He may not be back to his very best but Andy Schleck gave his most encouraging performance of the Tour de France so far with a solid ride on stage 9 to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, holding his own with the maillot jaune contenders before finishing 12th on the stage. He now sits in 14th overall, 4:00 down on race leader Chris Froome.
"It was a hard day but in the end there were no changes in the GC but that's a little bit what we expected. Froome was alone out there but he managed pretty well on his own," Schleck told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"I felt really good today and that was really good for my confidence. I was never close to not following the rest. That gives me good confidence for the Alps," he added.
The day was marked by a series of aggressive moves with Garmin-Sharp and then Movistar unsettling and then dismantling the Sky team, who saw Richie Porte lose almost 18 minutes and all hopes of a podium finish. Movistar had a numerical advantage of six to one when they isolated Froome from his entire team but bar a number of attacks from Nairo Quintana, the race leader maintained his overall lead, even if his team's aura of invincibility was washed away.
Whether Movistar will live to see Bagnères-de-Bigorre as a missed opportunity to exert more pressure on Froome remains to be seen. Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews that stiff headwind on the final climb curbed any attacking, while one team director told Cyclingnews that all the GC riders had run out of gas by the time they reached the final of five climbs.
"Movistar rode well but at the end of the day they also rode for nothing," Schleck told Cyclingnews. "They rode hard all day long but I would have expected big attacks on the last climb but they didn't come. I won't say that what they did was a mistake because for sure look at what happened to Porte [who was dropped and lost his second place overall – ed.]
Despite Schleck's ride he still has to deal with matters off the bike that have dominated the last week. His brother Frank was dropped by the RadioShack-Leopard squad and has no team for the remainder of the season, while Trek are currently negotiating reduced salaries with both brothers for 2014.
"The situation hasn't changed from two days ago but we're waiting and we hope for the best," Schleck said when asked about the situation with his brother.
"I don't know what we'll do yet but I don't agree with the decision and I wasn't aware of it happening before it was announced.
"Right now there's no communication [from owner Flavio Becca] between us because I'm here and he's in Luxembourg but we had a good relationship before. Now we have to see what's going to happen but I try and keep the focus on the Tour right now."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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