Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador proved what we already knew. They are the best two climbers in the Tour de France. By far.


But Schleck could not shake off Contador on the Col du Tourmalet. The two riders rose through the mist together and at the finish line the Spaniard did the decent thing and did not nip past Schleck, who had set the pace for the final 10 kilometres of the climb.



Going into the stage, Contador led Schleck by just eight seconds. Contador still leads by that slim margin, but he will be the big favourite to win his third Tour in the 52-kilometre time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac on Saturday. Contador will be the last man to start, a small but important advantage, and can measure his effort.



Having beaten Schleck by 1-45 at Annecy in a short, hillier time trial during last year’s race, the Astana man should seal the Tour, barring disaster.



It was not a tactically astute performance by Schleck, although that is easy to say in hindsight. The Saxo Bank team set a fierce pace early on the 18-kilometre climb of the west side of the Tourmalet. One by one the riders in dark blue and white took turns and it was obvious Schleck was planning to attack.



Schleck did attack, with 10 kilometres remaining but Contador followed him. With a few hundred metres, the pair were away, leaving the next best riders in the Tour trailing in their wake.



The conundrum for Schleck was that a constant fast pace was not putting Contador into difficulty. Perhaps he needed to vary the tempo and hit Contador with a succession of searing accelerations instead of trying to burn him off his wheel.



The frustration was obvious. Schleck only lost the yellow jersey to Contador because his chain jammed on the Port de Balès on Monday.



With 3.9km to go, having set the pace all the way up the climb, Schleck flicked his elbow, hoping Contador would do a turn.



He did more than that. He jumped away and forced Schleck to close the gap, which he did quite easily.



Towards the top, as the crowd closed in, the opportunity to use the full width of the road to launch an attack was denied to both riders. There were flags and banners and fans in costumes running alongside the riders. It may have looked entertaining but the last five kilometres needed to be flanked with barriers to allow the riders to race.



That wasn’t the only reason there was to be no attack. Contador probably felt he didn’t need to gain time. Schleck could not find one last burst. They had pulled out more than 1-30 on the next group. They had proved their superiority.



Now it is down to the time trial. Perhaps Schleck has played the longest bluff of all. Perhaps his skill against the clock has improved sufficiently to cause a big shock. Perhaps.



It is unlikely. Now Contador will hope to seal the Tour with a stage win, otherwise he will become the first champion since Greg Lemond in 1990 to go the entire race without a stage victory.



For Schleck another second place looks on the cards but he has the consolation of having won two of the toughest mountain stages, at Morzine and on the Tourmalet.



Behind the main two, Denis Menchov did enough to make himself favourite for the third spot on the podium. He lost a few seconds to Samuel Sanchez, who crashed hard early in the stage, but the Russian will be confident going into the time trial.



The biggest loser overall was Radioshack’s Levi Leipheimer, who lost nine minutes and fell out of the top 10 to 13th. That meant Garmin-Transitions’ Ryder Hesjedal moved up to eighth, Roman Kreuziger rose to ninth and Leipheimer’s team-mate Chris Horner hauled himself into the top 10.



Torrential rain overnight made conditions bleak. After a very hot Tour it was cool and damp, with low cloud and mist reducing visibility. Anyone expecting fireworks was to be disappointed. This mountain stage was as formulaic as they come.



Seven riders attacked early on. They were Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky, Kristjan Koren of Liquigas, Alexandr Kolobnev of Katusha, Marcus Burghardt of BMC Racing, Remi Pauriol of Cofidis and Ruben Perez of Euskaltel.



There was a moment of drama when Samuel Sanchez, lying third overall, crashed heavily. Just as he went down, Carlos Sastre of Cervélo was pushing on at the head of the bunch. Alberto Contador tried to persuade Sastre to slow down but the Cervélo man persisted with his attack and went clear with a team-mate, Ignatas Konovalovas.



When Konovalovas dropped back, Sastre was condemned to a long, lone chase that never looked like resulting in anything other than exhaustion.



The stage slipped into a state of slumber. The leaders rode on at a decent tempo. The bunch held the lead at a constant seven minutes. And Sastre got no nearer to bridging the gap.



Sastre was finally caught 25km from the finish, as the bunch approached the bottom of the Tourmalet. By now the leading seven had seen their advantage slashed to 4-30.



As they started the climb, the lead had just plunged below four minutes. And at that moment Sastre paid the price for his efforts and was dropped from the peloton.



