Tuesday, July 13, 2010


It is clear now.

The best rider in the mountains, the one who is ready to put the pressure on and attack his rivals at will on the hardest climbs--not just once, but repeatedly, day after day--is Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

Schleck led all General Classification rivals--including defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador--up the Col de Madeleine and then led the chase to reel in remnants of the day-long breakaway group.  Though Sandy Casar crossed the finish line first to win Stage 9 in the Alps, it was Schleck who defined the day--and perhaps the many days that follow.

Cadel Evans spent only a day in the Yellow Jersey.  The Australian was unable to keep with the other contenders because of pain in the wrist he fractured in his crash with Lance Armstrong on Sunday's Stage 8.  Evans is now likely out of contention for the Tour victory.

The top of the GC standings shuffled quite a bit with this stage (see the top 10 in the right sidebar).  The contest for the Yellow Jersey really comes down to those who are within 3 and a half minutes of Schleck.  Contador is 41 seconds behind Schleck. Another Spaniard, Samuel Sanchez, trails him.  USA's Levi Leipheimer is in 6th place, a tick under 4 minutes behind Schleck.

The race is shaping up to a showdown between Schleck and Contador. Can Andy Schleck get enough time advantage on Contador to overcome Contador's superiority in the Stage 19 long Individual Time Trial the day before the Tour rolls into Paris?  We'll see.

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