Alberto Contador’s path to his third Tour de France win has covered in baby steps and not the giant strides seen in the past. A few seconds there and some here have added to put him in winning position for Sunday in Paris.

“This Tour was pretty difficult due to some of the stages that you thought would be normal, but turned out to be critical,” said team Astana’s sports director, Giuseppe Martinelli.

“Look at the the stage to Mende, where Alberto took 15 seconds from Andy, or the controversial stage two days ago – those 40 seconds have turned out to be very comforting.”

Contador has eight seconds on Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) heading into tomorrow’s decisive 52-kilometre time trial from Bordeaux to Pulliac.

Winner in 2007 and 2009, Contador started this year as the overall favourite. He and Schleck rode away from their rivals on the stage to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and made the 2010 edition a two-man race.

The finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne concluded an epic mountain day, one which saw Sky’s Bradley Wiggins lose nearly five minutes. However, Contador’s battle to win the yellow jersey was made up of lots of small battles: a 42″ gain in the Rotterdam time trial, a 1’13” loss in the Arenberg stage, a 10″ loss in Morzine-Avoriaz, a 10″ gain in Mende and a 39″ gain in Bagnères-de-Luchon.

“Maybe this year I didn’t have to attack so much and I could ride more conservatively,” explained Contador. “I’ve had good sensations throughout this Tour and my data is at the same level as last year.”

“Not every year is the same. However, Alberto has shown to be one of the two strongest riders with Andy,” added Martinelli

“I don’t know how he was going last year because I was only watching him on television from home, but it seems he is going as strong this year.”

Last year, Contador put 1’45” into Schleck in the final 40.5-kilometre time trial to secure his win. This year, though, it will likely be a baby step, adding to the others and producing a win.

As it stands now, it is the closest Tour de France ahead of the final time trial since Claudio Chiappucci and Greg LeMond in 1990.

Close classification battles ahead of final time trial (with eventual Tour winner first unless noted)

5″ – LeMond/Chiappucci (1990)

8″ – Contador/Schleck (2010, winner ?)

12″ – Van Springel/San Miguel (1968, winner Janssen)

14″ – Anquetil/Poulidor (1964)

14″ – Hinault/Zoetemelk (1978)

21″ – Roche/Delgado (1987)

28″ – Anquetil/Bahamontes (1963)

36″ – Thévenet/Kuiper (1977)

39″ Favero/Gemignani (1958, winner Gaul)

50″ – LeMond/Fignon (1989)

Tour de France 2010: Latest news



Schleck behind after Tourmalet duel but refuses to give up



Hesjedal leaps up classification with Tour’s Tourmalet ride



Sky pushes ahead regardless of Wiggins placing



Armstrong has his last go in the Tour



Tour’s points leader Petacchi investigated for doping



Contador issues video apology to Schleck



Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower



Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem



Wiggins at 2010 Tour: “I haven’t got it”



Basso wins Tour’s acceptance; podium spot next goal



Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds



Can Cav win without Renshaw?



Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour’s top



Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish’s win



Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour



Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?



Cavendish in a ‘must win’ situation for Tour’s green jersey



Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut



Roche alongside Tour’s top men ahead of Pyrenees



Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?



Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports



Stage 17: Schleck wins on the Tourmalet but cannot shake off Contador



Rest day review (July 21)



Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage



Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey



Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win



Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban



Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks



Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour



Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race



Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day



Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head



Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white



Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up



Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour



Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims



Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC



Stage three live coverage: As it happened



Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa



Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters



Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos



Stage 15 photo gallery



Stage 14 photo gallery



Stage 13 photo gallery



Stage 12 photo gallery



Stage 11 photo gallery



Stage 10 photo gallery



Stage nine photo gallery



Stage eight photo gallery



Tour 2010 wallpaper



Stage seven photo gallery



Stage six photo gallery



Stage five photo gallery



Stage four photo gallery



Stage three photo gallery



Stage two photo gallery



Stage one gallery



Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos



Stage 16 video highlights



Stage 15 video highlights



Stage 14 video highlights



Stage 13 video highlights



Stage 12 video highlights



Stage 11 video highlights



Stage 10 video highlights



Stage nine video highlights



Stage eight video highlights



Stage seven video highlights



Stage six video highlights



Stage five video highlights



Stage four video highlights



Stage three video highlights



Stage two video highlights



Stage one video highlights



Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide



Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index



Official start list, with race numbers



Brits at the Tour 2010



Tout team guide



Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean



Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures



Tour team presentation, Rotterdam



Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special