Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) leads his brother Fränk and Alberto Contador up the Col de la Colombière.
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Andy second, Fränk third after escape with Contador
Andy Schleck and his brother Fränk moved up the Tour de France classification in dramatic fashion on Wednesday. The two Luxembourgers attacked to escape with race leader Alberto Contador on the Col de Romme. Fränk won the stage and moved to third overall, Andy second overall.
"Bjarne Riis came up with a plan this morning," said Andy. "Fränk had no personal goals and he was there to help me."
The 17th stage of the Tour de France contained five categorised climbs in 169.5 kilometres. The race came alive on the penultimate climb, the Col de Romme, as Andy accelerated with six kilometres to climb and then again at five.
His surges forced a group to go clear with brother Fränk and team Astana's Contador and Andreas Klöden while distancing rivals Lance Armstrong (Astana), Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
The four remained together for the start of the final climb, the Colombière. Contador, instead of the Schlecks, attacked at 1700 metres to the top. His attack distanced teammate Klöden and allowed the new trio to gain over a minute to their chasers at the top and over two minutes at the finish 15 kilometres later.
"When Alberto attacks it is better to take your time at first," said Andy. "We came back step by step to him and preferred to stay on his wheel. It was a good situation for all of us because on a climb like Colombière you just can't drop Contador."
Contador leads the general classification by 2:26 to Andy and 3:25 to Fränk. Nibali and Armstrong lost 2:18 on the stage, Klöden 2:27 and Wiggins 3:07.
The race ends Sunday in Paris, but there are two critical days before: a 40.5-kilometre time trial tomorrow in Annecy and Saturday's stage to Mont Ventoux. Klöden, Armstrong and Wiggins can make up time on the Schlecks in the time trial, but the Ventoux climb will settle the final classification.
"Mont Ventoux will be a similar scenario to today. It is the third week of the Tour de France and everyone is tired, but it will be worse on Ventoux. The advantage is that we recover well and the climb is steeper, which is better for us."
Andy also leads the young riders' classification, which he won last year in his debut Tour de France. Fränk's first Tour de France was in 2006, when he won the Alpe d'Huez stage.