High Alpine mountains redefine Tour champions
Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador showed today they are truly capable of this year’s Tour de France victory.
Stage 9 traveled 127 miles over three major mountain passes, and the final and toughest one, the Col de la Madeleine, decided the race. With about 25 miles to go, the morning’s race leader Cadel Evans fell to the back of the peloton– apparently suffering from a fractured left elbow. Contador’s Astana team took advantage of the Australian’s weakness and picked up the pace. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Schleck attacked again and again, but unlike Sunday’s stage up to Morzine, he was unable to drop Contador. The two rode over la Madeleine leaving other contenders in their wake. When they reached the valley of Sant-Jean-de-Maurienne, they caught a small group of riders who had been up front most of the day.
In the final mile, Schleck started the sprint to the finish line, but Frenchman Sandy Casar won the stage. Evans came in more than eight minutes back, dropping him from first to eighteenth in the overall standings— his dreams of tour victory diminished. “I had really bad crash [on Sunday] and it cost me a lot of energy,” Evans said. “I was dropped on the final climb with 20 guys, that’s not my normal level.”
Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer had an impressive race and is the best placed U.S. rider in sixth place.
Schleck is now the Tour leader, 41 seconds ahead of Contador in the general classification. “Now I’ve only got one guy to watch,” said Schleck.