Attacks from general classification contenders half-way through a stage aren't terribly common. Though most believed that Andy Schleck had to attack today to make up his time gaps back to the other contenders in the race, he was expected to launch that attack on the final climb of the day on the road to Galibier Serre-Chevalier. Instead, Schleck took off on the Col d'Izoard, putting a large gap on the field before surviving the descent and the final climb of the day to win the stage.
However, he missed out on the ultimate goal - the maillot jaune. Schleck had a gap of more than four minutes on the other contenders at the start of the final climb of the day, but they cut that gap to under two minutes and 30 seconds at the end, with Thomas Voeckler doing enough to keep the race lead by 15 seconds. Also in that second finishing group were Andy's brother Frank Schleck, Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso. Damiano Cunego wasn't far behind, preserving his top 10 spot.
Well off the back on the final climb were Alberto Contador and Samuel Sanchez, both of whom lost enough time to not only fall behind the top four riders, but Basso and Cunego as well. Unless they can put together a spectacular performance on Alpe d'Huez on Friday, it's likely that the chances at a podium finish have evaporated for both riders.
It would be shocking to see Voeckler keep his yellow again on Alpe d'Huez, but then again, it was shocking to see him stick with Evans, Frank Schleck, Basso and Cunego on Thursday's stage. He even beat Contador and Sanchez while he exerted less energy than Evans and Andy Schleck, so who knows what might happen on Stage 18.