Alberto Contador of Spain claimed his third Tour de France title on Sunday as seven-time champion Lance Armstrong made his final exit from the race.
The 27-year-old Contador stayed safe in the main bunch as the last stage, over 102.5 kilometers from Longjumeau, was won by Mark Cavendish for the second year in a row.
Over three weeks, Contador showed some weaknesses in the mountains and almost cracked in the final time trial but it was enough for him to beat Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck by 39 seconds.
Denis Menchov of Russia took third place, 2:01 off the pace.
Contador said on the podium: “I’m happy, very happy. I’ve had difficult days, from a psychological and a physical point of view.”
The victory kept the Spanish flag flying high on the Champs-Elysees following triumphs for Oscar Pereiro in 2006, Contador in 2007, Carlos Sastre in 2008 and Contador again last year.
The Spaniard took the overall leader’s yellow jersey when he benefited from Schleck’s chain problem in Monday’s mountain stage to Bagneres de Luchon.
Armstrong, 38, riding his final Tour de France, finished 23rd overall after losing all chance in the first mountain stage.
Cavendish outsprinted Italian Alessandro Petacchi and New Zealand’s Julian Dean in impressive fashion to notch his fifth stage win in this year’s race.
“I am happy. The race is wonderful, the team is wonderful,” a delighted Cavendish said.
But it was Petacchi who clinched the sprinters’ green jersey for the points classification. France’s Anthony Charteau won the polka dot jersey for the best climber.