Monday 27 February 2017

Contador makes his move

Winter returned to the Haute Alpes yesterday, with fresh snow on the mountain tops, and appropriately enough it was the icemen from Norway who prospered on a sled run of a final descent off the Col de Manse to the finish in Gap.

World champion Thor Hushovd outfoxed his compatriot and friend Edvald Boasson-Hagen at the death to record his second stage win of the Tour, but amongst the icy conditions the battle for the yellow jersey finally heated up a fraction.

With Thomas Voeckler battling like a Trojan in yellow, all of France is willing him on as the dream of a first home winner since 1985 lasts another 24 hours at least.

But the real race has only just begun. Yesterday Alberto Contador, perhaps testing that left knee, stirred himself a little and attacked up the final climb and looked as good as at any time during the Tour.

The result was twofold, with Contador closing to within 46 seconds of an out-of-sorts Andy Schleck in the general classification and 1min 53sec of Frank Schleck, while it also animated Cadel Evans, who joined Contador in the attack and rode with great aggression to take a further three seconds out of the reigning champion. Afterwards Andy Schleck managed to both lose his cool and be ungracious in defeat: "It was a dangerous finish," he complained. "I didn't feel super on the climb, when he attacked. I rode badly downhill -- I had to unclip on the first corner and was gapped 150m.

"If this what people want to see, a race decided on a downhill, I think the parcours was badly chosen today -- we don't want to see riders crashing or taking risks. Everyone has families at home. A finish like this should not be allowed."

And now come the Alps. The climb to Sestrieres, which tops out at 2,035m, is the highlight of today's rugged run from Gap to Pinerolo in Italy, and then there is tomorrow's finish on the Galibier (2,645m).

Irish Independent

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