The scene was set for an epic show down on the celebrated slopes of the col du Tourmalet where the yellow jersey would be decided. There is a time trial yet to come so no one knows if Alberto Contador will be able to claim a third title – as he has a lead of just eight seconds – but judging on last year’s TT form, the likely winner of the 97th Tour is going to be the runner-up on the Tourmalet.
Andy Schleck had to attack! He had to be distance between him and Contador. He tried. He danced on the pedals. He dropped all his rivals… except for one. Everything Andy could do, Alberto could do too. Out of the mist at the 2,115m high mountain they emerged, the finish line in sight and the yellow jersey held the same position he held for most of the final 10.5km – after the initial acceleration by Schleck – just on the wheel. And that’s how they crossed the line. Second overall, first. First overall, second. Contador is in control of the Tour but Schleck is the king of the col due Tourmalet.
The Progress Report
The heavens opened up on the eve of the final day in the mountains for the 2010 Tour de France. Rain fell heavily overnight and early in the day and the peloton started on wet roads and drizzle and temperatures around 17 degrees. The official start was at 12.30pm with 172 riders at the sign on. The stage included four climbs – the cote de Renoir (cat-4 at 13.5km), the col de Marie-Blanque (cat-1 at 56.5km), the col du Souler (cat-1 at 117.5km) and the final high pass of the 97th Tour, the ‘Hors Category’ col du Tourmalet.
Seven Escape Early
Team Sky put two men in the first breakaway of the 17th stage and five others joined them at the 3km mark. The riders involved were: Boasson Hagen and Flecha (SKY), Koren (LIQ), Burghardt (BMC), Perez Moreno (EUS), Pauriol (COF) and Kolobnev (KAT). At 12km Konovalovas (CTT) launched a counter-attack. After 20km Spilak (LAM) abandoned. The rider in third overall, Sanchez (EUS) crashed at 23km and spent considerable time on the road before remounting his bike and resuming the race. Contador insisted that the peloton wait for the fallen rider but Sastre (CTT) ignored the request and set off in pursuit of his team-mate. At 30km the counter-attack was 3’10” behind the leaders and the peloton was at 5’10”. Sanchez returned to the peloton at 32km. The average speed for the first hour was 43.8km/h.
Col de Marie-Blanque & Soulor
At 40km, Konovalovas stopped his effort with Sastre and the Spaniard continued his pursuit of the stage leaders on his own. At the base of the Marie-Blanque, the seven led Sastre by 3’45” and the peloton by 9’15”. At the top, first place points were taken by Flecha, and Sastre was 1’20” behind. The peloton was at 7’50”.
There were no attacks between the second and third climbs but Sastre dropped back to being 4’55” behind at the 11.9km to climb sign, and the peloton – led by riders from Astana, Saxo Bank and Omega Pharma-Lotto – was 7’25” behind at the start of the Soulor. There were no attacks from either the front group or peloton on the third climb. The seven led Sastre by 2’55” at the top and the peloton by 4’25”. Sastre was caught by the bunch at 140km when the escapees had a lead of 5’00”.
Andy Leads Alberto To The Line…
Rabobank, Saxo Bank and Astana shared the work at the front of the bunch on the approach to the final climb. The seven escapees had a lead of 3’05”. Sastre was dropped with 20km to go. Schleck attacked a rapidly thinning yellow jersey group of 20-odd riders 10.5km from the finish. Only Contador could respond. Andy led the yellow jersey from that point on until 3.8km to go when Alberto tested his rival with a quick acceleration. Schleck was able to respond and Contador promptly went back to following his wheel. The pair rode this way all the way to the summit and Andy crossed the line just ahead of Alberto to take his second stage victory in the 2010 Tour but gain no advantage on his main rival and the leader of the general classification who will wear the yellow jersey in stage 18. This pair gained time on all their rivals and confirmed that they are a class above the rest of the peloton in the 97th Tour de France.
Only eight seconds separate first from second overall after 17 stages of the Tour de France. The climb up the col du Tourmalet was the platform for the best young rider to become the best in the Tour. Andy Schleck won the stage but Alberto Contador is winning the battle for the yellow jersey.
“I’m satisfied with the stage win but I also wanted to turn white into yellow but unfortunately it wasn’t possible. I really tried hard, you have to believe me about that. I changed rhythm and I tried everything but I think we’re on the same level on the climbs. Alberto attacked and I could go with him – it was a quick response – but in the end he didn’t sprint to win the stage because I did the most work. I have a lot of respect for that, it shows that he’s a great champion.
“I tried to find out how he was feeling. You need to look at someone to see how he was coping. I think you can find out a lot if you look someone in the eyes. He didn’t have the sunglasses on today so it was possible to see, that’s why I looked so many times. But he always looked good and that’s kind of what killed me.
“El Pistolero is strong, huh? I could no drop him. He was always there. I wanted to find out if he was getting weak but he didn’t succumb. He even attacked me to show, ‘Hey, listen young boy, I’m still here! You better stop playing these games with me.’
“I’m super happy to win this stage today – it’s the Queen stage of this year’s Tour. To win on the Tourmalet is like a win on Alpe d’Huez.
“When I turned to talk to him, I said: ‘You pass?’ And he didn’t. I would have done the same. Why should he pass me? In the end, he let me win the stage and I’m super happy.”
The top 10 in stage 17 is: 1. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX - 174km in 5h03’29" 2. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST at same time 3. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) KAT at 1’18" 4. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) GRM at 1’27" 5. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 1’32" 6. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB at 1’40" 7. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB at 1’40" 8. Chris Horner (USA) RSH at 1’45" 9. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) OLO 1’48" 10. Roman Krueziger (CZE) LIQ 2’14"
Andy Schleck is clearly the best young rider in the Tour. He has won his second stage this year and is only eight seconds behind the overall leader, but the yellow jersey will stay on the shoulders of his main rival, Mr Alberto Contador.
Andy Schleck has won the stage to the Col du Tourmalet. He crossed the line about half a bike length ahead of the yellow jersey.
The leading pair are inside the final 500m of the stage. Schleck continues to lead the stage and Alberto continues to mark his rival. Surely Alberto is going to win his first stage in the 2010 Tour...
Contador’s directeur sportif said that the main priority today was to win the Tour but the stage victory is also a goal. Alberto is yet to win a stage in the 2010 Tour but he’s been able to follow Andy wherever he goes. Surely the Spaniard is plotting an attack in the final kilometer... which is where the leading pair is now.