Andy Schleck Dominates Stage 18

Voeckler hangs in yellow by a thread


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Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck won what may be the 2011 Tour de France’s decisive stage, delivering a stunning solo performance on Thursday to claim a two-minute victory on stage 18 and move within 15 second of overall race leader Thomas Voeckler. Schleck attacked on the day’s second-to-last climb up the beyond-category Col d’Izoard, leaving a pack that included his brother and Leopard Trek teammate Frank, Cadel Evans, and Voeckler unable to respond. Schleck extended his lead with a fast descent, then pushed the margin as he climbed to a mountain-top finish on the Galibier, briefly taking the virtual yellow jersey before Voeckler’s group pulled back into range. Schleck rode most of the stage’s final 60 kilometers alone and finished 2:07 ahead of Frank, who was second. Evans was third at 2:15 behind, and Voeckler, who has said for more than a week that his grasp on the yellow jersey was tenuous, managed to hang onto the lead for at least another day. Alberto Contador’s tour hopes effectively ended as he dropped early from the chase group and finished the stage almost four minutes down in 15th. Tomorrow could still see the standings reshaped: stage 19 finishes at the summit of the Tour’s most famous climb, l’Alpe d’Huez. 

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