Schleck Takes Stage 17 of Tour; Contador Keeps Yellow Jersey
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has won his second stage of the 2010 Tour de France.
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has won his second stage of the 2010 Tour de France. The Luxembourger took an uncontested two-up sprint to win the mountainous, 174-km ride from Pau to Col du Tourmalet in 5:03:29. Alberto Contador (Astana) finished second, and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) took third at 1:18. Contador remains the maillot jaune.
At three km, Kristjen Koren (Liquigas) sparked the day's big break. He dashed off, and Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha (both from Sky), Remi Pauriol (Cofidis), and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) followed the Slovenian. At 12 km, the break led the bunch by 2:10.
At 18 km, Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo) attacked just as Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) crashed. The field waited for Sanchez, and then Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) attacked and joined his teammate. Konovalonas towed his captain to the base of the Category 1 Col de Marie-Blanque, at which point Sastre pursued the break alone.
At the summit of the Col de Marie-Blanque (56.5 km), the break led Sastre by 1:20 and the peloton by 7:50. With 85 km left, the escapees led Sastre by 3:00. Behind, Omega Pharma, Astana, and Saxo Bank began to drive the peloton. With 72 km to go, Sastre trailed the break by 4:00.
On the Category 1 Col du Soulor (117.5 km), the yellow jersey group trailed Sastre by 2:00, while the 2008 Tour champion was a little less than four minutes behind the peloton. He closed to within two minutes of the break, but the Spaniard fell out of reach. With 37 km left, the break led Sastre by 4:00 and the yellow jersey group by 5:30. Eight km later, Rabobank went to the front, and not long after that, Sastre was reeled in.
As the yellow jersey group approached the base of the Tourmalet, Astana took over at the front. At this point, the break led the yellow jersey group by 4:00.
At the base of the climb, the yellow jersey group trailed the break by 3:40. Ahead, Kolobnev attacked, and everyone except Burghardt was dropped. With 13 km left and the yellow jersey group at 2:00, Burghardt fell off of the pace.
With 11 km to go, Kolobnev led the yellow jersey group by 1:41. Contador was out of teammates. Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) attacked. Schleck countered, and only Contador joined him. The real race was on.
With nine km left, Schleck attacked again. Contador held the Luxembourger's wheel. One km later, the pair caught and dropped Kolobnev. With seven km remaining, the 2010 Tour's leaders led Sanchez and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) by a minute.
Four the next three km, Schleck attempted to drop Contador. With four km left, Contador attacked, but Schleck fought back.
Schleck led the pair into the last km. Contador did not challenge the Saxo Bank man as they approached the finish line.
In the overall, Schleck leads Contador by 0:08 and Sanchez by 3:32. Stage 18 will not change this state of affairs. The flat, 198-km run from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux should end in a mass sprint finish. Who will win? Mark Cavendish (HTC)? Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)? Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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