As they foretold, the Schleck brothers gave it their all over the climbs of the final Alpine stage, but in the end they couldn't shake Alberto Contador.
Thor Hushovd, wearing the green sprinter's jersey, surprised the peloton by leading the race over the second climb of the day, the Col des Saisies. Perhaps emboldened by disparaging words from Mark Cavendish after Stage 15, Hushovd secured the top sprint points available on this mountain stage before returning to the main field on the descent of the Col de Romme. He now holds a 30-point lead over Cavendish in the green jersey standings.
It was on this category 1 climb that the serious attacks began. Carlos Sastre made a futile attempt. Then Frank Schleck jumped, though the main GC contenders stuck to him. Andy Schleck gave it a go, but Contador and Andr?as Kl?den found their way to his wheel; brother Frank would soon make it a foursome at the head of the course. Behind them, Garmin-Slipstream teammates Christian Vande Velde and Bradley Wiggins led a chase group along with Lance Armstrong and Vincenzo Nibali.
Both these groups remained together until they hit the slopes of the final climb, the Col de la Colombi?re. Contador went on the offensive with about two kilometers to the summit. The Schleck brothers responded, however, leaving Contador's teammate Kl?den isolated and unable to climb back to the leaders. In the chase group, Armstrong launched an attack to catch Kl?den as the climb became steeper.
Once on the descent, Nibali managed to catch Armstrong, and the two eventually absorbed Kl?den with 2K to the line, but Wiggins was left behind. Andy and Frank Schleck picked up the pace, leading Contador to the finish as they put time between themselves and the rest of the overall contenders.
Contador and Andy Schleck were content to let Frank take the stage victory. The Team Saxo Bank teammates leap-frogged Armstrong and Kl?den in the overall standings, but still sit more than a few minutes behind Contador in the race for yellow.
Andy Schleck did increase his lead in the white jersey standings over Nibali, his nearest competitor at 2:43 back. Franco Pellizotti continues to dominate the King of the Mountains standings with a 196 to 118 points lead over Egoi Martinez.
Andy Schleck, right, leads his brother, Frank, and Alberto Contador, in yellow, up the Col de la Colombi?re. - AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Stage 17 Results
- Frank Schleck – Team Saxo Bank – 4:53:54
- Alberto Contador – Astana +00:00
- Andy Schleck – Team Saxo Bank +00:00
- Vincenzo Nibali – Liquigas +02:18
- Lance Armstrong – Astana +02:18
- Andr?as Kl?den – Astana +02:27
- Bradley Wiggins – Garmin-Slipstream +03:07
- Christophe Moreau – Agritubel +04:09
- Christian Vande Velde – Garmin-Slipstream +04:09
- R?mi Pauriol – Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne +06:10
Other U.S. Riders
44. George Hincapie – Team Columbia-HTC +11:50
58. David Zabriskie – Garmin-Slipstream +17:33
112. Danny Pate – Garmin-Slipstream +29:43
134. Tyler Farrar – Garmin-Slipstream +35:47
- Alberto Contador – Astana – 72:27:09
- Andy Schleck – Team Saxo Bank +02:26
- Frank Schleck – Team Saxo Bank +03:25
- Lance Armstrong – Astana +03:55
- Andr?as Kl?den – Astana +04:44
169.5K (105.3 miles) - July 22, 2009
• Le Grand-Bornand has hosted the Tour four times
• This stage is composed of five climbs that have KOM points, the most of any stage in 2009
• Sprint Points at: Praz-Sur-Arly, Cluses
• Mountain Passes: Cormet de Roselend located at 18 kilometers - 18.1km climb to 5.7 percent grade - Category 1; Col des Saisies at 56km - 15.1km climb to 6 percent grade - Cat. 1; C?te d'Araches at 111.5km - 6.3km climb to 7 percent grade - Cat. 2; Col de Romme at 140.5km - 8.8km climb to 8.9 percent grade - Cat. 1; Col de la Colombi?re at 154.5km - 7.5km climb to 8.5 percent grade - Cat. 1
Image courtesy of www.letour.com
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