The Tour de France has narrowed to a two-man race with still half the race left to race. Today on the Alpine mountain passes leading to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador delivered a knock-out blow to former race leader, Cadel Evans.
“I’m not at my normal level,” said Evans, “but when you’re in the yellow jersey at the Tour, whether you’re good or not, you have to be there.”
Evans crashed in the opening kilometres of Sunday’s stage to Morzine-Avoriaz, where he eventually took the overall lead by 20 seconds over Schleck. The yellow jersey, though, couldn’t heal a fractured left elbow, which the team revealed only after today’s stage.
Over the 204.5 kilometres to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Evans suffered. Once Astana turned up the tempo on the Madeleine climb, Evans slid off the back of the favourites group. Schleck then took his turn and attacked several times, eventually riding clear with Contador.
Evans’ loss? Just over eight minutes, which slotted him just behind Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the overall classification.
“I did not expect him to win this Tour because he had a hard Giro d’Italia behind him,” said Schleck.
“The others could have attacked, but they didn’t. As it is now, it looks like a race between me and Alberto.”
Schleck leads by 41 seconds and nearly three minutes on Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
“I had a good agreement with Andy and we took advantage of it,” explained last year’s winner, Contador. “We had a good battle on the Madeleine at first, he was attacking me, but then we agreed to work together to arrive to the finish line [to maximise the time gains].
“It’s clear now that my rival is Andy.”
And the last step on the podium? After a quick assessment of the results, Sky’s team manager, David Brailsford, considers Wiggins amongst a small group who may fight for third overall.
“There’s probably 15, 20 guys who can fight it out all the way to see how they fare.”
Wiggins is 16th overall at seven minutes back.
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