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Live coverage

Tour de France 2010: Stage 17


Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from stage 17 of the Tour de France. We're just a few days away from Paris but today is the crucial stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet and everything is still to play for.

The riders are still on the buses as we await the start to the stage. You may have heard the news of poor weather and heavy rain but right now the rain has eased off at the start. The roads are still wet but there's certainly tension at the start. For Contador and Schleck today is possible the biggest day of their careers so far. Can Contador win his third Tour de France, his fifth Grand Tour? Can Andy take is crown, fulfill his potential, and win his first Tour de France?

Things are perfectly poised with the Spaniard leading by just 8 seconds and Schleck well aware that he must attack and gain time.

Temperatures on the ground are a cool 16 degrees. At the top of the Tourmalet they're down to just 6 degrees. Riders are starting to head out from the buses now, many of them in jackets. The start is just 15 minutes away.

The Lampre riders are wearing tyres they normally use for the Classics, a team mechanic told Cyclingnews that they're pumped up to around 7-8 bar.

We also spoke to the organisers this morning and there's no threat of any of the stage being canceled. So let's look at the route.

The queen stage of the race comes with four climbs, each getting notably tougher. The second, the Marie Blanque, isn’t high but its last 4km average 10 per cent.

The Soulor is longer, higher, and tackled from the toughest side. Then to the Tourmalet, the highest climb of this year’s race. It’s debatable whether this side is the tougher of the two ascents but there’s no doubt it’s tough enough to make a real difference. Steepest in the town of Bareges and then towards the summit, the Tourmalet offers little respite to what will be very Tour-weary legs. Could that be where Schleck makes his move?

This is the second ascent of the Tourmalet in this year's race, up possibly the steepest side from Bareges. Although the gradient barely reaches double digits, the length 18km and relentlessness of this climb is what will really hurt the legs, especially with three sharp climbs earlier in the day.

Here's a look at the overall as things stand going into the stage:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 78:29:10
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:08
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:00
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:13
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:39
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:05:01
7 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 0:05:25
8 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:05:45
9 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 0:07:12
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions 0:07:51
11 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:07:58
12 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:08:02
13 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:08:19
14 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:08:52
15 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team 0:09:02
16 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Radioshack 0:11:14
17 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:12:09
18 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:12:34
19 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick Step 0:14:07
20 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:14:24

Schleck does need to put time in Contador. A lot of talk of needing around three minutes as a buffer zone before that final time trial.

Schleck has been confident in this year's Tour and I don't think he'll need that much time. Even a minute and a half could potentially be enough. While Schleck will never win a time trial in the Tour, he has spent a lot of time improving his skills against the clock and Contador, his poor performance in the time trial at the Dauphine, will give his rivals a lot of confidence.

And let's not forget Menchov and Sanchez. The Russian has only gone on the attack once in this year's race, gaining a vital seconds on both Schleck and Contador, when they sat up and watched each other.

The Russian knows how to win a Grand Tour and during the 49km time trial at the Dauphine he put nearly a minute into a below par Contador. He could be the dark horse for today's race if the two favourites mark each other our.

And what of Sanchez? He has to follow Menchov, and perhaps even put time into him ahead of the final time trial. The race is excellently poised.

174km remaining from 174km

The riders are off!

The bunch are heading through the neutralized zone. Most of them are in arm warmers while in the CN blimp, we've got the heating on for the first time in this year's race.

The conditions could be a big factor today. Some of the riders, who've really suffered in the heat will have woken up, open the curtains and smiled when they saw the rain clouds. A respite from the scorching weather could be critical. Remember Ullrich cracking in 98, or Indurain in 96.

It's not just about yellow though today. We've got a sprint at 33km of racing. Expect the sprinters to go all out for those points.

Already an attack. It's a Liquigas rider, Koren who's initiated the first move.

171km remaining from 174km

Small splinter group are trying their best to get across. Sastre, meanwhile is sitting right at the back of the bunch.

