Andy Schleck attacked multiple times in the Tour de France’s Plateau de Beille stage today, but he failed to distance his key rivals. Belgian Jelle Vanendert won the stage, and Schleck finished nearly a minute back with brother, Fränk, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso and last year’s winner, Alberto Contador.

“Alberto’s strong, in my opinion, he’ll wait until the Alps,” Schleck told Cycling Weekly at the finish line. “For me, Ivan is the strongest.”

Schleck attacked five times today on the closing 15.8-kilometre climb to Plateau de Beille: at 10.6 kilometres to race, 9.8km, 8.9km, 7.1km and, after a rest, in the last kilometre.

His bullet-like attack in the final bends of the Pyrenean road distanced his rivals by two seconds. Evans chased to close, followed by the others.

“I just wanted to sprint full gas, I didn’t expect to get a gap,” Schleck continued. “Every second counts.”

His brother Fränk Schleck leads the overall favourites after the three stages through the Pyrenees. He has 17 seconds on Evans (BMC Racing), 26 seconds on Andy Schleck (Leopard), 1-27 minutes on Basso (Liquigas), 1-55 minutes on Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and 2-11 minutes on Contador (Saxo Bank).

Sánchez, Basso and Evans all took their turns attacking in the final 2.5 kilometres today, but Contador defended. Only Basso’s attack forced him to accelerate hard.

“I can’t say it went well for me, if it went well I would have won,” Contador said. “I don’t like racing like this, it’s not how I normally race.”

Contador injured his knee in crashes earlier this race, two crashes on stage five to Cap Fréhel and once on the stage to Saint Flour on Sunday. He complained of knee pain over the rest day on Monday.

“Alberto’s knee? Ah, it’s okay,” said Saxo Bank’s general manager, Bjarne Riis. “I think he’s getting better and better and I think we’re going to see a good Alberto in the Alps.”

“It doesn’t seem like he has the upper hand like in the years before,” Fränk Schleck told Cycling Weekly. “He is beatable.”

The race now faces round two. After two transfer stages and a rest day, it travels through the Alps where it will finish on the Galibier climb on Thursday and Alpe d’Huez on Friday.

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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  • alex

    The longer it goes on like this, the more it looks like wiggins would have improved on the result in 2009

  • stuart stanton

    Can someone explain the nitwit tactics employed by Leopard-Trek? What was the point of hammering along the approach to the final climb at such a rate of knots that no-one was capable of attacking on its steep and challenging opening ramps ? Voeckler must be believing it was his birthday all over again. By the way, what is the correct pronounciation; – Voy-Kler or Voo-Clair? Commentators on both channels are in a rare old mess over it, they cannot seem to get Jeremy ROY, as opposed to ROI (as in king) right either.

    Allez Sammy!

  • norman bright

    I was talking to a rider who climbed the Pyrennes stages with Indurain and fignon -the tour de l’avenir. His comments were: sky made a mistke not supporting Thomas-Brailsford has insufficient knowledge of road racing-whoever is strongest in the alps will win-we know that but the teams that have domestiques who can work will have the advantage. My view is that Andy Scleck is the best climber but Evans is very experienced and ahving slimmed down is a major threat. How about decending-a crash can alter everything-Wiggo? why was he in trouble-he was in 40th place-top gund were in 20th place. Biggest loser is Thomas who should be in the white jersey. He will need a pro contract when sky pull out . No one knows what will happen after the Olympics except that we will win little on the track. Hopefully Garaint will ride the Vuelta and next year’s Giro but in which jersey. with the pressure on all media can we be confidet that he will ride into the sky with SKY?

  • arronski

    Schleck attacks looks back repeat to fade, Cadel watches Contador and Basso, Tommy wins the TDF classic…..go Tommy !