Twelve stages in, the Tour de France has started in earnest.
The peloton hit its toughest mountain stage today, and the expected contenders responded with a ride to remember. The Schleck brothers, Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans dueled in their own group over a series of tough Pyrenees climbs, setting the stage for the last half of the race.
Frank Schleck was the day’s somewhat surprising big winner, picking up 20 seconds on his rivals with a late break from the leaders’ pack. Samuel Sanchez won the stage, as his long break with Jelle Vanendert stayed barely off the front.
Schleck finished the stage third, moving into second overall in the race. He’s 1:49 off Thomas Voeckler’s yellow jersey. Evans is third, and Andy Schleck — who seemed a bit weak on the day’s last climb — is fourth.
Contador was dropped in the closing meters, dropping 13 precious seconds in the overall classification. The defending champion is embroiled in doping allegations.