Two riders from Sky amongst the group that are coming up to Koren. A Cofidis rider, one from BMC, Euskatel too.

168km remaining from 174km

The bunch have sat up. I think we've got our break for the day.

The roads are still wet, not surprising with the amount of rain that's come down in the last 24 hours.

News coming in that it's raining at the top of the Tourmalet.

Sastre back with his team car, he clearly isn't happy with his clothing.

The gap to the break is already over a minute.

Here are the names of the breakaway riders: 

Burghardt (BMC), Boasson Hagen (Sky), Pauriol(Cofidis), Koren (Liquigas), Flecha (Sky), Minard (Cofidis) and Perez (Euskaltel)

162km remaining from 174km

Astana on the front of the bunch but they're spread all over the road. An AG2R rider briefly tried to attack but he was chased down by the Astana boys.

Of course we climbed the Tourmalet two days ago. That day, Moreau led the pack over the climb. It's one of the most historic climbs in the history of the Tour.

First used in 1910 and since the second world war it's featured 48 times in the race.

The climb usually provides mid-stage entertainment. The only summit finish was in 1974 when jean-pierre Danguillaume took the stage win by nearly two mins from Raymond Poulidor. That day they raced up the opposite side.

In recent years, riders like Chavanel (2003) Di Gregorio (2008) de la Fuente (2006) have lead the race over the climb.

159km remaining from 174km

The break is now 3.21 ahead of the bunch. Burghardt and Klobonev both in there. Neither have had a great Tour so this could be there last chance to win a stage in the race. The BMC rider won a stage back in 2008.

Meanwhile Auge, Daniel Lloyd have attacked the bunch with another rider and are trying to bridge the gap.

155km remaining from 174km

The rain starting to come down on the break now as Radioshack have come to the front of the bunch. The settled start has broken up quite considerably due to the counter attack.

The third rider in that counter attack was Gutierrez (Caisse) hence why Shack had to close it down. Both teams vying for the team prize in this year's race.

They've been caught, as Radioshack now try and send a man up the road. Caisse chase that one down.

Astana don't like the pace jumping up and down and come to the front of the bunch again.

150km remaining from 174km

Simon Spilak has abandoned the race. No reason as to why, but he's out.

Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Cervelo Test Team has jumped out of the bunch and is going after the break.

Back in the bunch Alberto gobbles down an energy bar.

Gustov is trying to get away.

Crash. Sanchez

Third in GC and it doesn't look good at all.

His teammates are around him. He's sitting up.

148km remaining from 174km

The bunch slowed down near the top of a small rise.

He's on his feet now, Contador on the front telling everyone to calm down and wait.

Sanchez is on his bike, getting a little push.

Sastre has attacked.

146km remaining from 174km

Sanchez is being paced back to the bunch. He's not looking too great. Perhaps he was just winded. Three teammates around him now as he makes his way back to the bunch.

Sastre is already with Konovalovas and the two are pushing on.

Not sure about that one, Carlos.

It will be a long chase back for Sanchez. The good news is that he's back on the bike and racing back to the bunch, it really didnt look too good a few minutes ago.

Despite the bad weather the crowds are out in force today.

Another Euskatel rider has dropped back to help Sanchez in his chase back to the bunch. This will help the break as they try and establish a healthy lead.

Sanchez has made it back as far as the team cars so not far for the Spaniad now.

140km remaining from 174km

Sanchez makes it. He's back with the peloton now. The break have 5.10 on the bunch.

What did you make of that attack from Sastre? let me know at twittercom/dnlbenson

Astana return to the front of the bunch as we head to the first climb of the day, the Col de Marie-Blanque.

By the way, Boasson Hagen picked up the maximum points in the sprint today. We missed that due to Sanchez bad crash. New is, he's back on the bike and back with the bunch.

