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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