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Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) dug deep to hold onto second overall.
Loses nearly two minutes in Annecy, but saves second to Armstrong
Andy Schleck lost nearly two minutes in Thursday's time trial stage of the Tour de France in Annecy, but he protected his second overall ahead of Lance Armstrong.
"It was a good day. I was nervous this morning, but I had faith in the time trial. I am happy I am still second," Schleck said.
The Saxo Bank rider finished in 21st at 1:45 back from stage winner and race leader, Alberto Contador. The result puts him 4:11 behind Contador in the overall classification, but a fairly comfortable 1:14 ahead of Contador's Astana teammate, Lance Armstrong.
The performance in Annecy was a big improvement for the Luxembourger, who last year lost 3:41 in the Tour's final time trial in Saint-Amand-Montrond. He attributed his ride to work he did with former teammate Bobby Julich on his time trialing prior to the Tour de France.
"I am far from a specialist, but in Monaco I already saw some improvements. I am not losing as much time in the time trials anymore."
Schleck's older brother, Fränk, lost 2:34 in the time trial and slipped from third overall to sixth overall. He is 34 seconds behind Armstrong's third place with only one more crucial stage to Mont Ventoux on Saturday.
"I am very happy for Fränk's ride today. He was even more nervous than I was and knew he could lose a lot more than me today, but he did a good time. The most important thing will be to help Fränk on Ventoux, he helped me yesterday and I am going to help him now."
Tour de France stage 20 travels 167 kilometres and finishes with the 21.1-kilometre climb up Mont Ventoux. It should produce the final time differences prior to the final stage to Paris on Sunday.
"Maybe if Contador gets sugar flat then I would have a chance to beat him," said Andy Schleck.
Schleck has never raced up Mont Ventoux, but has previewed the climb and knows it well. He said he hopes for rain to help keep the temperatures down.