Via Twitter, a good point made:

MI_Bike_Fan @dnlbenson I suspect the descent from the Soulor will be as telling as the ascent of the Tourmalet, especially if it's still raining. Whee!

The lead is moving out to nearly seven minutes.

Jen Voigt comes to the front of the bunch. The German is heavily bandaged after crashing two days ago. Astana continue to set an easy tempo on the front of the bunch.

Sanchez still near the back of the bunch. He's not looking too comfortable, not surprising to be honest.

News is that he was very badly winded in the crash.

Sanchez, chatting to Barredo, is checking out his right elbow. Wincing with pain it has to be said.

133km remaining from 174km

Schleck looks pretty relaxed in the bunch, sitting on Cancellara's wheel, as the Saxo Bank team line out behind the Astana team.

I'm not sure what Sastre is doing here. He's losing time on the break up the road and wasting energy in no-mans land. The peloton seem more than happy to let him sit out there for now.

via Twitter:

belinda8888: 'Unsporting' attacks on the misfortune of others might just become the modus operandi once race radios go...

128km remaining from 174km

Just under 8 minutes now for the break as Klobonev comes through and takes a turn on the front, swings off and Koren comes through.

Samuel Sanchez is now back with the race doctor, who is looking at the Spaniard's right arm.

125km remaining from 174km

Sanchez coming back to the bunch now as Sastre continues to lose time on the break.

Lots of clouds covering the peaks in the Pyrenees as the peloton roll through a valley before the first serious climb of the day. The break are already on the lower slopes.

Sanchez still wincing has he comes back through the bunch. The Olympic road champion currently sits third overall in the race.

122km remaining from 174km

Sastre has dropped his teammate and is going it alone now.

Cervelo owner Gerard Vroomen has Tweeted in:

gerardvroomen @dnlbenson I'm all for courtesy, but let's get SOME racing in or change it to a 23 day group ride waiting for everybody.

Well Vroomen's man is certainly in agreement with his boss and is sandwiched between the bunch and the break. Still losing time on the break but he's certainly setting his stall out early today.

The break are pushing ahead still and their lead is 8.35 on the bunch. Sastre continues alone on the lower slopes.

The 2008 Tour winner has been looking better in the last few days and is obviously feeling strong after the second rest day.

Off topic but of course important, the news on the street is that Tyler Hamilton is talking to the Feds in the US and that Armstrong has a new attorney. News was broken by Bonnie Ford from ESPN. You can read the CN take here.

Back in the break and Flecha takes a bottle from the Sky team car. Sastre is slowly catching the break, he's 3.25 down on the leaders now.

119km remaining from 174km

Klobonev at the back of the break with Pauriol setting the pace.

Roux from FDJ is the first ride to pop off the back of the bunch, Cavendish also struggling, but has two loyal teammates with him.

Petacchi also struggling at the back of the bunch as well. The Italian is currently under investigation back in his homeland.

116km remaining from 174km

Burghardt and Klobonev are both slipping back from the break. The BMC rider is calling for his team car but the gap he's left is pretty big. He's in trouble.

Flecha leads Koren over the top of the Col de Marie-Blanque.

Konovalovas being brought back by the bunch, and Sastre is closing in on the break.

The break now on the descent. They're all back together but they're not taking too many risks on the descent as you might imagine. The roads are very wet and slippy.

Astana still setting the pace on the bunch. Fairly long downhill for the seven leaders but the road will kick up slightly at the bottom of the climb for roughly 1km.

109km remaining from 174km

The bunch crest the first major climb of the. No risks for these guys either on the descent.

Some better news for Euskatel: Peter Cossins spoke to Euskaltel foundation president Miguel Madariaga this morning and he said that the team is likely to remain in the ProTour next season even though their budget is being cut back over the next two seasons. He says staying the ProTour is less about money and more about fulfilling all of the UCI's administrative requirements.

The riders will have a feed zone after 87km of racing and then they'll tackle the Col du Soulor.

