Andy Schleck closed to within 15 seconds of the yellow jersey with an audacious breakaway victory on the Col du Galibier in the Tour de France.
Schleck was only denied the overall lead by a late surge up the climb from yellow jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler.
The French rider put up a successful effort to retain the yellow jersey on the punishing second of three day’s riding in the Alps, crossing the 2 645 metre Col du Galibier summit in fifth.
Schleck, who began the day 2min 36sec behind Voeckler, gambled with a solo attack on the gruelling 23km climb up Galibier, and he rounded the final bend with yellow in his grasp.
But Voeckler gritted his teeth to hold onto the lead by 15sec.
Schleck’s brother, Frank, took second in the stage to be third in the overall standings, 1:08 adrift, with Australian Cadel Evans, third to cross the line, 1:12 off the lead in fourth.
Alberto Contador, bidding for a fourth successive title, was the day’s biggest loser.
The Spaniard started out on the gruelling 200.5km run in sixth, 3:15 off the pace, but dropped back to seventh to lie 4:44 behind Voeckler after failing to keep tabs with his main yellow jersey contenders in the closing kms.
Post race interview Andy Schleck:
Stage 19 preview:
A total of three climbs are on the menu, the Col du Telegraphe, the Col du Galibier — for the second day in a row and in reverse — and the Alpe d’Huez. It is a fairly short stage, meaning nerves could be frayed before the start as early escapes have a chance of going all the way. Watch out for all the GC contenders making their move in the final Alp stage Keep an eye on the Schleck brothers, Cadel Evans and Thomas Voeckler.
Video of Stage 19 route:
Overall standings after Stage 18:
1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) 79h34min 06sec
2. Andy Schleck (LUX/LEO) at 0:15.
3. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) 1:08.
4. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) 1:12.
5. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 3:46.
6. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 3:46.
7. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 4:44.
8. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 5:20.
9. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 7:08.
10. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 9:27.
11. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) 9:36.
12. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 10:09.
13. Kevin De Weert (BEL/QST) 11:21.
14. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/RSH) 12:01.
15. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 12:46.
16. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/OLO) 13:08.
17. Jrome Coppel (FRA/SAU) 15:30.
18. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) 15:32.
19. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM) 16:43.
20. Rob Ruijgh (NED/VAC) 20:05.