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Tour de France Stage 14: Schleck refuses to be drawn in by Contador's tactics

Alberto Contador tried rapid acceleration and sudden braking in an attempt to drop the Luxembourger, Andy Schleck, during the Tour de France Stage 14. But Schleck didn't take the bait.

By Jon BrandCorrespondent / July 18, 2010

The pack with Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, passes fields of sunflowers during the 14th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 184.5 kilometers (114.6 miles) with start in Revel and finish in Ax Trois Domaines, France, Sunday.

Christophe Ena/AP


Ax-3 Domaines, France

Long before Astana’s Alberto Contador reached Ax-3 Domaines, less than 15 miles from the Spanish border, thousands of the defending champion’s compatriots had arrived in hopes of watching him ride into yellow.

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Instead, they saw Mr. Contador and race leader Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank fight a tactical battle, while France’s Christophe Riblon soloed to the Tour de France Stage 14 victory and more general classification riders, like RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer, fell out of contention.

Contador, in second place just 31 seconds behind Mr. Schleck, was responsible for much of the cat-and-mouse game the two played during the 115-mile stage.

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But the 25-year old Schleck didn’t give in; though he is leading the Tour for the first time, he doesn’t lack racing savvy.

“On the second to last climb, his whole team surrounded him and I could see they wanted to give the impression that he wasn’t feeling good today,” said Schleck in a post-race press conference. “But I knew it wasn’t like that — they wanted me to attack.”

Contador's tactics

Contador’s more conspicuous challenges came on the ascent to the Pyrénéan ski area of Ax-3 Domaines, where he tried rapid acceleration and sudden braking in an attempt to drop the Luxembourger.

Schleck responded each time, though he never mounted an attack himself.

“I told him, ‘If you go too deep today, it could be dangerous for tomorrow,’” said Saxo Bank team manager Bjarne Riis.

Though neither picked up time on each other, their tête-à-tête had an unexpected, perhaps unwelcome, result.

As the two dueled in the final kilometers, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, the race’s third and fourth-placed riders, rode ahead and picked up 14 valuable seconds on the leaders. Sanchez is currently two minutes behind Contador.

Fourth stage victory for the French