The rain starting to come down a little bit heavier now as riders start to put on their capes.

More from Cervelo's Gerard Vroomen, via Twitter: : Should they cancel their whole plan? Kono already up the road for Sastre, so in a sense the attack started long b4 the crash

The break now onto that little rise after the descent. Burgy again calling for his team car.

Seb Lang leading the pack on the descent. There's a small split in the bunch with around  20 riders off the front but that will come back together.

100km remaining from 174km

100km left of racing. The Soulor and the legendary Tourmalet still to come.

To recap, we have seven riders up the road in a break, Carlos Sastre is chasing and the bunch around nearly nine minutes back.

Earlier in the day Samuel Sanchez crashed heavily but the Spaniard, third overall, is back in the main field.

Sastre, still on his own, takes a few seconds to wolf down some food, and then gets back on the bars in a bid to catch the leaders.

Lotto now helping on the front of the bunch with setting the pace. It's Lang, a rider signed by the team to help Evans in last year's TTT setting the pace.

dbfphoto @dnlbenson I love the sportsmanship, but can you explain it for the occasional fan? Shouldn't riders gain for staying on their bikes?

Well, good bike handing should be rewarded, it's vital at this level in the sport but the main issue we've seen in this year's Tour is whether riders should take advantage of others riders' misfortune, bad luck. For example, we saw the bunch sit up when Sanchez crashed today, and they did a similar thing when Schleck crashed on stage 2.

However these unwritten rules appear to be at the discretion of the bunch. For example, voiding stage 2 into Spa was hugely debatable. Waiting was one thing, but cancelling the stage was perhaps too far.

I guess the problem with unwritten rules is exactly that, in that their unwritten, so they work on rider judgment on the day rather than anything else.

88km remaining from 174km

The bunch are now 8.21 down on the break. Sastre still riding on his own between the two groups. 88km to go.

On the subject of Sastre: He won't make a decision about whether or not to ride the Vuelta until well into August. He's having a few days rest after the Tour, will then ride the San Sebastian Classic and will then start to think about his programme beyond that. If he does start the Vuelta, it will be his third major tour of the season.

Koren drifting to the back of the break. He kicked things off very early in the stage today and was the first rider to break away from the bunch.

Lang still leading things in the bunch. Sastre slipping back a bit on the flat roads, but he'll aim to close the gap on the next climb.

81km remaining from 174km

Schleck's men still sitting in behind the Astana boys as Sastre goes through the feed.

The bunch now heading through the feed.

77km remaining from 174km

The Col du Soulour looms large over the break. They'll be on the lower slopes very soon. It'll be tough for these non-climbers. The climb is 12km in length with an average gradient of 7.8 %

Lang still doing a good job on the front. Their man Van den Broeck will probably go on the attack today. he's jumped away on nearly every stage so far in the mountains. He's not scared of anyone.

73km remaining from 174km

Sastre now over four minutes back on the group ahead.

72km remaining from 174km

Lang swings off and lets an Astana rider come through and take a turn. Saxo saving all their powder at the moment.

For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day:
As well as a 2nd place on the podium in the Tour de France and a World Championship jersey, Cadel Evans has won one Spring Classic. Which one?

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Sastre still drilling away on his own. He's now 4.46 behind the break. He's closer to the bunch than the break.

Cervelo had a plan today, it's just not worked out.

Astana in the lead on the Soulor now.

Flecha leading the break on the climb. They look quite ragged, the efforts of racing in the break for over 100km starting to show.

Sastre is still climbing well. He's just not making inroads into the break's lead.

The bunch now on the climb too. Roux immediately slips off the back.

66km remaining from 174km

Cavendish at the back of the bunch too. The bus is starting to form now. Lang finishes his last turn. He'll try and sit on now and then do some work once they crest the climb.

Astana come back to the front for their man Contador. They've done most of the work on the front so far today. Saxo, just waiting in the wings for now.

