In what was billed as the final showdown on the road in this years Tour de France stage 17 finishing up the 'Geant" Col du Tourmalet didn't disappoint. Raced at breakneck speeds over the day’s first two cols and through the valleys after a seven man break and a reasonably dangerous Carlos Sastre the best of the peloton arrived at the foot of the Tourmalet intact, the only man in question was Sammy Sanchez. The Olympic Champion and current third overall took another hit to the bitumen for the men in orange taking one in the sternum
Team Saxo Bank looking like a well drilled military unit took turns on the front pulling the biggest grimaces of the tour thus far dispatching all but the men that mattered in the top 15 of the classification, once Schleck has used up all his men the Luxembourger threw done his biggest attack of the pat three weeks with only the yellow jersey Contador ale to follow. It was to set the scene for the remaining 18km up the 9% slopes as the white jersey wearer threw down everything he had accelerating over 15 times trying to rid himself of the man that stands between him and the jersey he coveted for the 2nd week of the Tour.
Contador proved his worth on the steep slopes sticking to Schlecks wheel and even throwing in an attack of his own 5km from the finish, from somewhere Schleck found the strength to respond and Contador didn't try that again!
Roll on the finish and a thoroughly deserved Schleck took a most popular stage win as the Spaniard choosing not to contest the sprint stayed on his younger rival wheel.
Now we look to the penultimate stage's individual time trial to split the pairing up that are still only separated by 8 seconds. Tomorrow’s stage to Bordeaux should be one for the sprinters if their teams can keep the breakaways and the French at bay.