ANDY SCHLECK appeared calm and relaxed ahead of his yellow jersey showdown with Alberto Contador as the duo prepare to race to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet in stage 17 of the Tour de France today.
Two-time champion Contador (Astana) is currently in possession of the Tour leader’s maillot jaune with an eight-second advantage over Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) ahead of today’s 174-kilometre stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet.
The Spaniard claimed the race lead by taking advantage of his rival’s mechanical problem – against etiquette in cycling – on Monday’s 15th stage to Bagneres-de-Luchon, overcoming a 31-second deficit by attacking at the moment Schleck’s chain slipped on the hors categorie Port de Bales.
The duo, who finished first and second in the 2009 Tour and are friends, are staying in the same hotel in Pau on today’s rest day, while their reconnaissance trips to the Col du Tourmalet took place on the same day earlier this year as the pair ascended the Pyrenean peak from alternative sides.
A highly-eventful Tour is poised for a dramatic conclusion – one Schleck hopes will end in his favour.
“I’m ready for and I’m pretty sure I will have a good race,” said Schleck. “It is definitely the highlight of this year’s Tour.”
When asked what he would do, should Contador’s chain slip today, Schleck remained diplomatic. Team Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis, the winner of the 1996 Tour, quipped “he wouldn’t see it” – something Contador claimed after Monday’s stage.
However, Schleck said: “It won’t happen. The Tour won’t be decided because of a chain slipping or not. I still haven’t spoken my last word in this Tour. That day I was angry, now I’m not angry – I’m just really motivated.”
“Right now the Tour is coming to an end and we’re running out of time so I cannot wait until he has a bad day. There is only one chance left.”
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