Knees slipping back too. Thomas as well.

Astana starting to set the pace now and it's cranking up with every pedal stroke.

Sastre starting to be reeled in by the bunch now. Is he the carrot for the bunch to chase down the break so Hushovd can take some point later on.

64km remaining from 174km

Moreau punctures. That wont do his chances of grabbing the KOM jersey much good.

Sastre gritting his teeth as the Astana train dances up the climb and around another sweeping corner. Contador sitting in the bunch with Schleck.

Moreau back up with the bunch, solid work from his teammate Rojas.

Matt Lloyd close the front with Van den Broeck on his wheel. the KOM leader hovering near the front too.

5km for the break now until the top of the Soulor.

Paolo Tiralongo has done most of the work for Astana on the climb as Sastre reaches the 5km to go banner.

Klobonev is stringing out the break. Hagen hanging on at the back.

Mist and fog surrounding the break, visibility is very poor at the top of the climb. The riders are going to have to be very careful on the descent of the climb.

Meanwhile Astana continue to shed more and more riders from the main field.

The roads are dry on this side of the climb, the issue is the fog and visibility.

The bunch is down to less than 50 riders now. Paolo Tiralongo still drilling things on the front.

Sheep on the road. Chaos.

They're everywhere!

No crashes but the bunch had to zig zag in between their woolly friends.

The blimp is in dangerous territory now. The visibility is so bad now. The break are now at the top of the climb and the riders are putting on their rain jackets. Sastre is almost invisible in the mist.

56km remaining from 174km

Burgy took maximum points. Sastre still plugging away on his own. He's still got a way to go until the summit.

The bunch now with 1km to go until the summit. They're closing in on Sastre.

On the descent the riders are leaving big gaps between each other because of the bad conditions.

Sastre goes over the top. He's had a long hard day, and he's still got the Tourmalet to come.

Contador puts on his jacket as the yellow jersey group close in on the summit.

A very long descent and then a flat section before we begin the final climb of the day, the Tourmalet.

As said this morning, the climb is going to possibly decide this year's race. Schleck needs to gain time on Contador, meaning he has to attack or Contador has to crack, or both. The Saxo Bank leader has no other choice if he wants to win this year's Tour.

Sastre comes out of the fog on the descent. He'll be reeled in pretty soon. So will the break for that matter, they dont have a big enough lead heading towards the final climb of the day.

46km remaining from 174km

Saxo Bank on the front for the first time in today's stage. Just one man O'grady, who sets the pace.

Koren on the front of the break now. They're trying to stretch out their lead as much as possible before the final climb of the day.

Special Breschel on the front now, driving things along as the bunch try and catch Sastre. Breschel's first Tour, this.

38km remaining from 174km

Contador back near the front of the group now, still with his jacket on, there's still a section of the descent to go.

The break still together. They've worked well but just haven't been given that much room, probably because of the fact that Sastre has been behind them and on the attack.

In other news a certain Mr Shumacher wants to make a comeback. And race clean! Story on CN coming soon.

Rabobank have a rider at the front of the bunch. I think that's Boom. He'll be winding things up for Gesink and Menchov, the Russian still in with a slim chance of winning the Tour. A very good chance of finishing on the podium.

31km remaining from 174km

We're closing in the start of the Tourmalet. Around 12km to go until the foot of the final climb of the day, of the Tour.

The gap to the break is 5.26. That will come down dramatically once we reach the climb.

28km remaining from 174km

Sastre grabbing a can of Coke. He might be about to sit up and accept the inevitable.

Large crowds out on the roads as the bunch pass through. They're closing in the foot of the Tourmalet. Lars Boom still on the front. No sign of Sanchez yet.

Sastre has about 30 seconds on the bunch. Well he's given it a good shot today but no reward for the Spaniard.

Meanwhile Menchov is dangling near the back of the bunch. He'll need to move up soon.

25km remaining from 174km

25km for the break. 5.02 of a gap.

