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It's a draw in the Schleck vs Contador match on the last big climb of the 2010 Tour...

Andy Schleck had promised that he would attack race leader Alberto Contador on the Col du Tourmalet today, and was true to his word as the 2010 Tour de France came down to a gripping one-on-one battle between the pair on the mist-shrouded slopes of one of the Tour’s most famous mountains. The Team Saxo Bank rider’s stage win will come as scant consolation, however, as defending champion Contador refused to submit and crossed the line half a bike length behind him to retain the yellow jersey.

With two sprinter-friendly stages remaining as well as Saturday’s time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac in which Contador is expected to post a significantly better time than Schleck, the Spaniard is now poised to win his third Tour de France in four years, missing the 2008 race due to the exclusion of his Astana team.

Earlier thunderstorms on the summit of the Tourmalet had thankfully cleared by the time the race arrived, although a damp mist remained, but that deluge had failed to deter massive crowds who had gathered to witness the finish to what had always seemed likely to be the decisive stage of this year’s race, with organisers planning the finale around the Pyrenees to celebrate the centenary of the Tour’s first visit to the high mountains.

Schleck and Contador, separated by 8 seconds in the general classification this morning after Monday’s infamous ‘Chaingate’ incident, didn’t disappoint. With 10km to go, the Luxembourg rider attacked, Contador, who had followed him closely all day, immediately going with him.

Within moments, the other members of a 20-strong group containing most of the other riders towards the top of the general classification had been dropped as the pair of riders who had finished last year’s Tour in first and second place headed off into the clouds to determine the order they would finish in this time.

Try as he might, however, Schleck could not shake off the determined Contador, although when the Spaniard himself attacked, the Luxembourg rider was able to respond, but frustratingly for him did not manage to leave his rival behind.

Only a disastrous performance on Saturday appears to stand between Contador and the overall win, while the issue of the young rider’s jersey has also effectively been settled, with the 25-year-old Schleck almost certain to clinch it for a record-equalling third and final time. The destination of one jersey, however, was definitely settled today with the mountains classifcation won by Anthony Charteau of Bbox Bouygues Telecom.

Christophe Moreau of Caisse d’Epargne, a one-time wearer of the maillot jaune and competing in his final Tour de France, had been seeking to make up a 15-point deficit on Charteau, but was dropped by the main general classification group early on the climb of the Tourmalet as Saxo Bank ratcheted up the pace, Fabian Cancellara setting the tempo at first before making way for Chris Anke Sorensen and then Jakob Sorensen to help build the platform for their team leader’s unsuccessful tilt at glory.

That ended the 39-year-old Moreau’s hopes of ending his career with the polka dot jersey, the prize instead going to Charteau, who assuming he suffers no mishap en route to Paris on Sunday will become the first Frenchmen to win a jersey of any description since Richard Virenque won the mountains competition for the seventh and final time in 2004.

Earlier, two riders from Team Sky, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha, slipped into an breakaway not long after the start of the 174km stage in Pau, together with Rémi Pauriol of Cofidis, Kritjan Koren fron Liquigas, Katusha’s Alexandr Kolobnev, Marcus Burghardt of BMC and Euskatel Euskadi’s Ruben Perez Moreno.

At one point, the escapees had built an advantage of eight and a half minutes over the main group, but with the likes of Astana, Saxo Bank and Rabobank picking up the pace at the front of the peloton, that gap had fallen to less than four minutes by the time they approached the 18.6km ascent of the Tourmalet.

Shortly into the climb, Kolobnev attacked and one by one his fellow escapees fell back, but with a little under 9km to go the Russian champion was himself passed as Schleck and Contador flew past as the race boiled down to a private battle between the pair.

Not long before the day’s final climb, the main group had swept up another escapee who had ridden much of the stage on his own between the leading group and the main bunch after getting away in rather controversial circumstances that had echoes of Monday’s drama between Contador and Schleck.

That rider was the 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, who had attacked just as Contador slowed the pace at the front of the peloton with news coming through of what had looked like a bad crash involving Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, lying third in the general classification.

Remounting his bike, it appeared that the Olympic champion had been winded in the incident, although initially there had been fears that he had been badly hurt as he lay prostate on the ground, apparently motionless and having difficulty breathing, surrounded by anxious team mates.

Up ahead, words appeared to have been exchanged between Contador and Sastre immediately before the Cervélo TestTeam rider took off, and while he used the climbs to make up time on the lead group, he was slower on the flatter sections and was caught by the main group with around 25km to go

Stage 17 Result

  1. SCHLECK Andy          TEAM SAXO BANK      5h 03' 29"
  2. CONTADOR Alberto      ASTANA               + 00' 00"
  3. RODRIGUEZ Joaquin     KATUSHA TEAM         + 01' 18"
  4. HESJEDAL Ryder        GARMIN-TRANSITIONS   + 01' 27"
  5. SANCHEZ Samuel        EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI    + 01' 32"
  6. MENCHOV Denis         RABOBANK             + 01' 40"
  7. GESINK Robert         RABOBANK             + 01' 40"
  8. HORNER Christopher    TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 01' 45"
  9. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO   + 01' 48"
  10. KREUZIGER Roman       LIQUIGAS-DOIMO       + 02' 14"
  11. CUNEGO Damiano        LAMPRE-FARNESE       + 03' 00"
  12. ROCHE Nicolas         AG2R LA MONDIALE     + 03' 26"
  13. KLÖDEN Andréas        TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 03' 30"
  14. GADRET John           AG2R LA MONDIALE     + 03' 35"
  15. SIVTSOV Kanstantsin   TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA    + 03' 44"
  16. MORABITO Steve        BMC RACING TEAM      + 03' 58"
  17. ARMSTRONG Lance       TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 04' 12"
  18. BARREDO Carlos        QUICK STEP           + 04' 16"
  19. KIRYIENKA Vasil       CAISSE D’EPARGNE     + 04' 27"
  20. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon     CAISSE D’EPARGNE     + 04' 27"

Overall Standings after Stage 17

  1. CONTADOR Alberto      ASTANA             83h 32' 39"
  2. SCHLECK Andy          TEAM SAXO BANK       + 00' 08"
  3. SANCHEZ Samuel        EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI    + 03' 32"
  4. MENCHOV Denis         RABOBANK             + 03' 53"
  5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO   + 05' 27"
  6. GESINK Robert         RABOBANK             + 06' 41"
  7. RODRIGUEZ Joaquin     KATUSHA TEAM         + 07' 03"
  8. HESJEDAL Ryder        GARMIN-TRANSITIONS   + 09' 18"
  9. KREUZIGER Roman       LIQUIGAS-DOIMO       + 10' 12"
  10. HORNER Christopher    TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 10' 37"
  11. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon     CAISSE D’EPARGNE     + 12' 46"
  12. PLAZA MOLINA Ruben    CAISSE D’EPARGNE     + 13' 01"
  13. LEIPHEIMER Levi       TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 14' 24"
  14. KLÖDEN Andréas        TEAM RADIOSHACK      + 14' 44"
  15. ROCHE Nicolas         AG2R LA MONDIALE     + 16' 00"
  16. VINOKOUROV Alexandre  ASTANA               + 17' 57"
  17. GADRET John           AG2R LA MONDIALE     + 17' 59"
  18. LÖVKVIST Thomas       SKY PRO CYCLING      + 18' 30"
  19. DE WEERT Kevin        QUICK STEP           + 20' 03"
  20. MORENO Daniel         OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO   + 25' 23"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.