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Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana) ride together
Praise from best young rider for Lance Armstrong's performance
Andy Schleck conceded defeat to Alberto Contador in the Tour de France after the pair finished together at the summit of Mont Ventoux on Saturday. Schleck is second overall, 4:11 behind Contador with only a flat, procession-like stage to Paris remaining. However Schleck added that the consolation of finishing second, his highest finish in the Tour, and matching his performance from the 2007 Giro d’Italia, was pleasing nonetheless.
"I tried everything today. I’ve said before that I didn’t want to get to Paris and say I haven’t tried everything to win the race. I went on the limit today and hurt some guys in my group," he said at the finish.
Schleck’s Saxo Bank team had a set a furious pace at the bottom of the climb, shelling most of the peloton, including last year’s winner and runner up, Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). The group of favourites were reduced to just a handful of riders when Andy’s brother Fränk attacked. Once caught, Andy took his chance and made a series of surges, dropping everyone bar Contador (Astana) at one point.
"There were some objectives today. Firstly, to defend my second place and then maybe to move Frank onto the podium, like he was before the timetrial. Unfortunately we didn’t succeed with that second objective but that’s not a disappointment."
The favourites regrouped before the finish but were unable to catch stage winner Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC), with Andy Schleck taking third and Contador fourth, 38 seconds behind the winner.
"We said this morning that everything that comes from here on in is a bonus. We’ve had a fantastic Tour and if someone had told me in Monaco that I would be standing here in second overall on the Ventoux I’d have bitten their hand off."
Schleck was full of praise for Lance Armstrong, who returned to professional cycling after three years of retirement. "Yes, he’ll be up there on the podium and hats off to him. To have years out and come back is incredible and I said to him two days ago that, if it wasn’t a family affair, I wanted him to get on the podium. He’s on the podium and unfortunately my brother not, but we’re happy."
As for next year and the possibility of beating Contador, Schleck remained positive. "He showed on all the hard stages he was the strongest. He won on Verbier and then was with Fränk and me on the queen stage and then won the time trial. It was a great performance and he was the best. There’s wasn’t much I can do. I’m still young and growing up and getting stronger every year. Maybe I’ll be closer to him next year. I wasn’t far off on the climbs, but I’ll work on my time trialling."