100 meters left for Sastre.

That's it. All over for the 2008 Tour winner.

Already climbing in the valley before the climb. Rabobank are starting to put the hammer down again.

Breschel comes to the front again for Saxo Bank. Astana paying close attention. The bunch is already thinning out. The Tour could be decided in the next 20 or so km. It all could come down to just 18km of climbing.

Everything lined out now. Riders at the back already struggling. Breschel swings off and more Rabo rider take over.

21km remaining from 174km

The men in orange swing off and Astana take over. The pace is shooting up.

Very quickly, dont forget to check out our coverage from Cascade, lots of great racing from the men and women there.

20km remaining from 174km

Back to the Tour and the break have 20km to go, Rabo back on the front again. Contador is near the front too. Wiggins near the back with Sastre now.

Just 1km until the start of the climb for the break. Contador has shed his jacket. He looks comfortable. Schleck is close by.

18km remaining from 174km

The break are on the lower slopes. The crowds are getting thicker and thicker, louder and louder.

Flecha on the back of the break as his teammate does a huge turn.

Sastre still at the back of the bunch  hanging on.

Sastre now losing touch with the bunch. His day is nover.

Breschel is practically sprinting now.

Gritting his teeth, the Dane will do one moe big pull today and then sit up.

Cancellara near the front with Schleck on his wheel.

16km remaining from 174km

All over for Hagen and he pulls off.

Astana now leading the bunch.

Ivan Basso now drifting off the back.

Saxo come to the front for their leader as Klobonev attacks the break.

Saxo Bank are taking complete control, Lampre hovering too.

The break all over the place but we're going to concentrate on the yellow jersey group. ,Maybe 30 riders there.

15km remaining from 174km

Basso dropped  as O'Grady winds things up.

Contador is on Schlecks wheel, right where he should be.

Up ahead it's Klobonev and Burgy as Cancellara sets the pace. First time we've really seen him on the climbs this year.

Moreau being dropped.

Gadret being dropped. Hincapie too.

Cancellara is setting the pace, wrecking the field.

Sandy Casar losing contact, Evans too.

Maybe 25 riders left in the yellow jersey group.

15km remaining from 174km

15km for the bunch. When will Schleck go?

Cancellara pops and Sorensen takes over.

Klobonev tries to go again.

Contador looks tense. He's still on schleck's wheel.

Klobonev is pulling away now from Burgy.

13km remaining from 174km

Schleck talks to his team car from the radio. Vino slipping back now.

Contador out of the saddle,still on Schleck's wheel.

Vino still at the back of the group. Van den Broek, Menchov, Gesink all in the lead group. Levi and Horner there too. Vino now dropped.

Kreuziger and Barredo both in the group too. Kloden too.

Armstrong and Matt Lloyd both there as well. Roche is there. Menchov is riding with Sanchez, who looks in pain.

Fuglsang takes over from Sorensen, that's Schleck's last man.

11km remaining from 174km

Ryder is near the back of the group. Rodriguez still there as Menchov moves forward onto Contador's wheel. We're wating for an attack.

Contador doesn't have any teammates left.

Schleck looks back at Contador 'im right here buddy'

Flecha being caught now.

We're about to hit the steepest part of the climb.

Fuglsang still setting the pace, he's going to crack soon.

10km remaining from 174km

Still no attack. Everyone looking nervously at each other.

Roche is still in there.

Barredo attacks. not what we were expecting but there you go. The fog is thickening.

Cunego moves up, a BBox rider attacks and here goes Schleck , Contador on his wheel.

9km remaining from 174km

Rodriguez trying to come over but now the leaders are in pieces, Schleck has blown it apart but Contador is with him. Sanchez trying to come over, Van den Broeck looks like he's cracking.

He can't get rid of Contador. He needs to drop the Spaniard has Menchov tries to come across now too.

Gesink is cracking now as he tries to get to Sanchez.