On the lower slopes of the climb, Saxo Bank set a fierce pace in the bunch. In the lead, Boasson Hagen gave one last turn on the front of the break, then sat up. Shortly after that Flecha was dropped too. The group splintered and it left Burghardt and Kolobnev out in front.



Kolobnev was passed by Schleck and Contador and the pair went on to contest the stage and sort out the Tour.



Tomorrow’s 18th stage runs from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux. It’ll be pan flat and on paper it should be a sprint but much will depend on whether HTC-Columbia, Cervélo and Lampre want to keep it together. There’s also the possibility of crosswinds.

RESULTS

Stage 17: Pau – Col du Tourmalet


1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 174km in 5-03-29

2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana same time

3. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-18

4. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 1-27

5. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1-32

6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-40

7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank same time

8. Chris Horner (USA) Radioshack at 1-45

9. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma at 1-48

10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 2-14



Overall

1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 83-32-39

2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 8sec

3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-32

4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 3-53

5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma at 5-27

6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 6-41

7. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 7-03

8. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 9-18

9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 10-12

10. Chris Horner (USA) Radioshack at 10-37

Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, Tour de France 2010, stage 17



Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck shake hands after the finish

Tour de France 2010: Latest news



Armstrong has his last go in the Tour



Tour’s points leader Petacchi investigated for doping



Contador issues video apology to Schleck



Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower



Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem



Wiggins at 2010 Tour: “I haven’t got it”



Basso wins Tour’s acceptance; podium spot next goal



Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds



Can Cav win without Renshaw?



Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour’s top



Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish’s win



Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour



Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?



Cavendish in a ‘must win’ situation for Tour’s green jersey



Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut



Roche alongside Tour’s top men ahead of Pyrenees



Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?



Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports



Rest day review (July 21)



Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage



Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey



Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win



Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban



Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks



Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour



Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race



Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day



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 15 photo gallery



Stage 14 photo gallery



Stage 13 photo gallery



Stage 12 photo gallery



Stage 11 photo gallery



Stage 10 photo gallery



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 16 video highlights



Stage 15 video highlights



Stage 14 video highlights



Stage 13 video highlights



Stage 12 video highlights



Stage 11 video highlights



Stage 10 video highlights



Stage nine video highlights



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

Tour de France 2010: Pictures



Tour team presentation, Rotterdam



Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special

 

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  • adam

    Bertie is doing what he needs to win the Tour – which, after all, is the point. Schleck is certainly stronger this year – but AC knows what he has to do and why risk anything else?

    On another matter, I fully appreciate part of the Tour is being close to the riders and the atmosphere and the noise and everything…. But i don’t get why so many ‘fans’ impeed the riders in the way they do. Surely they are there to watch the Tour and see the riders, so why do they then annoy the riders to the point where they’re having to push past them or nudge them out of the way? I know it’s happened before, but it’s only a matter of time before another win is denied by a stupid fan in a stupid costume tripping over and unseating a leading rider….

  • Paul G

    Not everybody is against Contador, and i don’t really think Schleck has been ‘playing dirty’. I can’t see why people are still going on about the whole situation, when the two riders have settled their issues anyway… Move on people… just enjoy the fact that the final tour result is going to be settled on the last stage…

  • edren

    Contador waited for Schleck. Schleck didn’t waited for him and Contador losed 1.13 minutes. And now… Contador “didn’t see” any problems and he gets 40′….. For me it’s totally fair. What would be unfair is that Schleck had the yellow jersey.
    And what’s more, today we have seen who’s in his best moment: Contador.

  • zz

    Dont understand why everybody is against Contador.Schleck should not have worn the yellow jersey at first,he just got it because he didnt wait for Contador in Spa when Contador fell and had also mechanic problems.the day before Contador wait for Schleck,Schleck was loosing 4 min.So Contador is not the winner because of the chain day,he is the real strong man,he didnt need to attacked today because he knows he can get 2min advantage or more in the time trial over Andy.Dont understand why Andy can play dirty but not others.they are at the moment the 2 best cyclers but Albert is much better, you only have to look at their major achievements and compare them,specially this year Alberto has been racing a lot, a week races and winning.Alberto: 1stVolta algarve,1stParis-Nice,1stVuelta Castilla,3thLa Flèche Wallonne,2nd and 2 stages Critérium du Dauphiné,etc
    Andy:1st National Time Trial Champion,6th Liège–Bastogne–Liège,9th La Flèche Wallonne.
    But unfortunatly for some people that have no clue to be the best its just win the tour. Andy will be like Armstrong just training on the tunel for the tour… what a pity!!!