Andy Schleck planned to go on the attack today in his bid for Tour de France glory.
The 25-year-old Team Saxo Bank rider trailed two-time champion Alberto Contador (Astana) by eight seconds ahead of today’s 174-kilometre 17th stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet.
The fabled 18.6km hors categorie (beyond category) Col du Tourmalet represents Schleck’s final opportunity to overtake Contador ahead of Sunday’s finish in Paris.
The Luxembourg rider said yesterday: “Right now the Tour is coming to an end and we’re running out of time. There is only one chance left and that’s tomorrow. I’ve got to try everything because I want to win this. There’s only one way and that’s climbing the Tourmalet.”
Wet weather is forecast for today’s stage, but Schleck is not concerned.
“Tourmalet is Tourmalet, in sunshine or in rain,” he said. “I like Tourmalet because it’s steady, it’s hard and if you’re not a climber you don’t go up there.
“I’ve always said I believe that the guy who has the yellow tomorrow will be in yellow in Paris and I still believe that.”
However vital today’s stage is, Schleck knows Saturday’s 52km time-trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac is also crucial.
Schleck concedes Contador is better against the clock, but the Luxembourg rider insists he is much improved – even since the 8.9km prologue in Rotterdam where he finished 122nd, 42 seconds and 116 places behind the Spaniard.
“In Rotterdam I was really bad but now with three weeks’ racing behind us it’s a different story,” said Schleck.
“I know I need to be in yellow for the start ramp for the time-trial to have a chance to win this Tour. If I don’t start in yellow, I won’t beat Alberto, but I cannot tell you how much (time) I need.”