Riblon stellar in Ax-3 Domaines

The Pyrenees were always billed as the main battleground of this year's Tour de France, and although Sunday's first of four stages in this mountain range decided nothing, it did confirm what many suspected: that the battle for the yellow jersey is between two riders, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana).

The impression of this pair riding their own race, almost oblivious to everyone else, was underlined on the final climb to the finish in Ax-3 Domaines, at the end of a day that had seen Contador's Astana team ride as though it was their man, rather than Schelck, in the yellow jersey.

As Contador and Schleck cancelled each other out, it was a day that really belonged to Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale), with the Frenchman claiming the host country's fourth stage win of this Tour after an incredible solo effort, made more incredible by his confession afterwards that he had almost abandoned the Tour the previous day.

Riblon's team director, Vincent Lavenu, claimed after the stage that his rider had been so exhausted that he was on the brink of quitting. "But they gave me a pep talk," said Riblon of his team, "and I felt I had to prove myself today. But I wouldn't have bet a single Euro on my chances of winning today."

As Riblon forged on ahead, having attacked from the day's big break, Schleck and Contador were so preoccupied with each other that they didn't seem to notice - or