Schleck and Contador go head to head as Paris awaits
Andy Schleck enters the final week of the 2010 Tour de France with the slenderest of leads over reigning champion Alberto Contador and daylight separating them from the rest of the field.
The greatest annual bike race concludes in Paris on Sunday, when Mark Cavendish will be hoping for a second consecutive victory, but the real action will take place in the other remaining stages.
Schleck has challenged the climbing authority of his Spanish opponent in a way only he has managed in the past few years, but his lead remains tenuous.
Contador has turned himself into a magnificent individual time-traillist, winning the penultimate stage of last year’s race in crushing style to secure his Tour superiority.
And though Schleck has worked hard on his own TT performance, the Luxembourger’s great hope remains with the final three Pyrenees stages.
Contador will expect to pick up 31 seconds in the 52km hack from Bordeaux to Pauillac on Saturday, leaving Schleck with the work to do.
His best opportunity could come today on the stage into Bagneres-de-Luchon, which includes a super category climb up Port de Bales and ends with a tight, fast decent.
However, the signs on Saturday’s stage 12- where Contador recaptured ten precious seconds at the vicious final climb into Mende- are that Schleck faces a struggle to keep the Maillot Jaune.
Schleck disturbed the 2007 and 2009 winner with his Contador-esque attacks in the Alps after building the foundation for his lead on the cobbles of stage three.
But cracks appear to be showing in the 25-year-old’s armour and he will have to recapture the promise of earlier stages to topple Contador.
The dangerous pair of Olympic road race champion Sammy Sanchez and 2009 Giro de Italia winner Denis Menchov lie a just couple of minutes back, but would need something spectacular to seriously disturb Contador and Schleck.