Andy Schleck Climbs to Stage 17 Win in Tour de France 2010 Ahead of Alberto Contador Who Nears Tour de France Title

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07/22/2010| 0 comments
by AP, with additional commentary by
Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador climb. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador climb. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Andy Schleck Climbs to Stage 17 Win in Tour de France 2010 Ahead of Alberto Contador Who Nears Tour de France Title

Pair stays together during the finishing climb up the final mountain of the 2010 Tour de France - the famed Col du Tourmalet.

Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) won the 2nd most prestigious stage of the 2010 Tour de France, but defending champion Alberto Contador (Team Astana) of Spain was right on his shoulder Thursday to virtually guarantee the Spaniard a third Tour de France title. Therefore, Alberto Contador let Andy Schleck take the victory in today's stage.

Schleck knew he needed to pick up time on Contador in the 17th stage, and tried to break away with 10 kilometers (six miles) left of the climb up the legendary Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. But Contador followed immediately and the two men completed the final kilometers of the stage almost side by side, in a stark representation of the two-rider battle that has been the story of this year's Tour.

They completed the 174 kilometers (108.1 miles) from Pau to the peak of the Col du Tourmalet in 5 hours, 3 minutes, 29 seconds. Contador retained his eight-second lead over his Luxembourg rival in the overall standings.

Third place went to Spain's Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha), who pulled away from the rest of the chasing group and finished on his own, 1 minute, 18 seconds back.

Schleck and Contador braved fog and rain, as well as the flags of supporters hitting them in the face during the climb.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was on the top of the mountain to greet them.

"The image of Alberto and Andy side by side was a great image of sport," the president said. "Alberto may win, but Andy will win next year."

Earlier, the 2008 Tour de France Champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) made a valiant and admirable attempt to make up the more than nine minutes separating him from Contador, breaking out alone in the beginning of the stage, like the true Tour champions of former times, in search of the lead group after 25 kilometers (15 miles), aided by his teammate Ignatas Konovalovas, who later dropped back to the main peloton after supporting Sastre.

July 22, 2010 - Col Du Tourmalet, FRANCE - epa02257519 Cervelo team rider Carlos Sastre of Spain cycles during the 17th stage of the 97th Tour de France 2010 cycling race between Pau and Col du Tourmalet mountain, France, 22 July 2010.

But Sastre was never able to fully bridge the gap, although he got very close at one point, and was caught by the peloton just before the start of the Tourmalet. He later slipped further back.

"For me, it was a day to enjoy being on the bike. I was motivated to try today. I was lucky to be able to count on a teammate (Ignatas Konovalovas) to help me, who's given everything since the race began. I tried, but I didn't have the legs to catch the breakaway up the road. Today's stage gave me something more than a victory," Sastre said after the stage finish.

Anthony Charteau (Bbox - Bouygues Telecom) of France finished in 27th place having done enough to guarantee he would be the overall winner of the polka-dot jersey for best climber.

In a lighter moment, on the second climb of the day, the Col du Soudor, the peloton was briefly disrupted by a group of brave sheep who crossed the road just as the riders arrived. No rider fell but several were forced to brake hard and stop.

The Pyrenees are behind the riders now, and after four days of struggling at the back over the climbs, the sprinters are likely to fight out the win in Friday's 18th stage, a 198-kilometer (123-mile) virtually flat ride from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux, which could turn out to be windy allowing for the peloton to split.

Cervelo TestTeam's Thor Hushovd of Norway holds the green jersey of points leader ahead of Italy's Alessandro Pettachi (Team Lampre), with Mark Cavendish (Team HTC-Columbia) of Britain also in the hunt for the stage win and hoping for the green jersey when the riders reach Paris.

The Tour de France 2010 finishes in Paris on Sunday.

Click here for full 2010 Tour de France stage 17 results.

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