Both Andy and Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek) came through the first medium mountain stage intact and able to handle the accelerations of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank). The stage saw the Spaniard launch several attacks on the climb to Super-Besse but each time he was matched by his rivals and at the finish Fränk Schleck pointed out that Saturday had been more of a psychological battle than one of pure climbing prowess.
“After six days in the big ring there’s quite a change today going onto the small gears on the climbs but it went pretty well. There was no big danger for us and we could keep on the wheel of the attacks,” Schleck said, after stepping off the Leopard Trek team bus, showered and changed.
“We never thought about attacking. It’s encouraging heading into the mountains. Me and Andy were on his wheel and it brings us a lot of confidence. So far it’s a mental game and so far so good.”
Andy Schleck was the first to react to Contador’s shots across the Leopard bow, gluing himself to the Spanish stern in the closing kilometres and looking comfortable in the process.
“I felt good as well,” Andy Schleck said, echoing his older sibling. “It wasn’t a really difficult stage but you had to pay attention on the wet roads. It wasn’t a surprise to me that Contador attacked because he needs to take every opportunity he gets and it shows to me that he’s nervous.”
Contador still lies over a minute down on each of the Schlecks and Andy acknowledged that the defending champion is the one that must go on the offensive.
“It’s up to him to attack and it was about following today, because this climb didn’t really suit me. I could follow him without any problems and it gives me confidence for the future.”
Team boss Brian Nygaard will have been pleased with what today’s stage provided. His team needed to do little work on the front, merely keep the Schlecks out of trouble before the final climb, and both were able to answer when Contador tested his rivals’ strength.
“It wasn’t a climb that we thought would render any major gaps,” Nygaard said. “He was trying to see if there were any attacks on the surface and he’s definitely keen on taking the time back but today wasn’t really the day. He’s clearly very strong.”
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