Schleck was aggressive in the opening part of the stage and ultimately forged clear as part of the 17-man break that dominated proceedings. He was unable to convert his kilometres off the front into victory, however, and he had to settle for second place behind Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).
“I’d give myself a mark of 9 out of 10, if you’ll allow it,” Schleck told Le Quotidien. “I’m giving myself a 9 because I didn’t win, otherwise, I’d have 10. I went in the break to win.”
The three Vacansoleil riders in the break took it in turns to attack on the approach to the final climb, with De Gendt slipping clear 25km from the line. Although Schleck attacked at the foot of the ascent, he was unable to make the expected inroads into the plucky De Gendt’s advantage.
“He presented himself at the foot of the final climb with 1:29 and that was too much,” Schleck maintained. “I came back, but De Gendt held on and in the last 3km, with the descending false flat, the gap stabilised. It’s like that.
“The end of the stage became slightly too complicated a game for me because teams like Movistar had three riders up front. It’s for that reason that I went and countered straight away, at the foot of the final climb.”
Schleck’s initial acceleration on the Fisser-Hofe failed to dislodge his remaining companions, who included Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) and Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto), but he stuck to his task and gradually forced his way clear. Although clearly still someway short of the sort of climbing form that will be required to triumph at the Tour de France, Schleck was pleased with his outing.
“I’m happy to have shown that I had good legs, that the Tour preparation has been good and I’m happy that the team performed so well as a whole,” Schleck said.
After losing over fourteen minutes the previous day, Schleck was clearly determined not to leave Switzerland without putting in a solid performance on a mountain stage. He now holds the lead in the mountains classification and will have an opportunity to test his time trialling legs on Sunday’s final stage.
“It’s true that I wasn’t at my best on Thursday at Malbun,” he admitted. “I had bad legs, but that happens and we’re still a bit away from the Tour. But I’m happy with where I am at this point in the season, and I’ll be there for the Tour.”
Another man who will be there for the Tour is Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard). The Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing on his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour will not be held until August and Contador lines up as favourite on July 2. Schleck says he is pleased to race against his rival.
“I like it better that way, I’ve already said it,” Schleck said. "It’s on the bike that I have to beat him, and not for doping reasons.”
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