Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck will face their toughest battles at the Tour de France in two days time, but they still decided to test each other in Mende today.

Contador used the steep slopes of the Croix Neuve climb in Mende to ride away from Schleck and move 10 seconds closer to Schleck’s overall lead. Some argued it was petty, fighting for such small change when the big money comes with the first stage Sunday, but Contador disagreed.

He said, “It’s an important psychological blow.”

Contador had the advantage of having Astana team-mate Alexander Vinokourov in an early escape and having won on the climb two other times in the Paris-Nice stage race. Vinokourov’s presence meant Contador could follow Schleck on the 3.1-kilometre climb to the finish on the airstrip.

“I could see he [Schleck] was a little weak,” continued Contador, “and I decided to go.”

Schleck responded, “I was not surprised I could not stay with him.”

He excels in the high-mountains. He won the mountain stage to Morzine-Avoriaz Sunday and rode clear of his rivals with Contador Tuesday. They put a big gap into their classification rivals and created what will likely be a two-man battle for the final overall.

For Schleck to win the classification, though, he must gain a bigger gap on Contador before the final time trial. He is convinced the Pyrenees is the place to do that.

“I know my best days will come in the Pyrenees. I have prepared to race there, to peak there. He [Contador] cannot count on me being tired,” added Schleck.

“It will be a duel in the Pyrenees – Alberto and I. He is nervous and I am nervous because I need to gain more time.”

Schleck lost 1’45” in time in last year’s final time trial of 40.5 kilometres. This year’s time trial is 52 kilometres, from Bordeaux to Pauillac.

Tour de France 2010: Latest news

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Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour

Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?

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Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)

Armstrong’s Tour de France dream ends

Sky’s objective clear ahead of Tour’s high mountains

The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views

 

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports

Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks

Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour

Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race

Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day

Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head

Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white

Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up

Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour

Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims

Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC

Stage three live coverage: As it happened

Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa

Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters

Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos

Stage 11 photo gallery

Stage 10 photo gallery

Stage nine photo gallery

Stage eight photo gallery

Tour 2010 wallpaper

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos

Stage 11 video highlights

Stage 10 video highlights

Stage nine video highlights

Stage eight video highlights

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Stage five video highlights

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Official start list, with race numbers

Brits at the Tour 2010

Tout team guide

Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures

Tour team presentation, Rotterdam

Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special

 

  • Darrell Anthony

    Saxo Bank made a miscalculation by not attacking Alberto earlier, thereby allowing him to ride himself back into shape. This will become more evident in the Pyrenees and Time Trial. AC now knows that AS is isolated the steeper the grade the less support he has around. If he had attacked he could have made up the time though he does not want the yellow jersey until late in the Pyrenees. This is where he really needed Frank.