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Tour favorites reshuffled in first mountain stage, but Frenchman retains yellow

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A series of attacks and counter-attacks behind the winning ride of Spain's Sammy Sanchez, left, changed the complexion of the Tour de France as it entered the Pyrenees on Thursday.

We may finally have caught a glimpse of the leading cyclists in the race after the mountain-top finish on Stage 12, a 211km (130-mile) bike race from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden that went over the Tourmalet for the 76th time in Tour de France history.

Meanwhile, France's Thomas Voeckler showed us he has the heart to hold onto the yellow jersey on Bastille Day. He put in a similar performance the last time he held the yellow in 2004.

The winner in the battle for the championship must have been Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek), who moved ahead of his brother, Andy, in the standings and nearly captured the stage win in a stunning attack on the mountain top finish in Luz Ardiden.

The surprising loser was defending champion Alberto Contador, who was dropped by his main rivals in the last kilometer. Although he rose in the overall standings to 8th, he lost time to the brothers Schleck, Cadel Evans, and Ivan Basso.

Among the Americans, Colorado's Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) gained attention by finishing in the select group and climbing into 9th place overall in his first Tour de France.

Tourmalet

The big moves in the race started near the end of the race on the penultimate climb, the Col du Tourmalet. The Schlecks put their team in the front to set a high pace that whittled down the leading pack that was chasing a six-man break.

Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Jelle Vanendert (Omega) caught and passed the remainder of the breakaway on the final climb up Luz Ardiden, while the leaders battled behind.

The leaders group had been reduced to just a few, as Basso sent a Liquigas teammate to the front in an attempt to finish them off. Then Andy and Frank Schleck took turns attacking the leaders, who answered each feint, until Frank charged up the road one last time and no one could follow.

He nearly caught the two-man break as Evans (BMC) and Basso followed.

You'll remember stage winner Sanchez as the gold medal road race winner at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

Top 10 overall

1 Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar
2 Fränk Schleck, Leopard Trek — 1:49
3 Cadel Evan, BMC Racing Team — 02:06
4 Andy Schleck, Leopard Trek — 2:17
5 Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale — 3:16
6 Damiano Cunego, Lampre – ISD — 3:22
7 Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank — 4:00
8 Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi — 4:11
9 Thomas Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo — 4:35
10 Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale — 4:57

See also: “First Tour de France mountain stage steeped in history”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2011/07/14/tour-favorites-reshuffled-in-first-mountain-stage-but-frenchman-retains-yellow/

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