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By Andrew Hood
Andreas Klöden didn’t win the Tour de France as he promised three weeks ago, but he had an inspired performance Saturday to move onto the final podium for the second time of his career.
Klöden started the day fourth at 2:29 back of overnight leader Oscar Pereiro and 2:17 behind second-place Carlos Sastre. While Pereiro was able to retain a podium position, Spanish mountain goat Sastre could only muster 20th, opening the door for Klöden to ride onto the podium.
Only teammate Sergei Gontchar beat him by 41 seconds as he moved up to third overall at 1:29 back.
“I heard that I was more than a minute before Sastre and that gave me some more power to ride harder,” said Klöden, second in 2004. “Last night I already knew that it was possible to push Sastre from the podium. It’s one of the best time trials of my whole career. I am very happy with this podium, especially after my downfall in the Alps.”
Gontchar roared to his second stage victory on Saturday, a remarkable accomplishment for the former world time trial champion who had never won a Tour stage before.
“The whole team was very motivated and we made a great Tour,” Gontchar said. “We had some problems in the mountains and we really suffered sometimes. But we won the team classification, won a few stages and put Klöden on the podium. Who can say that’s not a great Tour?”
This weekend’s festivities were overshadowed by the team’s decision to fire 1997 Tour champ Jan Ullrich and Spanish helper Oscar Sevilla.