Schleck leads Contador through the fog. This the battle we were expecting and the two strongest men are dropping everyone.

8km remaining from 174km

Schleck staring forward, in the saddle, Contador dancing behind him, in and out of the saddle, as Schleck pushes again. The Spaniard matches him.

Mechov now in the group with Sanchez, ,Ryder, Levi, Rodriguez and couple more riders.

The Contador group fly passed Klobonev, Schleck goes again but Contador matches him.

Menchov looks in trouble.

7km remaining from 174km

Through the crowds and the clouds, Schleck still leading Contador. What a battle.

The headlights from the car guide the way, Schleck in white, leads Contador in yellow.

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Alberto Contador (Astana)

Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha)

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Chris Horner (RadioShack), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) at 0:50

Contador still just sitting in, Schleck looks back to check he's still there. Both riders do still look strong. Will Contador try and hit him with a sucker punch?

7km remaining from 174km

The two leaders have 50 seconds.

Gesink setting the pace for behind for Menchov.

6km remaining from 174km

The gap is still growing, it's at a minute now with 6km to go

Both men out of the saddle as the gradient kicks in again. The Spaniard still holding the Saxo Bank rider.

5km remaining from 174km

What does Schleck have left in the tank?

Meanwhile Roche is dropped by the Sanchez group.

Horner is the Shack rider in the chase group. Not Levi.

Schleck looks back, he knows that Contador wont work so he pushes on the throttle again.

And again.

Schleck gives the Spaniard a long, long stare and goes again. Incredible ride.

Contador has never been asked such difficult questions in the mountains before by a rival in the Tour.

Huge crowds again both sides of the riders. Contador still sitting in. the road widens. Schleck looks back.

Words are being exchanged. Perhaps about turkeys and gels and here goes Contador!

3km remaining from 174km

Huge attack and he's still going, Schleck straight back to him. They're staring at each other as they ride side by side. Incredible.

Schleck is goading the Spaniard. Is that wise? Amazing scenes at the Tour.

That was a huge attack from Contador, Schleck came straight back to him.

Schleck winds things up again!

3km to go. Contador goes back to sitting on his rival's wheel.

Gesink still setting the pace with the rest of the GC men. They're losing more time.

2km remaining from 174km

Both men giving it everything. Can either make the difference?

Still both men together, less than 2km to go now. Schleck continues to lead. Time is running out for him now. Has he got anything left? Has Contador?

1km remaining from 174km

Now or never. just 1km to go.

Schleck needs to make a move, the roads will widen soon.

Is Contador going to make one last dig?

Just 500 meters to go.

Contador just sits there, waiting.

350 to go.

Still Schleck leads. He's trying to up the pace.

150 to go. They're coming through the mist. Side by side now.

Schleck takes the stage, Contador doesn't sprint.

Here come the other.

Rodriguez comes through the mist. He'll get third. Ryder will get fourth. Best ride of  his life.

Sanchez next, he put some seconds in Menchov, then Van den Broeck. Great ride from the Spaniard.

Roche comes over the line now. Good ride. 2.26 down. Armstrong coming over. Barredo too.

Two Caisse riders come over the line too. That might mean Shack have the team prize.

Schleck celebrated the win as he crossed the line, but part of him probably knows that he's lost this year's Tour. He puts an arm around Contador just after the line.

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 5:03:29
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:00
3 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:18
4 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions 0:01:27
5 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:01:32
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:01:40
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:01:40
8 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:01:45
9 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:48
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:14

Epic day in the Tour de France. In the end Schleck couldn't crack Contador, who took everything the Saxo Bank rider threw at him.

Thanks for joining us today. Please tune in tomorrow for stage 18 in the race. We hope you've enjoyed our coverage today.

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 83:32:39
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:08
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:03:32
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:03:53
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:05:27
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:06:41
7 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:07:03
8 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions 0:09:18
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:10:12
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:10:37

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