Schleck shines, Contador slumps in 18th stage

LE MONETIER-LES-BAINS, France — Andy Schleck has finally gotten the edge against Alberto Contador.

After two second-place Tour de France finishes behind the Spanish champion, Schleck all but quashed Contador's hopes for a three-peat with a bold, long-distance breakaway win in Stage 18 in the Alps on Thursday.

The 26-year-old rider from Luxembourg handled the main pack midway along the second of three huge climbs, with 30 miles left in the 125-mile ride from Pinerolo, Italy, to Galibier Serre-Chevalier in France.

By the finish atop the ski station — the highest-altitude finish in the Tour's 108-year history — Schleck had beaten the favorites by more than two minutes, come 15 seconds within Frenchman Thomas Voeckler's grasp on the yellow jersey, and left Cadel Evans of Australia clinging to his title bid.

But the biggest casualty was Contador, who with an aching right knee from a crash earlier in the three-week race, straggled up to the finish — his hopes of a fourth title in tatters.

The two riders, once friends who vacationed together, had animosity during last year's Tour when some say Contador breached etiquette by speeding ahead when Schleck had a chain malfunction — a move that turned out to make the difference in the outcome.

Schleck wasn't looking at the past skirmishes with Contador after Thursday's ride, instead focusing on his goal of seizing the yellow shirt that he has long coveted but never worn off the French race leader's back.

Schleck began the day in fourth place, 2:36 behind Voeckler. After a first ascent of the Col d'Agnel pass — which some call the toughest single Tour climb this year — Schleck attacked on the next one, Col d'Izoard, and extended his lead up much of the fabled Galibier.

The race contenders, led by Evans, finally reacted once they saw their victory hopes slipping away in Schleck's wake. But it was too late: They could only try to stanch their losses.

Share This Story