Andy Schleck left defending champion Alberto Contador floundering in the thin mountain air as he outwitted, outpaced and outclassed his Tour de France rivals with an inspired climb to win the 18th stage on Thursday.
Schleck, who’s finished second to Contador two years running, attacked relatively early in the stage and crossed the Galibier pass finish line alone. He made up 2:20 on overall leader Thomas Voeckler — all but 15 seconds of his advantage.
Contador was ultimately dropped from the chase group, which was led by contender Cadel Evans, who sits in third. The Spanish champion is seventh — he said Thursday that “victory is impossible now.”
This year’s final Alpine stage, including a climb up the fabled Alpe d’Huez, is Friday. The climactic time trial follows Saturday, and the race will wrap up with a largely ceremonial ride to Paris on Sunday.