Thursday, 21 July 2011

Andy Schleck reigns supreme with stage 18 win

Following a fantastic solo ride on a day of edge-of-seat-watching cycling, Andy Schleck made his stamp on the Tour with a stage win in Galibier. After nearly 3 weeks of pyschological games, phoney wars and ill-advised comments to the press regarding his downhill abilities and rider safety, the young Luxembourg rider and GC contender mounted an attack that brother and team mate Frank admited was planned.

The brilliantly timed and inspired artestry of his attack shocked many who had all but written off his podium dreams. As the GC group headed into the ascent of the Col d'Izoard Andy kicked away with a 40 second lead. Leaving Frank to shut down any attempts to counter attack his move from his main rivals, he linked up with team mate Maxime Monfort on the descent before overtaking Iglinskiy who had lead the stage for much of the day.

As Andy crossed the line with the stage win in the bag, the clock started on the yellow jersey. All to aware that his days in the jersey were numbered, Thomas Voeckler fought bravely on to ensure that he at least wore it in the final part of these climatic stages, as he finished with a 15 second margin in the GC standings. Visibly exhausted, he literally gave it all he had knowing tomorrow would likely be the end of his Golden Fleece reign.

Cracking in the final chase-down, Contador finished 16th on the stage in a stark contrast to the performace given by Voeckler. Trailing 4:44, the reigining Tour de France champion may have lost out on defending his title.

Schlecks performance sees him now 4 points away from the King of the Mountains jersey currently worn by Jelle Vanendert. Meanwhile Uran of Team Sky lost his Maillot Blanc to Taaramae after a spell of bad luck saw him hit the deck and have problems with his breaks. In the Maillot Vert competition, the large gruppetto saved Cavendish from elimination, however he was deducted 20 points for finishing marginally outside the cut off time. Now closer to Rojas this guarantees he will have to fight harder between now and the end of Sunday.

Tomorrow the race heads from Modane to Alpe D'Huez, ascending the Galibier from the North via the Col de Telegraph before heading to Alpe D'Huez for the final showdown. After todays impressive riding, Andy Schleck will want to rip the Yellow Jersey from the shoulders of Voeckler with a final kick to take him to the top of the leaderboard ahead of Saturday's Individual Time Trial.

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