Andy Schleck Wins on Galibier after Daring Attack in Tour de France 2011
Andy Schleck led a daring attack to win the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday, leaving Thomas Voeckler clinging to the yellow jersey and defending champion Alberto Contador out of contention.
the main pack about midway up, with 13 breakaway riders ahead.
Contador moved up to the front of the pack but didn't chase. Neither did Voeckler or Evans, possibly a tactical error that could cost them victory in Paris on Sunday.
The stage showed how teamwork and strategy can be essential. Leopard Trek sent out two riders in the breakaway so they'd be available to escort Schleck in case he could shake his rivals.
With 56.6 kilometers left in the stage, Schleck chiseled out a lead of more than a minute against the contenders and caught his teammate Joost Posthuma, one of the breakaway riders who welcomed Schleck into his wake to go up Izoard.
Schleck crossed the top alone, still behind the rest of the breakaway but about 2½ minutes ahead of Evans, Voeckler and Contador. On the downhill -- not one of Schleck's strengths -- Schleck caught up with Belgian teammate Maxime Monfort, who slowed down to escort him.
With about 40 miles left, nearing the foot of the final climb, Schleck and four other breakaway riders caught Maxim Iglinsky of Kazakhstan, who had ridden solo at the front for much of the stage.
At the foot of 14-mile Galibier ascent, Schleck and the five others in the breakaway had extended its lead to 3½ minutes ahead of the pack.
With more than six miles to go, Schleck was continuing to gain time and was ahead by nearly 4½ minutes. Evans then admirably stayed at the front of the chase group for the rest of the climb and stage and in solo fashion managed to reduce Schleck's lead to a size which Evans will be able to erase in Saturday's individual time trial.
No other rider in the chase group helped Evans in his chase efforts and he again today showed why he deserves to be on top of the podium in Paris this coming Sunday. Not even the teams who were represented by more than one rider in the group or the GC contenders who had their lieutenants with them offered any help to Evans.
"When Voeckler and his team stopped riding and he has the yellow (jersey), it was a bit bizarre and strange," Evans told Roadcycling.com and Roadcycling.mobi after the stage finish and added "They've been riding a lot all week, but he had a teammate in the end, too. They sort of looked at me to do the work, but I was alone, too. I'm never happy to lose places on GC."
With about five miles left, Schleck was alone with Iglinsky close on his rear wheel. But he moved away from the Kazakh to ride alone, gritting his teeth and spitting water slurped from his bottle.
Friday's Stage 19 features two more "beyond category" climbs. They are up the other side of the Galibier, which wasn't covered Thursday, and the finish at the Alpe d'Huez after a 68-mile trek from Modane.