Andy Schleck and his Saxo Bank teammates threw everything they had at Alberto Contador but despite their best efforts the Spaniard was up to the task. It was a classic stage with foul weather creating a dramatic backdrop for the battle that ensued. One by one Saxo threw the gauntlet down. First Cancellara took his turn on the front and blew the field apart, followed by Nicki Sorenson who reduced the field even further, and then Schleck launched his attack. Only Contador was able to respond to the massive acceleration setting up a mano-a-mano fight to the finish.
The two dominant GC men battled all the way to the top of the mist shrouded Col du Tourmalet. Contador seemed to be suffering with the pace but stayed stuck to Schleck’s wheel. In the final few kilometers, Contador put in a violent counter attack but neither man could gain an advantage. As Schleck came up along side him, the two men exchanged words and seemed to call a cease fire to the finish line.
Schleck took the stage just in front of Contador and the two men shook hands in mutual respect just after they rolled across the finish line. Schleck said “I’m not going to give up until we get to Paris – last year I was four minutes down and this year it’s eight seconds – anything is possible.”
While his optimism is admirable, Schleck’s chances against Contador in the final time trial are certainly long. The Spaniard is one of the best time trialist’s in the world and will likely be looking to stamp his authority on the race since he still has not won a stage. This year’s Tour has certainly been dramatic with crashes and mechanical failures happening when we least expect it but I don’t see Contador losing his grip on the lead after today.
Tomorrow will be a day for the sprinters to flex their sore muscles after four days in the mountains. Then we have the time trial on Saturday and the finish in Paris on Sunday.
There is still a battle between Menchov and Sanchez for the final podium spot with only 21 seconds separating the two riders. I would have to give the advantage to Menchov but don’t count the Olympic Champion out.
We also have the battle between Hushovd and Petacchi for the green jersey with Cavendish a distant third. I’m sure Cavendish will be looking to get two more stage wins and with the way Petacchi has been sprinting; Hushovd’s narrow four point lead is definitely in doubt.
Thanks for reading…
For more great Tour analysis, visit my good friend Tim Liew @ The Armchair Sportsfan.