The French success at the 2010 Tour de France continued on Monday's Stage 15, the second day in the Pyrenees, with countryman Thomas Voeckler climbing his way to a victory. Voeckler broke away from a 12-man lead group during the tough ascent up the hors catègorie Port de Balès and crossed the line a full 1:20 before Alessandro Ballan, who finished second.
But the day's main storyline is the passing between Alberto Contador and morning's race leader, Andy Schleck: specifically, Contador passed Schleck on the Port de Balès, resulting in Schleck passing over the yellow jersey. But it was not without controversy, as Contador only sped past Schleck when the man with the mallot jaune had mechanical difficulties.
Alberto Contador sauntered into the yellow jersey today when an attack at the top of the Port des Bales went horribly awry for Andy Schleck. The Saxo Bank rider's chain appeared to come off or jam at the worst possible moment, just as Contador had launched a counterattack, and though Contador appeared not to press his advantage (as etiquette dictates), he was nonetheless away in a select group containing the two combatants for third, Denis Menchov and Sammy Sanchez. Sanchez in particular kept the pace high, and Schleck couldn't rejoin them, losing 13 seconds at the top of the climb and another 30" on the way down to the finish.
The time difference was enough for Contador to take the yellow jersey. The defending champion now sits in first, eight seconds ahead of Schleck with just five more days of racing (Wednesday is a rest day).
Schleck spoke after the stage, and he was not pleased.
"Now I'm really angry. I will ride on the Tourmalet until I fall from my bike and give everything to this race. I felt really good but what counted at the end of the day is the time that you have when you arrive at the finish and I was so far back even with what I did on the descent ... Things happen, and everything happens for a reason. People can say what they want but they also have realize that Alberto was one of the guys who waited for me in Spa and that was really a great sign of fair play. Chapeau! Today was a different story, a different scenario but the Tour is not finished.
Levi Leipheimer remains the top American, but lost time on Monday and is currently 5:25 back from Contador. Team Radioshack, however, is the top squad in the Tour, 4:27 ahead of the Spanish team Caisse d'Epargne.
General Classification After Stage 12:
1. Alberto Contador, Astana
2. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank(+ 00:08)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:00)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:13)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:39)
7. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 05:25)
32. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 21:16)
Tuesday's Stage 16 is another long day in the Pyrenees, and features the same climbs the Tour de France originally visited in a stage in 1910, prompting the winner Octave Lapize to yell at the race organizers, "Vous êtes des assassins" ("You are murderers").
It is comprised of four major climbs: Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, the famous Col du Tourmalet (east side) and Col d'Aubisque. That's two first-category climbs, and another two that are "beyond categorization."
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