Frank Schleck opened a small but important gap on the Tour de France's major contenders Thursday, finishing a close third to winner Samuel Sanchez on the race's first mountain stage. Schleck came in 10 seconds behind Sanchez, the 2008 Olympic road race champion, but 20 seconds ahead of his brother Andy, Cadel Evans, and Ivan Basso, and 33 seconds ahead of defending champion Alberto Contador. The result is especially bad news for Contador, who is already four minutes off race leader Thomas Voeckler and appears to be struggling with a knee injury. Voeckler had a surprisingly good ride on stage 12 and retained the yellow jersey for at least one more day. Schleck sits second, 1:49 behind Voeckler in GC standings, with Evans at 2:06. Schleck's brother Andy is fourth. Johnny Hoogerland, the rider who ended up in a barbed-wire fence after Monday's horrific crash, relenquished the climber's polkadot jersey to Sanchez. Mark Cavendish stayed in green after beating the main field to the day's only intermediate sprint. Thursday's stage through the Pyrenees, at 131 miles and with more than 5,000 feet in elevation gain, pitted the field against the first real mountains of the race. Friday's stage 13 features three climbs but finishes on the flat and is not expected to greatly affect the overall standings.
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