Contador closes in on title
Under a blistering attack from Andy Schleck, the Spaniard tightened his grip on a third Tour de France title in four years by matching every acceleration his rival threw at him during the ride up a fabled Pyrenean climb in Thursday’s 17th stage.
Schleck delivered on his promise to ride well on the last mountain of this year’s race.
It just wasn’t enough to shake Contador.
Schleck set a punishing pace up the last 6 miles on the ascent of the Col du Tourmalet, but the Spaniard shadowed him wheel-to-wheel the whole way. In the end, Schleck won the 108.1-mile trek from Pau by a half bike-length, but failed in his bid to take the yellow jersey from Contador and gain time on his rival ahead of Saturday’s time trial.
“I did short accelerations
really many times. It was the only possibility I had to try to drop him,” Schleck said. “But he was too strong.”
The Tourmalet was the last of three tough climbs in the stage made in cool temperatures under a drizzle and fog. Frenzied fans—including some near-streakers—ran alongside the duelists on the ascent, at least once seeming to irk Schleck. On the second climb, the Col du Soudor, a flock of sheep strayed into the road, causing some riders to swerve, brake and stop, though no one crashed.
With only three days of racing left before Sunday’s finish in Paris, and two of the stages unlikely to alter the top of the standings, the two men knew that Thursday’s leg was crucial.
“I wanted him to pass, I wanted to be behind and attack him, but of course, he’s very smart, and I knew that he only had to stay in my wheel,” Schleck said. “I think Alberto did the right thing; he’s a great professional.”
Schleck won his second stage this Tour, in 5 hours, 3 minutes, 29 seconds.
Armstrong hires lawyer
Lance Armstrong says hiring a criminal defense lawyer in the face of a federal investigation for possible fraud and doping violations is merely a matter of protecting himself.
“Obviously, you need some legal counsel on this. ... I wouldn’t read anything into it,” the seven-time Tour de France champion said after finishing 17th in Thursday’s 17th stage. “I’m 100 percent confident that there will be a satisfactory resolution for me.”
The Texan hired Bryan D. Daly, a former federal prosecutor based in Los Angeles.
who is a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton.
The investigation was spurred by accusations from Floyd Landis, Armstrong’s former teammate on the U.S. Postal team, in a series of e-mails sent to cycling and doping officials this spring.
Armstrong has denied the allegations.
Last updated: 2:18 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012