Jelle Vanendert Climbs to Tour de France Stage Victory on Plateau de Beille
French cyclist Thomas Voeckler of Team Europcar retained the lead in the Tour de France 2011 on Saturday after the last stage in the Pyrenees, which was won by Jelle Vanendert (Belgium) of Team Omega Pharma-Lotto and failed to be as significant as expected for the main contenders, who didn't have the guts needed to dare attack early.
from Contador and Evans, who was Tour de France runner-up in 2007 and 2008, but eliminated by crashes and injuries in the 2009 and 2010 Tour editions.
"I tried to keep things under control," Evans told Roadcycling.com and our mobile cycling news site Roadcycling.mobi after the stage.
"It was a long, but not a steep climb. It's at this point in the race that the GC contenders are pretty evenly matched. So it's really hard to make a big difference. Like so many cycling experts have said, we wasted a lot of energy as a team to put ourselves into a good position coming into the mountains. It's a little bit of conservative racing, but these stages are hard," Evans continued.
Evans complained about the Schleck brothers continuously expecting him to reel in attackers for them. "I'm not here to tow them to Paris."
When asked what it will take to improve on two runner-up finishes in the Tour concluded "It's consistency and being there every day. That's how I approach it."
Having waited for his moment, Vanendert timed his attack perfectly with 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) left, and Sanchez left it too late to reel him in.
"The favorites had already attacked several times," said Vanendert, who won in 5 hours, 13 minutes, 25 seconds. "I thought they might already be on the limit and it was the perfect time to attack."
As the small group of contenders and outsiders jostled for position, Basso and Voeckler tried to slip away from the Schleck brothers and Contador, but their attacks kept petering out.
It was Sanchez's turn to attack about 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) from the top, and they all let him go as he is not a general classification contender in the Tour de France.
With 400 meters left, Andy Schleck sprinted clear on his fifth attack of the stage, but the time he gained on Contador and Evans will feel hollow after all the brief efforts he made during the day.
Sunday's 15th stage to Montpellier is a flat route for sprinters. A rest day follows on Monday before the riders head to the Italian and French Alps for three more days of climbing, before a long individual time trial on the next-to-last stage.
"I just wanted to win a stage on the Tour ... We'll see what I can do in the Alps," said Vanendert, who rides for Omega Pharma-Lotto. "The team really gave me the chance to prepare myself 100 percent for the Tour."
British rider David Millar of Team Garmin-Cervélo, and French riders Sandy Casar and Julien El Fares went ahead early on over three climbs up Portet d'Aspet, Col de la Core and Col de Latrape.
The peloton - led by Leopard-Trek - closed the gap to under eight minutes as they reached the foot of the category 1 Col d'Agnes, the day's first testing ascent.
Millar was caught, Christophe Riblon joined Casar and El Fares, while behind them Contador sat on Voeckler's wheel.
On the descent from Col d'Agnes, Laurens ten Dam had a spectacular