The 2010 Tour de France was one of the most tightly-fought in the big race’s history – overall winner Alberto Contador beat second-placed Andy Schleck by just 39 seconds. Here we take a look back at the closest Tour finishes ever.

8 seconds

1989: Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon

The Tour went down to the wire and, by a quirk of route planning, the race ended with a 26.5-kilometre time trial from Versailles to the Champs-Elysees, rather than the traditional road stage. Fignon went into the stage with a 50-second lead, meaning it would need something special from the American to win it. LeMond used an aero helmet and tri bars. Fignon wore his ponytail. LeMond won it, but it was incredibly close.

23 seconds

2007: Alberto Contador beat Cadel Evans

The Tour had been thrown into turmoil a few days before, when Michael Rasmussen left the race while wearing the yellow jersey. Contador (pictured) inherited the lead and went into the time trial at Cognac with a lead of 1-50 over Evans and 2-49 over Levi Leipheimer. At the finish, Evans was at 23 seconds back and Leipheimer just 31 seconds back – the closest top three in the race’s history.

38 seconds

1968: Jan Janssen beat Herman Van Springel

After the Alps it was a very close race – almost as close as this year’s. Herman Van Springel led San Miguel by 12 seconds, Janssen by 16 and Bitossi by 58. It meant a big showdown in the final 55-kilometre time trial to Paris from Melun. Janssen beat Van Springel by 54 seconds to take the yellow jersey. San Miguel and Bitossi each lost more than three minutes.

39 seconds

2010: Alberto Contador beat Andy Schleck

Contador’s 2010 Tour win is a controversial one: he appeared to attack race leader Schleck after he had lost his chain on stage 15 part-way up Port de Bales. Contador finished 39 seconds over his rival on the stage to take the race lead – the exact same margin by which Contador would eventually win the race. Then after the Tour, news broke that Contador had failed a test for clenbuterol during the final rest day in Pau.

40 seconds

1987: Stephen Roche beat Pedro Delgado

The Irishman was 21 seconds behind Delgado going into the penultimate day’s time trial at Dijon. Roche beat the Spaniard by 1-01.

48 seconds

1977: Bernard Thevenet beat Hennie Kuiper

Thevenet and Kuiper were split by just 36 seconds going into the final day in Paris. During the morning’s time trial, the Frenchman squeezed another 12 seconds out of his Dutch rival.

55 seconds

1964: Jacques Anquetil beat Raymond Poulidor

Another very close finale. On the final morning Anquetil led Poulidor by only 14 seconds. But with the time trial to come, there was no doubt about the result. Anquetil was Monsieur Chrono, beating Poulidor by 21 seconds in the race and scooping a time bonus to stretch the lead.

58 seconds

2008: Carlos Sastre beat Cadel Evans

Sastre led Evans by 1-05 going into the final stage to Paris, but on the run-in the peloton split up slightly and the group Evans was in was seven seconds ahead of Sastre’s. So the gap came down to under a minute, making it the seventh narrowest winning margin in Tour history.

1 min 1 second

2003: Lance Armstrong beat Jan Ullrich

The closest Tour the American was involved in. He finally ended the threat of Jan Ullrich in the final time trial to Nantes.

Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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