Schleck established as Contador's number one Tour rival

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) (Image credit: Sirotti)

Luxembourg's Andy Schleck passed a crucial test on Saturday at the 2009 Tour de France. He distanced his rivals and finished second only to Alberto Contador on the 15th stage to Verbier. Contador took the leader's yellow jersey and Schleck moved into fifth overall.

Contador "had the yellow jersey in Paris-Nice and he lost it there. The race will not be over until the Champs Élysées," Schleck (Saxo Bank) said.

Schleck was the only rider to follow the attack of Contador with 5.6 kilometres remaining to the mountaintop finish in Verbier. He trailed most of the climb at 20 seconds with a group of favourites another 20 seconds behind.

Contador proved strongest to finish with 43 seconds over Schleck and another 20 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali, Andy's brother and teammate Fränk, Bradley Wiggins and Carlos Sastre. Andy, 24, took the young riders' jersey and is 2:26 behind Contador.

"He's a bit stronger than me, but he will have some pressure on him in the next days. It will not be a piece of cake for him," said Andy Schleck.

Contador won the Tour de France in 2007 and his Astana teammate Lance Armstrong won from 1999 to 2005. Schleck trails Armstrong, who is second overall, at 1:49.

"I don't think it is going to be Armstrong who will arrive behind Contador," said Schleck.

The Tour continues after its second rest day tomorrow. Tuesday and Wednesday are both mountain stages through the Alps. Thursday will see a 40.5-kilometre time trial in Annecy before Saturday's stage, which finishes atop Mont Ventoux.

Schleck will have to use the mountain stages to distance his rivals, who are all strong in individual time trials. Wiggins is third overall at 1:46 and Andreas Klöden fourth at 2:17.

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