Nursing a saddle sore and aches and pains left over from too many crashes to count, it would have been all too easy for Lance Armstrong, now that he’s no longer in the hunt for the overall lead, to pack up his bike and go home with two weeks left in the Tour de France. But Lance doesn’t roll that way. He made a strong showing today in a tough Alpine stage that has reduced the field of likely winners to just two riders — the same two who were first and second last year.
Luxembourger Andy Schleck (second last year) and the returning champ, the Spaniard Alberto Contador, put on quite a show over the Col de la Madeleine today, a brutal climb that left a half dozen other hopefuls gasping for air.
Barring any strange occurrences, the rest of the Tour will be a duel between the two young climbers, which is turning into one of the great rivalries in the sport.
After falling way behind on a tough day, previous leader Cadel Evans revealed that he’d fractured his elbow Sunday but felt compelled to put in a good effort today while wearing the yellow jersey, Cyclingnews.com reports. After the stage, Evans was very emotional as he tried to explain to teammates what had happened.
Today’s stage was won by Frenchman Sandy Casar, who was in a long breakaway that included another Frenchman, Anthony Charteau, who is now in the polka-dot jersey as mountains leader. With Sylvain Chavanel‘s two stage wins, it’s been one of the best Tours for French riders in years, but the title itself will once again elude the home country.
Tomorrow’s stage to Gap also includes some substantial climbs, but favors a breakaway artist rather than the overall contenders. Expect more French ambition on Bastille Day.
Stage 9 results: 1. Sandy Casar (Fra), 2. Luis León Sánchez (Spa), 3. Damiano Cunego (Ita), 4. Christophe Moreau (Fra), 5. Anthony Charteau (Fra)
Overall standings: 1. Andy Schleck (Lux), 2. Alberto Contador (Spa), 3. Samuel Sánchez (Spa), 4. Denis Menchov (Rus), 5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel)
Yellow jersey (overall leader): Andy Schleck (Lux)
Green jersey (points leader): Thor Hushovd (Nor)
Polka dot jersey (mountains): Anthony Charteau (Fra)
White jersey (best young rider): Andy Schleck (Lux)