The 24-year-old rider for the American Discovery Channel team was the youngest champion since Jan Ullrich of Germany in 1997. He was the first Spaniard to stand atop the winner's podium since the last of Miguel Indurain's five wins in 1995.
His margin of victory — just 23 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans of Australia — was the second-narrowest in the Tour's 104-year history, after 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) of racing through Britain, Belgium, Spain and France.
Contador had seemed destined for second place until the Tour was hit by a bombshell just five days from the finish: the dismissal of race leader Michael Rasmussen. His Rabobank team accused the Dane of having lied about his whereabouts before the Tour to evade doping controls.
Rasmussen's departure catapulted Contador into the race lead, Evans to the runner-up spot, and U.S. rider Levi Leipheimer into third. Those standings held firm through the closing four days — including a thrilling time trial Saturday that Leipheimer won. The 91-mile (146-kilometer) final trek Sunday from Marcoussis to Paris' fan-lined Champs-Elysees — seen largely as a ceremonial ride — was won by Daniele Bennati of Italy.