But the 25-year old Schleck didn’t give in; though he is leading the Tour for the first time, he doesn’t lack racing savvy.
“On the second to last climb, his whole team surrounded him and I could see they wanted to give the impression that he wasn’t feeling good today,” said Schleck in a post-race press conference. “But I knew it wasn’t like that — they wanted me to attack.”
Contador’s more conspicuous challenges came on the ascent to the Pyrénéan ski area of Ax-3 Domaines, where he tried rapid acceleration and sudden braking in an attempt to drop the Luxembourger.
Schleck responded each time, though he never mounted an attack himself.
Though neither picked up time on each other, their tête-à-tête had an unexpected, perhaps unwelcome, result.
As the two dueled in the final kilometers, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobank’s Denis Menchov, the race’s third and fourth-placed riders, rode ahead and picked up 14 valuable seconds on the leaders. Sanchez is currently two minutes behind Contador.