ANNECY, France-Welcome to the magnificent race for second place.
If it was in question heading into this year’s Tour de France-and it probably shouldn’t have been, as much as we enjoyed whipping ourselves up-it is no longer really in doubt: Alberto Contador is Earth’s supreme rider. After Thursday’s dazzling performance winning the individual time trial in picturesque, lakeside Annecy, Mr. Contador continues to wear the Tour leader’s yellow jersey and, with a four-minute lead, appears all but certain to rock it into Paris on Sunday. Yes, surprises can always happen at the Tour-an untimely crash, a forgotten water bottle that provokes a leg-cramping “bonk,” a Ben Stiller sighting-but even a designed-to-be-epic penultimate stage on Mont Ventoux on Saturday shouldn’t threaten the Spanish climber’s position. After what we’ve witnessed at this 2009 Tour, is anyone really going to bet against Mr. Contador on a mountain? (Of course, his performance has also provoked the sadly predictable doping questions, which Mr. Contador brushed off at his post-race news conference Thursday).