By Brecht Decaluwé in Montpellier
CSC's Fränk Schleck was one of the fortunate ones to have been in the front of the race when Astana decided to throw down the hammer on stage eleven. "There was a lot of wind," said Fränk Schleck of the determining factor on the day. Vinokourov's Astana team exploited that wind to their maximum advantage, which earned the team respect from the Luxembourger.
"Astana showed they are a big team even though they suffered some problems during the first days with Vino's crash. I have to say chapeau!" said Schleck. At the team bus, Schleck gave a big hug to teammate Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who he credited with taking care of him on a difficult day.
"Today Arvesen was much stronger than me when we were put on the side. I owe him a lot today," Schleck thanked the experienced Norwegian. "I think I have to pay him a couple of beers for what he had done for me. He was looking after me, he was crucial. What he did for me was amazing, even in the end he was pulling for me."
Just beyond the one kilometre mark, Schleck was caught up in a crash which occurred as the sprint-ready peloton hit a series of bends in the road. Prior to the crash, it looked like Schleck's team-mate Fabian Cancellara was trying to avoid the bunch sprint again when he attacked just before the race entered a tunnel. The move was promising, but the sprinters were hot to have another chance before the race enters the Pyrenees.
"They caught him, but I saw that everybody was waiting for him," Schleck described. "I went on his wheel and said, 'Fabian, stop, stop, go behind and try again later.' Then suddenly Julian [Dean] went too fast in the corner, and I went down with the other guy," Schleck explained to Cyclingnews.
Fortunately, Schleck didn't seem to be hurt too much although he wasn't sure. "I hope nothing's hurt; I was hit by a handlebar in my left thigh, but I hope it is going to be alright."