Andy Schleck took the lead of the Tour de France, replacing Thomas Voeckler, after outclimbing the Frenchman on the last mountain stage to Alpe d’Huez.
Pierre Rolland, a teammate of Voeckler on the Europcar team, won the stage after breaking away from Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Contador, the defending champion, near the end of the 68-mile ride that began in Modane.
Luxembourg’s Schleck has a 53-second overall lead over the next cyclist, his older brother Frank. Cadel Evans of Australia is third, four seconds further back.
“Schleck, Schleck, Evans: that sounds good,” Andy Schleck, a two-time runner-up, told France Television when asked about the standings.
The brothers are seeking to become the first winner of the Tour de France from Luxembourg since Charly Gaul in 1958. There is a time trial in Grenoble tomorrow before the final ride to Paris on July 24.
Voeckler led by 15 seconds at the start of the day after losing time on another mountain stage yesterday. Today’s performance dropped him to fourth, 2 minutes, 10 seconds behind Schleck. Damiano Cunego of Italy is fifth and Contador is sixth, 3 minutes, 55 seconds behind Schleck.
Contador, who lost more than four minutes to Andy Schleck yesterday, attacked on the first climb to Col du Telegraph barely 10 miles into the stage. Schleck followed his wheel. On the second climb, the Col du Galibier, the two riders agreed to take turns to set the pace.
Evans, who was slowed when he had to swap bikes after a mechanical problem, fell behind but joined the pair near Alpe d’Huez. Contador attacked again near the foot of the mountain, gritting his teeth and riding out of his seat. He built a two-minute lead on Schleck.
Schleck cut the margin back to about 30 seconds during the 8.5-mile climb, which has 21-switchback turns and an average gradient of 7.9 percent.
Voeckler struggled to keep up. At one point, he smashed a water bottle down on the road as he saw his lead slipping away on the Col du Galibier.
Andy Schleck said he was still wary of Evans, who’s also a two-time runner-up, in the time trial. “He’s a specialist and I’m not,” Schleck said.