Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck Wait for Tour de France to Reach Pyrenees
Defending champion Alberto Contador and his main rival Andy Schleck have yet to properly test each other in the Tour de France 2011. They have been too busy avoiding serious injury in nine days of manic racing, which came to a temporary halt with Monday's rest day.
and 11 seconds behind two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia, the other main GC contender.
"So far so good, the team has been great, keeping me out of trouble, and if it could continue like this I would be very, very happy," Evans said.
After Monday's rest day, there are two semi-flat stages for sprinters before riders enter the Pyrenees on stage 12, with its colossal climb up Col du Tourmalet - one of the Tour's most famed and feared ascents.
That stage is so demanding it could decimate the field.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler leads the race after taking the yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd, while Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez, who won stage 9, is second overall. But neither is a Tour contender and both should soon wilt.
Thursday's stage from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden lasts a horribly long 211 kilometers (131.1 miles) and ends with a mammoth climb up Luz-Ardiden.
Like the Tourmalet, Luz-Ardiden is so tough it is known as an HC - or 'Hors Categorie' - climb, meaning it is even harder than a category 1 climb and is therefore beyond classification.
The pain does not stop there.
Friday's 13th stage from Pau to Lourdes features an HC trek up Col d'Aubisque, followed by a hair-raising 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) descent to the line.
Saturday's 14th stage starts from Saint-Gaudens and is harder than the previous two - an intense day featuring two nasty category 1 ascents up Col de la Core and Col d'Agnes, and finishing with a long HC climb up to Plateau de Beille.
"There will be a big shake-up at Plateau de Beille," Schleck said. "If there's a chance for us, we'll take it."
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com and Roadcycling.mobi as the Tour de France continues.