The Russian settled into third overall at 2:01 back.
Sánchez beat Menchov in a late-race time trial in 2007 at the Vuelta a España, but it was on a short, hillier course with Menchov already secure in the overall leader’s jersey. Saturday’s flat, power course favored Menchov over his Spanish rival.
Sánchez said three weeks of hard racing caught up with him against the strong headwinds and long, flat course past the exposed vineyards north of Bordeaux.
“I went all out today, but just couldn’t do it. I really wanted to be in the photo in Paris, but Denis was just too strong. He went like a motor today,” Sánchez said at the line. “It’s a pity to be at the doors of paradise and have it shut in your face. I shouldn’t be too disappointed with this Tour. To be third until the last day isn’t too bad. Denis was just too strong and he showed it today.”