Young leader prepares for scintillating showdown
On the eve of the first in a series of four brutal mountain stages in the Pyrenees race leader Andy Schleck seemed very relaxed when he talked with the press in Revel after the 13th stage.
Some would be feeling less comfortable when knowing they'd be fighting for the overall victory in the Tour de France on a stage that features a hors categorie climb and ends on Ax 3 Domaines, a first category ascent.
"I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous for tomorrow because it is the first stage in the Pyrenees, even though I know that I'm in top form and that I'll be in the front because I made it my goal," said Schleck. "I'm feeling good and confident enough but there's a little bit of nervousness.
"Tomorrow's the first stage in the Pyrenees, so that might be hard, also because there's the long descent after the big climb [Port de Pailhères] before climbing five or six kilometres. The Tour hits the final week, it's the most important one," he added.
A bonus for Schleck on Saturday was that his Saxo Bank teammates were able to take a day off, because some of the sprinters' teams took control of the peloton in order to restrict the progress of the breakaway group. "Today it was one of the last chances for the sprinters so it was up to them to control the race. Lampre and Columbia worked which was good for our team," said Schleck.
It's not a secret that the younger of the Schleck brothers is good friends with his most important rival Alberto Contador. On Saturday they were seen chatting once again, making people wonder about what the pair could be talking.
"Today I told him that he took the 10 seconds back from Morzine-Avoriaz. We agreed to take it easy today and that tomorrow the battle would start again," explained Schleck. "My plan is to keep the jersey and maybe take some more time on him. He wants the jersey of course so we'll see a good race.
"On the descent of the Madeleine we worked well together. I respect him as a rider and admire him as a great person. He's a really good guy. Basically, we don't talk about tactics. We know it's between him and I from tomorrow on. We're both feeling excited. I'm a bit nervous for tomorrow but confident. I think he's a bit nervous as well."
Compared to previous years however, Contador hasn't been attacking uphill whenever he's had the opportunity. It seems that the Spaniard has changed his style to a more calculated method of racing. "I agree. I think it is because he's got a lot of confidence in his team, probably more than last year. He's got riders around who are his friends," Schleck stated.
The series of four mountain stages in the Pyrenees all seem impressive and it will be curious to find out which one will decide the general classification, if at all. The current yellow jersey explained there were only three possibilities for the overall contenders to make a difference.
"There's a stage with the Aubisque but that's one for a breakaway, not for the GC," said Schleck. "The toughest one to me seems the last one, with the finish on the Tourmalet. Tomorrow will result in a big selection. There are four mountains stages and there's three stages that'll decide the general classification; tommorow's the first one."
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