Fabian Cancellara proudly put his Swiss national road champion's jersey on display at the head of affairs as the Tour de France crossed over into his homeland of Switzerland during Sunday's stage 15. Cancellara, Switzerland's newly crowned national road champion and former yellow jersey holder, made his way into the race-long break of 10 riders and later worked for teammate Andy Schleck in the stage's decisive finale.
The break was caught by the peloton on the lower slopes of the final climb to Verbier where Cancellera then turned teammate for Andy Schleck and briefly began to set the pace at the front. Schleck, however, was forced to chase on his own after Alberto Contador attacked and soloed towards his first stage win and yellow jersey in this year's race. Schleck finished second, 43 seconds down, and now sits fifth, 2:26 behind Contador.
"Today was the first real day in the mountains. We saw a battle of man versus man and in the end Contador was the strongest. But we [Saxo Bank] are in the heat of the battle and we know that the Schleck brothers are strong. We have to ride as we've done throughout this Tour and hopefully we'll get more out of it in the hard mountains," Cancellara told Cyclingnews at the finish.
Cancellara, who formed part of Carlos Sastre's winning Tour team in 2008, believes that while Contador is strong, Saxo Bank must remain focused on their strengths. "Alberto is strong, we saw that today and he showed that he's the strongest. The team did what it had to do and we put pressure on Contador as best we could. We think that's what we need to do for the rest of the race.
"Now we'll look to the final week and for a good rest day tomorrow. Today I spent a lot of time at the front but I'm happy. The race passed through Switzerland and it was a beautiful moment that was very special."