Stage ten saw Luxembourg's Andy Schleck enjoy his first ever day in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. After a fast start marked by a litany of Bastille Day breakaway attempts from a variety of French riders, Schleck's Saxo Bank team eventually allowed a small breakaway to go clear and there was a relaxed tempo in the peloton thereafter.
Unlike his older brother Fränk, Andy Schleck had never had the honour of wearing the yellow jersey before today. After the stage, Schleck spoke about his experience in yellow on Bastille Day.
"It was a nice day," Schleck said. "The race went fast right from the start but once we had the breakaway there wasn't a lot of stress for us. There was even time to look around at all the fans along the road side. Hopefully tomorrow the sprinters' teams will take things in hand so my team will be spared a bit."
Once again temperatures on the Tour scarcely dropped under 30 degrees, but Schleck thinks that he is coping well with the heat. "There are riders who have a hard time breathing when it's too warm. I'm not one of them, because I feel good in the heat," he said. "Of course if the weather continues like this in the Pyrenees, then it'll have its consequences. It could decide the Tour de France."
Another opportunity to decide the race comes in two days with a stage finish atop the climb to Mende, the so-called Montée Laurent Jalabert. The short but selective climb also featured in Paris-Nice. Back then Alberto Contador managed to shake off his rivals on its slopes, but Schleck wasn't worried that it would happen again.
"We already saw in Paris-Nice that the climb can create gaps. It's a climb that suits Contador well. But we're in July and my form is better now. I don't think he'll be able to drop the main favorites there, also because it's quite short. I predict that we'll see about five riders together at the top," Schleck said.
Schleck sees Contador as his sole rival for yellow at this point in the race. "I will follow Contador if he goes. For all the others, if they go pretty early I think I can come back later in the climbs. So it makes it easier. Like you saw yesterday I'm climbing better than the others, except for Contador, so for now I have only to watch him," he explained.
While Schleck himself may well be capable of tracking and troubling Contador, it remains to be seen if his Saxo Bank team is strong enough to match Astana, who were impressive on the Col de la Madeleine. Schleck played down the importance of having lieutenants on the hardest climbs, saying, "I think I have quite a balanced team, and for the moment I can't see any real weaknesses. Maybe we don't have a climber like for example Astana but I don't think we need that."
Schleck was also keen to pay tribute to the team spirit at Saxo Bank, which seems unaffected by fact that many of them will be operating for different outfits next season.
"They're not just my teammates, but my real mates and friends. They don't pull in front because Bjarne tells them to do so, or because it's their job but also because they're my friends and that's a key factor I think. That's my trick to be in the front".
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