Tour narrows to two-man race: Schleck vs Contador
Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, Tour de France 2010 stage 9
The Tour de France has narrowed to a two-man race with still half the race left to race. Today on the Alpine mountain passes leading to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador delivered a knock-out blow to former race leader, Cadel Evans.
"I'm not at my normal level," said Evans, "but when you're in the yellow jersey at the Tour, whether you're good or not, you have to be there."
Evans crashed in the opening kilometres of Sunday's stage to Morzine-Avoriaz, where he eventually took the overall lead by 20 seconds over Schleck. The yellow jersey, though, couldn't heal a fractured left elbow, which the team revealed only after today's stage.
Over the 204.5 kilometres to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Evans suffered. Once Astana turned up the tempo on the Madeleine climb, Evans slid off the back of the favourites group. Schleck then took his turn and attacked several times, eventually riding clear with Contador.
Evans' loss? Just over eight minutes, which slotted him just behind Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the overall classification.
"I did not expect him to win this Tour because he had a hard Giro d'Italia behind him," said Schleck.
"The others could have attacked, but they didn't. As it is now, it looks like a race between me and Alberto."
Schleck leads by 41 seconds and nearly three minutes on Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
"I had a good agreement with Andy and we took advantage of it," explained last year's winner, Contador. "We had a good battle on the Madeleine at first, he was attacking me, but then we agreed to work together to arrive to the finish line [to maximise the time gains].
"It's clear now that my rival is Andy."
And the last step on the podium? After a quick assessment of the results, Sky's team manager, David Brailsford, considers Wiggins amongst a small group who may fight for third overall.
"There's probably 15, 20 guys who can fight it out all the way to see how they fare."
Wiggins is 16th overall at seven minutes back.
<img src="/imageBank/t/tdf-2010-st9-WIGGINS-1-c.jpg" border="0" alt="Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France stage 9" title="Bradley Wiggins,
Tour de France stage 9" width="414" height="300"/>
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Bradley Wiggins: Tour rest day conference
Evans faces rough ride in yellow
Riis secures replacement sponsor but Shleck in doubt
Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)
Armstrong's Tour de France dream ends
Sky's objective clear ahead of Tour's high mountains
The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views
Thomas: 'Yellow jersey would be unbelievable
Analysis: The role of Renshaw
Cavendish strikes back in Tour de France
Thomas happy with Tour's white jersey; but says 'All for Brad'
Wiggins crashes on Tour stage start
Cavendish and Farrar return to top
Cavendish keeps up fight for first Tour win
Sky delivers Boasson Hagen to third without pressure
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour's white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins