Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck pushed Alberto Contador to his limits today and nearly forcing the Tour de France to its closest finish ever.

Schleck of team Saxo Bank started the day only eight seconds behind Contador and had him down to two seconds midway in the 52-kilometre time trial test through Bordeaux’s surrounding vineyards.

Despite the push, he faded and ended 39 seconds back on Contador (Astana) in the overall standings.

“I never had doubts about it, my team believed in me and I believed in myself,” said Schleck.

“You have to push yourself to your limits. I tired to do that and I finished to the point where I could not even step off my bike. I gave it my all. I think I did a pretty good time trial, I am satisfied with today and the whole Tour.”

Contador recogised Schleck’s effort today. He said, “I remained doubtful to the finish line, really.”

Schleck rode away with two-time Tour winner, Contador on the stage to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and created a two-man race. The finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne also saw Schleck pull on the yellow jersey for a career first.

However, his fortune changed five days later. A chain slip allowed Contador to ride away on the top of the Port de Balès and by the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon, gain 39″ – the same time advantage holds today.

“Cycling is not like mathematics,” said Contador. “This year, though, maybe I was not in my best shape really.”

“I have made no mistakes…” added Schleck. “Of course, I regret that I dropped the chain the other day, but still he would have won with two seconds, so you can’t go back on that.”

Despite a close loss he can be proud that he pushed Contador to his limit. He also walks away from this Tour de France with the white jersey of best young rider and two stage wins.

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Tour de France 2010: Stage reports



Stage 18: Cavendish wins fourth stage of Tour in Bordeaux



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 18 photo gallery



Stage 17 photo gallery



Stage 16 photo gallery



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 17 video highlights



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